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The Dating Issue | Magazine

Dating apps are a recipe for awkward college encounters

What to do when the guy who ghosted you shows up at the campus fair?

young couple feel bad and look somewhere sit on sofa at home
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I was sitting behind a table at an Emerson College organization fair in January when I glimpsed a familiar face  —  one that I’d previously only seen on my iPhone.

He and I had matched on the dating app Tinder several months earlier. After we messaged for a few weeks, he abruptly stopped responding. The rejection stung but I shrugged it off, figuring I’d never run into him.

It’s a side effect for college students who enter the wild world of dating apps: A failed match you hoped to forget is now sitting next to you in class, sharing your internship desk, or living down the hall. Students are left to navigate these awkward encounters with people they barely know  —  not quite strangers, but definitely not friends.

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One typical response is to pretend you’ve never seen the person before. Hannah Bailey, a 19-year-old Quincy College sophomore, once set up a date with a Tinder match at a coffee shop. But Bailey’s date canceled because of work. Bailey set up a replacement date for the same day  —  with a different person.

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“I go to the counter to order my hot chocolate, and [the date who canceled] was the barista there,” says Bailey. “A look was exchanged.”

But they never said a word to each other. Anne Dione, a 23-year-old grad student at Northeastern University, spent an entire semester avoiding eye contact with a classmate who was a failed Tinder match. The approach worked until they were forced to interact during one uncomfortable in-class debate.

Savannah Strange’s co-worker refused to let her slink away quietly. The 23-year-old Boston University graduate student had gone on two dates with a guy she soon forgot  —  until she came across his wedding photo on social media six months later. Soon afterward, he texted her. Strange’s co-worker grabbed her phone and delivered the message: “Congrats on your marriage.”

As for my own awkward encounter, the guy who ghosted me ended up joining the on-campus magazine where I work. Since then, I’ve been friendly but professional. And I’ve adopted a new Tinder policy: Swipe left on anyone who goes to my school.

Katja Vujic is a student in an Emerson College publishing class. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.