It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Harnwell. You’re expecting a call from the cute guy/girl you met at Smokes’ last night. But your roommate is on the landline with her loudmouth mom—this could take a while.
Yes, shocking as it may seem, students at Penn dated and hooked up before cell phones, and Street decided to figure out how people interacted when Tinder was not yet a thing.
Street set out to decode how time and technology have changed how Penn students date and hook up. Aimee Shakin (C ’84) provided a primer on what it was like to date in the iPhone–less world, and Jasmine Clark (C ’20) spoke about how tech shapes 2017’s hookup culture on campus.
iPhones vs. Landlines
The first topic of discussion was phones. Aimee revealed that high rises used to have one landline in the common room. And of course, the landline could only accept one call at a time. She bemoaned the dreaded busy signal and said that it was not uncommon for roommates to argue over whose turn it should be. “I’m expecting a call!" she remembered saying, laughing. She said that after meeting someone at a party, often you just got their number and worked out a time to call and ask them out. Dates to restaurants were common then, or to the Warwick Hotel, a club right near campus. Technology didn’t factor in as heavily—a landline can’t follow you everywhere.
Tinder vs. Talking
Phones now, of course, serve many more purposes than in the 80s. One important facet of Penn’s hookup culture is Tinder. The app facilitates meaningless swiping, casual conversations and hookups. But, Jasmine said, the trouble with dating apps is the small size of Penn’s campus and its proximity to other schools. She says she knows people who set radii to 1 mile to fish for Penn students exclusively. And then there’s the exquisite pain of coming across an acquaintance on Tinder (maybe even...matching with them).
We now use our phones not only to get someone’s number but also for social media. Now it’s much easier to research the object of your affections. A Facebook–savvy sleuth can discover much of his/her romantic history, and adding on Snapchat should reveal what he/she does for fun. These methods often pre–empt the initial steps of dating.
Venmo vs. real money
Another thing to consider is Venmo. Students use it to indulge their strange Penn addiction and ascertain who is hooking up with whom solely through coded Venmo payments. Or you’re being charged for Plan B (Ed. note: at least go Dutch). Regardless of how you use it, the app is more present at Penn than ever.
Smokes' is eternal.
There are of course two mainstay of Penn’s hookup culture that haven’t changed much over the years: frat parties and Smokes’. Meeting people on a night out is one thing that both parties say has not changed a bit. Though there are more bars and, Aimee noted, a more prevalent clubbing scene, the basic concept remains the same. And that’s one thing phones can’t change.