The online dating experience has become a mainstream phenomenon, yet it still feels painful to use dating apps, find significant others, and engage in a relationship.
Take Tinder. The interesting thing about Tinder is the volume of profiles. The app is so popular worldwide that you can litteraly scroll through profiles forever. In a way, Tinder is a satisfying experience because it feels like you are browsing a complete database of all the love-looking people on the planet. Where there is volume, there is choice and some room for at least one perfect match.
However, the experience becomes a bit nightmarish and depressing when, after a few months, you are still browsing through dozens of profiles and still not finding anyone interesting. You don’t like back those who like you, and those whom you liked are not liking you back. Matches sometimes happen, but very often, it leads to a discussion to nowhereland. If you actually get to meet someone in person, then you enter the virtual-versus-physical reality of online profiles: People are so used to magnify their photos with Instagram-like apps that they do the same with dating apps to increase their chances. The tricks used by advertisers to make you drool for a shitty Big Mac are now used by everybody on dating sites to generate desire. But then you meet a person face-to-face, and you realize that the person is really short, lacks hair volume, has a weird posture, uneven body proportions, … Just like there is a post-purchase depression in marketing, there is a post-match depression with online dating apps.
Eventually, anyone reaches the point of Tinder fatigue and looks for a different dating app. And there are a lot of them out there (depending on which country you live in though). The Tinder contender these days is Bumble. While Bumble offers a slightly different user experience, its main differentiators are: women have to make the first move if a match happens, and the app limits your usage to avoid falling into long hours of left-right swiping. The limitation of usage is a mistake because the app is not intelligent enough to suggest highly matchable profiles, so you end up rejecting a few profiles and close the app with absolutely no results whatsoever. Also, the idea to let the women do the first move is a terrible idea, because women are terrible at making a first move. Men were raised as self-confident machos, which becomes useful in flirting situations. But women in most cultures are raised as passive receivers of the men’s attention, thus they do not know how to make a first move and spark a conversation that raises a man’s interest.
Bumble bet on a different dating experience, but from where I stand, it is a failure, and an experience that is way too close to Tinder to be anything else but a me-too app that grabs disatisfied Tinder users looking for alternatives.
Then you have an ocean of dating apps that try to single themselves out with a unique value proposition: Meet good-looking people, cheat on your spouse, interest-based apps, apps that set up dates (where to meet), meet non-straight non-gay individuals, create TikTok-like profiles, video-only, speed-dating, sex-only … The main issue with those apps is that they fill in a niche, where it is very unlikely for you to meet your perfect match because their pool of users is usually very small. You have to settle with what’s there.
So here are a few tips for the creators of online dating apps that may help them create better matchmaking technologies for the future of humankind:
- Ask each user about their ex: This is no small potato, the way an ex is described is a confession of strengths and weaknesses in one person’s love dynamic. There is a lot of unconscious info to extract from this kind of information.
- Make picture-recognition more intelligent: If a user systematically doesn’t like heavy-bone individuals, take the hint and stop recommending those profiles to this user. Same goes with heavy makeup, skin color, sexual preference, partial nudity, and so on and so forth. Be intelligent and shrink down the options for us, stop with the algorithm of randomness because it probably is the main factor that leads to fatigue.
- Be more magic: I have stopped paying the premium plans on dating apps to bet entirely on pure coincidental attraction. I do not want to see who liked me to reduce my choices to those people. I do not want to boost my profile to increase my chances. And mostly, I do not want to pay a middleman to meet a partner, this just feels like a deviated form of prostitution. Just like meeting someone IRL on pure coincidental circumstances, the same should happen with a dating app. There are many other ways to monetize a dating app aside from making users pay for it.
- Take a stand against prostitution: There is a lot of suspicions around profiles that look like gold-diggers or plain prostitutes. The recent Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler has spread this idea in everybody’s mind. When you scroll through profiles and recurrently experience this intentionality from some users, it raises your doubts and instills defiance. Bumble does not allow too much nudity on pictures, and that is a good step forward, even though most of us would like to show some skin to showcase our goods. We wear clothes in social situations, the same should happen on dating apps.
- Be more transparent about people’s stats: Show how many likes, matches, a user gives and gets, to get an idea of the “slutiness” of a person. A lot of people are repulsed by individuals who flirt too much, who “get around”. Anyone has the right to be a slut, but the rest of us have the right to be able to avoid those people.
- Don’t try to retain the conversation in your own homemade chat app. Everybody uses Whatsapp or similar chat apps. Keep your chat app as simple as possible, and then let people connect to each other with their own tools. If a user doesn’t trust another user enough to share his phone number, then there is no spark happening and no exchange of phone number should happen in the first place.
- The “Hot or not” model is too rough. Because dating profiles are always imperfect, it is sometimes hard to judge how much you like what you see and read about someone else. There should be more granularity in the evaluation of profiles. That would make people more attentive to details in order to rate what they see accurately. A 3-star system seems pretty fair: no stars if you are not interested by a profile, and then 1 star if you are somewhat interested but unsure, 2 stars if you feel some attraction but need to know more, 3 stars if you are really attracted by what you see. Receiving a 1-star rating is not a bad thing, it just reveals the traits of personality of the person rating you (shy, playing safe, …) and may escalate to something more significant. Many relationship stories start with slight interest, but increase because of the low expectations that exist in the first place.
- Let us chat with each other, free of charge. For example, I sometimes get very curious about the places in the background of some pictures, and I would really like to be able to just ask what those places are. It may or may not spark a meaningful conversation, but it leads to some satisfaction at the end of the day to be able to talk to people about things you are curious about.
There are many other suggestions that may be formulated, but since I am not getting any remuneration for this work, I guess I can stop there. The online dating market is big, and essential to preserve moral values and the regeneration of our specie. There is still some room for new players to come in and change the game. Us users are still waiting for a messiah of online dating to appear and change our lives for the best.