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Dating: Speed of college relationships

They say that seven dog years equals one human year. (Who “they” are, I’m not 100 percent sure.) In the same way that man’s best friend ages at a quicker pace than man himself, do college relationships hit the accelerator and drive at a speed that would be unnatural in the world outside of the campus? In other words, is there such a thing as “college time”?

I graduated from college almost 15 years ago. At that time, very few people had cellphones, and if anyone did, they certainly weren’t used to do anything but (gasp!) call someone. With the ubiquitous nature of cellphones now and the advent of the iPhone in 2007, the whole name of the game has changed. Instead of calling someone’s dorm phone, you can instead text an eggplant emoji and a lips emoji, and the message is fairly clear.

Modern technology, in addition to the smartphone, has also changed the name of the dating game for college students. You know what I’m talking about ... Tinder. In 2012, Tinder came out, revolutionizing the way adults and college students alike saw online dating.

Many college students are using dating apps these days, which I find almost contradict the ease (and excitement) of meeting people in college. It’s not abnormal to walk around a college campus – and sidewalk anywhere in the U.S. for that matter – to see everyone’s nose in his or her phone. Look up, people! You only experience college once.

As noted by the New York Times, since technology is the way of life now, especially with millennials, defined as having been born anywhere from 1982 to 2004 (just missed the cut-off... phew!), the “dating” culture has all but vanished in favor of a “hook-up” or a “hang-out” culture. And since many of these millennials are in college right now, this culture shift has extended to campuses as well.

All of that said, let’s get back to the question at hand: Are college relationships on “college time”? I’d venture to say both no and yes. Getting to the relationship may be harder for the reasons I already mentioned – technology, hook-up culture, online dating apps, etc. – but being in one is easier.

For many college students, interactions are contained within the campus, in that they don’t have to venture far to get to class, have a meal, work out and study. This also means that a boyfriend or girlfriend is only a quick walk or bus ride away. Because it’s so easy to see someone on a regular basis, the two people are not forced to wait a few days – or even a few hours – to see each other again. “Let’s meet up for dinner later.” “Why not? I’ll swing by after class.” Easy.

College time is compressed. If, as an adult, you see someone four times in a month, in college, you may see him or her four times within a week. This speeds up the relationship, whatever its nature. In a world of instant gratification, I’m not surprised at all by this. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. But remember, you can make your college experience anything you want it to be.

Just as college relationships are sped up in terms of getting to know each other, they’re also sped up in terms of breaking up. With holidays, vacations and the lure of so many people, each new relationship, especially one that goes from courtship to break-up in the blink of an eye, may only be a blip on a college student’s radar... only to go back on Tinder the next day.

This isn’t to say that college relationships can’t last. Of course they can! Just remember that in college, you’re dating in a bubble, and in the real world, it gets popped, and you’ll see what it’s like to both find – and keep – the right person.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH for updates and tips.