A man uses the Tinder dating app. Such programs have become hip with young adults - not so much for dating but because they incorporate fun elements and are so simple to use.

AP file photo

A man uses the Tinder dating app. Such programs have become hip with young adults - not so much for dating but because they incorporate fun elements and are so simple to use.

App interest outweighs romance

By Tali Arbel

The Associated Press

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NEW YORK – Online dating services are now hip with young adults, but not always for dating.

Credit mobile dating apps such as Tinder, which incorporate fun elements and are dead simple to use. Swipe right on a profile picture to approve and swipe left to reject. No awkward messages to each other unless both say yes.

But instead of just looking for long-term love, some people are turning to these services for one-night stands and even advice from locals when traveling. Others just want to look at sexy – and not-so-sexy – pics when they’re bored.

“It’s turned into a game,” said Tim Smith, 21, a student from Hampstead, Md.

When he’s bored, he turns to Tinder to start swiping on women in the app, even when he doesn’t feel like talking to anyone.

Young adults, ages 18 to 24, traditionally haven’t been big online daters. They haven’t had much of a need, as they typically are surrounded by other young, single people at work or school, said Aaron Smith, associate research director with the Pew Research Center. Tinder and rivals such as Hinge are changing the dynamics, and young adults are using online dating in greater numbers than any other age group these days.

In 2013, only 10 percent in that age group used online dating. That rose to 27 percent in the latest Pew study, which was released this month. By comparison, only 15 percent of U.S. adults overall have used dating sites or apps, just a slight increase from 11 percent in 2013. (If that seems low, it’s because the entire U.S. population is surveyed, including people who already are coupled. For people who never have been married, 30 percent have used online dating.)

Michael Rosenfeld, a Stanford University professor, wrote in a 2012 paper that the Internet could be helpful for people in “thin” dating markets, ones with relatively fewer options for possible partners in their regular life. That includes gays, lesbians and middle-aged straight people.

“Conversely, single people (college students, for example) who are fortunate enough to inhabit an environment full of eligible potential partners may not need to actively search for partners at all,” he wrote.

But newer dating apps seem to have made it fun for young people to use – or at least pass the time.

Alfred Mohi, 24, said he has used Tinder for flings with people he doesn’t want to see again, and for the emotional high of matching and talking with women he deems attractive.

“I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a scumbag, but I used it as a confidence boost,” he said.