If there was ever a year that online dating apps could be the answer to those looking for a date, 2020 would be it. For those singles in lockdown or severely restricted to just leaving the home for essentials, meeting singles through social events has become near impossible. Online dating apps seem to be the best solution during the pandemic but are they a hit or a miss?
I decided to put a few online apps under my entrepreneurial magnifying glass to decide if they were the solution to dating during COVID times. A single friend of mine tried out a few apps but she was doubtful that she would have much success. It was her first time trying out a dating app. Her views are somewhat typical of adults who haven’t used online dating before.
According to a survey, about 56% of adults don’t view dating apps favourably because of concerns of misrepresentation (lying about age, income, etc), fraudulent activity, or lack of safety (company doesn’t protect their information). This percentage changes with people who met someone online. About 78% who met their partner through a dating app view these services in a positive way.
As for my friend, we were curious about what her experience with online dating would be like. Would she find her future partner? Or would she be hoping to meet him still?
Are Online Dating Apps a Hit or Miss?
The reality is that online dating is a business. To that end, their goal is to keep you on their app as long as possible. In other words, the more you swipe, the more they win.
If you enjoy an abundance of choices and spending a portion of your day swiping through profiles and engaging in some conversations, you might enjoy online dating. However, if you’re a busy professional who just wants to meet that special someone, mindlessly flicking right and left quickly becomes a frustrating activity to kill time.
In many cases, my friend had to decide from a couple of photos and a sparse profile with few details (such as city, height, career, and short description of who he’s looking for) whether she wanted to pick the guy or not. She found it hard to decide with so little information.
In addition, when she did get a match, most matches opened a conversation with, “How are you?” Her textbook answer was always, “Good” or “Fine” because they don’t expect you to say, “Super busy at work” or “Would you believe I’m at a party” or “Super apprehensive if you’re the one or not.”
After a while, her answers became mechanical instead of genuine. Especially on day two of the chat when the guy would again ask, “Hi. How are you?” Whenever she opened a conversation, she tried to be more creative by looking at the man’s profile and asking a question based on what she read, such as, “Hi. So what places have you travelled to?”
A more meaningful conversation was a lot more useful at helping her decide if she liked the guy or not.
The Reality of Online Dating Apps
It doesn’t matter what reviews say about each dating app. Your experience on the app may or may not be anything like what they describe. As mentioned earlier, dating apps are in the business of roping you in and keeping you there.
Without knowing what selection of candidates are in your area, you could invest time in creating a profile of yourself only to find things aren’t what you expected. My friend had read about Bumble and liked the idea that women could make the first move.
My friend is in her forties looking for a man in his forties, and she is confident and knows what she is looking for. She wants a partner to start a family together. But, like a woman going to a steakhouse and hoping to meet a vegetarian, she found herself in the wrong place.
Her experience on Bumble lasted one hour from downloading the app to deleting it from her phone. What she quickly found out was that the men in their forties on this app either didn’t want kids or already had them and didn’t want any more.
After an endless succession of swiping no’s, she got rid of the app. She found that online dating was more about getting more users on the app than preparing users for what they would experience.
A dating app isn’t likely to put the user first, and have “buyer beware”, up to date descriptions on the types of profiles they had. Business-wise, it was too time consuming, and some app users probably weren’t as picky.
But if the app wanted to put the customer first in the future, she hoped it would have a description of the types of men she would meet before she invested the time in getting an app that wasn’t suited for her situation.
What the Online Dating Apps Don’t Tell You
The goal of dating apps is to keep you swiping (and single for as long as possible). It would be an impressive story if someone signed up, got a match on the first day, had a great conversation, and closed the app a week later because they had found their soulmate. Ideally, that’s what my friend wanted, but it’s not ideal for the app if people keep signing up and leaving with quick success.
She tried Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB), Plenty of Fish, and Match.com. On the first day of CMB, she had some matches that she liked. It went downhill from there, with fewer and fewer desirable matches as the days went on.
The process was also slow because she could only get less than 10 suggested candidates per day. Then she would have to wait until noon the next day for more suggestions. She could also browse about 10 additional candidates if she did a search. However, with these candidates may not meet her must haves.
Eventually she became more desperate (or daring) and widened her search area from 10 km to 20km. Within minutes, she found guys who had picked her. One man lived in another country. Another man was 20 years older than her, and other was 20 years younger.
These matches alarmed her because that meant they had seen her profile some time ago in order for them to have “liked” her already. For example, there was a man who liked her who lived in another country. She would never choose him in return because she wasn’t interested in a cross-border relationship.
From the customer’s point of view, she felt that she should have been able to select criteria that would work both ways. For example, if she wasn’t interested in viewing profiles of men who were 20 years older than her, then men who were 20 years older shouldn’t have access to her profile either.
From the business point of view of the dating app, I could see why they would not want these types of “two-way” limitations. It gave the app a bigger pool of candidates. A guy 20 years older than her could “like” her, hoping that one day, she would like him back, not knowing that she never will. It’s like encouraging people to be optimistic about something that wouldn’t happen. To me, this is one aspect of online dating that is a “miss.”
It’s possible to meet a perfect partner on an online dating app. Success stories boast that these apps are a “hit.” But for those like my friend who downloaded and deleted a series of online dating apps during the pandemic, these apps were a “miss.” The main purpose of an app, like any business, is to keep you coming back for more. Given the choice between matching you to your ideal partner or keeping you swiping, these apps are designed to keep you swiping and searching. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the hidden gem you’re looking for.
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