As people pack away their pumpkins and bring out their Christmas trees, the annual approach of “cuffing season” means dating app usage is at an all-time high.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines cuffing season as “a period of time where single people begin looking for short-term partnerships to pass the colder months of the year. Cuffing season usually begins in October and lasts until just after Valentine’s Day.”
Whether it’s through listening to Christmas love songs on the radio, seeing matching pajamas being marketed in every store or viewing the most predictable holiday rom-com, something about this time of the year makes people more likely to want to be in relationships.
In some cases, this idea is considered a coincidence, but as the weather grows colder, dating app usage begins to rise. According to Apptopia, “The combined total of these apps’ (Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Zoosk, and Bumble) sessions was 14% higher in winter months (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb) than that of summer months (May, Jun, Jul, Aug).”
Although it is perfectly normal to be single during the holiday season, many college students are familiar with dating apps. A survey conducted through social media found that the most popular dating apps according to Mercer students surveyed are Tinder and Hinge.
Pranti Swayapakula ‘26 and Mylin Nguyen ‘23 offer advice from their experiences on dating apps, particularly Hinge.
“Keep your expectations low," Swayapakula said. "This isn't going to be like a cliche Hallmark movie kind of thing,”
Many students have had experiences similar to Swayapakula’s where they enjoy the process of swiping but either are ghosted or end up doing the ghosting themselves.
In some cases, such as Nguyen’s story, success on dating apps can be found even when you are not looking.
“So I first started using Hinge as a total joke, I wasn't trying to meet anyone out there,” Nguyen said. “Then I started getting matches. So then I decided to start taking it more seriously, and then I ended up finding my boyfriend on there, which is so random, but it happened. So I personally have had a good experience with Hinge.”
The first piece of advice Nguyen has to offer is to expand your reach on dating apps by expanding the distance settings on your profile.
“On campus, I would say to broaden your distance range, just because Mercer and Macon are very small. The chances of you finding the person you want in this small radius are, I would say, pretty low,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen also explained that something as simple as genuinely responding can have a big impact on meeting people on dating apps.
“I feel like a lot of girls on dating apps don't respond, and that's what my boyfriend told me,” Nguyen said. “On dating apps, it's really hard for guys because girls just don't respond to the messages. So just be able to put yourself out there and just have a conversation.”
Despite the charm of being able to meet people and chat with potential matches, dating apps can pose safety issues. Swayapakula said her biggest advice is to be safe.
“Make sure that when you get dating apps, you set an age range,” Swayapakula said. “I didn't realize that you could change your age range to people you’re comfortable with because the default on some of these apps is from 18 to 80 years old.”
Besides setting boundaries with age range, there are many other steps students can take to ensure their safety while on dating apps. According to asecurelife.com, the 14 steps you can take to be the safest are:
1. Avoid sites and apps that allow anyone to message you.
2. Pay attention to the geography settings in dating apps.
3. Use unique photos for your dating profile.
4. Avoid putting excessive personal details on your profile.
5. Use the dating app’s messaging system (instead of your personal number).
6. Set up a Google Voice phone number just for dating.
7. Talk to mutual friends.
8. Get to know them, but don’t share too many details at first.
9. Arrange your own transportation.
10. Meet in a public place for your first date.
11. Stay aware and alert.
12. Enlist the help of a friend.
13. Keep some emergency cash on hand.
14. Consider carrying a self-defense tool.
With the advice from other students and these steps in mind, the holiday cuffing season should not be as scary as it sounds. Whether you are single, in a committed relationship or a “complicated” one, the holidays should be full of fun, joy and cheer.
Maura Rutledge ‘25 is a Journalism student at Mercer University. She has previously worked for The Cluster as an Arts and Culture and News reporter, and currently works as the Managing Editor. She enjoys thrifting, fashion, reading and writing in her spare time.