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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Love Campus offers upgraded way to date during a pandemic

Online platforms like Love Campus, created by UC Berkeley students, offer the opportunity to make connections and possibly meet a partner

As dating comes to an abrupt halt during COVID-19, Lena Reibstein, a UC Berkeley third-year studying film and data science and founder of Love Campus, began the show Love Campus as a nationwide alternative for college students to maintain an interactive dating experience during the shutdown. 

Reibstein first created Love is Blind Berkeley, an online platform on Instagram that connected UC Berkeley students through online games and coupling. Inspired by the reality TV show “Love Island,” the organization was structured to combine couples challenges, as well as initially-anonymous profiles, to kickstart connections based on personality instead of physical impressions. Throughout the spring season, other students began to produce Love is Blind accounts for their own colleges in order to organize opportunities for relationships. 

Recently, Reibstein had the idea to consolidate these separate accounts into one general page known as Love Campus. She recruited producers and crew members from each of the other college accounts to produce a show that was open for all U.S. college students. Thus, Love Campus was born from the idea of making dating accessible for students nationwide without foregoing genuine connection.

“[Dating] is about individual choices, who you swipe left on on Tinder, who you meet at a grocery store,” Reibstein said. “It’s become very much up to you to seek that. It’s become very isolated as well […]. It’s become more shallow and looks-based. I think this show gave people the chance to get to know people without photos which is a really enriching opportunity.” 

Love Campus combines the structure of anonymous dating with coupling, and aims to create an environment that allows people to meet organically. The first day, people are placed in an anonymous group chat and communicate with one another. Direct messages are sent and people are able to gauge attraction through conversation and personality. The next day, people are coupled up and encouraged to get to know each other better. 

There are also mini games and challenges each week to foster greater bonds, teamwork and conversations. Couples who win challenges are then granted an online date where they are able to have private conversations with one another. These challenges are documented and then posted on the Love Campus Instagram for the audience to see and react to. To remain as unbiased as possible, all contestants are banned from this account in order for them to form their own opinions. 

Throughout the process couples are allowed to recouple with other people, depending on their compatibility and preferences. Elimination rounds occur every few days with the last couple being crowned the winner. 

“Whenever you’re getting eliminated in any scenario, that’s going to raise your heart rate,” Reibstein said. “I think being in that scenario with someone and going through with that is really effective. The dates and the mini games are structured to build or test connections. When you’re in a place that is designed to build or test your relationship multiple times and you pass [and] grow from those, that can form a bond that is really strong.”  

Designed to eliminate superficial tendencies, Love Campus seeks to build relationships based on interaction and compatibility. Love Campus Producer Daniela Cervantes, a fourth-year at UC Berkeley double majoring in ethnic studies and theater and performance studies, discussed the power of building relationships through their show and the connection they’ve seen among contestants. 

“People’s identities and personalities translate through a screen and are picked up by other people despite them being initially anonymous,” Cervantes said. “Physical attraction isn’t a factor at the beginning. I feel like somehow hotness is still communicated and understood and received even if it’s just through the way they text. Hotness is not a physical thing but an energy that transcends looks.”

Over these two weeks, couples are tested and their compatibility is determined based on their experiences and chemistry with one another. In terms of success, the show has produced multiple couples who will continue to talk after the completion of the show. 

Alana Bright, a first-year USC student studying musical theater, described that she felt an immediate connection with another contestant, Rio. Despite not winning any mini-games, their relationship blossomed and she found herself cherishing the moments of deep conversation and insight with him. She discussed how the show’s producers scheduled  low-pressure events to help foster natural connections. In comparison, she said, real-world dating includes self-inflicted pressure to push the relationship in a certain direction. 

“It’s not just a dating show,” Bright said. “It really penetrates some vulnerable moments and lets you get to know not only a significant other, but people.”

Bright highly recommended the process as a unique opportunity to take part in during this unprecedented time. For her, the show allowed her to create new friends and to meet someone who, coincidentally, also attend USC. 

“What else do you have going on?” Bright said. “Give yourself some time to explore and experiment in a secluded space that does not involve you constantly worried about the pressures of outside life. We can sometimes block ourselves from really meaningful connections out of fear of losing something else or out of fear of something not fitting in a schedule you already have.”

Though season one is completed, season two applications will be open for the upcoming holiday season. Check the Love Campus Instagram for details of when upcoming applications will be released. There will also be applications to work as crew members linked on Instagram. 
Written by: Farrah Ballou — features@theaggie.org


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