Pew Research shows about 30% of Americans have used a dating app at some point in their lives, and Quartz says 40% of new couples have met on one. Although dating apps are becoming a universal experience, many users increasingly hate them.
They rely on a marketing funnel that gets clogged between the conversion and retention phases. Many people use them, but few will find success. You log in and are immediately greeted with your first profile of the day. You slide and slide through these, maybe checking out more details in their bio, maybe not. You just swipe on who you think is attractive. And what you find attractive is narrowly defined. When you meet that one in a hundred, the chances of you both swiping right are low. According to MarketWatch, heterosexual men have a 0.6% match rate on Tinder, the most popular dating app.
But if you swipe enough, you’ll get a match. Several, in fact. However, only one or two out of ten matches lead to a date according to MarketWatch. To get through the initial conversation, both of you will need the energy to respond. To craft responses that share just enough but also move the discussion forward. Showing genuine interest in the other person without it sounding like an interrogation. Basically, you both need to seem sane enough to share phone numbers and agree on a meeting place.
Choosing this location can be particularly daunting, but dating app Bumble has broken some ground in this regard. They offer “BumbleSpot”, an array of officially approved locations that are safe for dating and offer icebreaking activities.
In this context, everything that is already mechanical in the dating process seems even more programmatic. Each date has a binary result. User develops an awkward internal monologue, “Oh, he said x, that indicates he’s not cut out for y” or “Am I smiling with enough teeth?” Suddenly you wonder how the most human of all activities became a series of ones and zeros.
When we think of dating app “gamification”, we think of swiping left and right as throwing angry birds, but apps also flatten users’ thought processes once dating real takes place, turning it into a simulation in which the right answers trigger a certain point value.
According to Mauro Usability Science, research has shown that apps like Angry Birds are popular because they’re easy to learn, but also get harder at the right pace to keep you engaged.
So, after a few dates, users will likely end things without either participant ever saying a sincere thing to the other. They don’t even get the chance to fight in the rain and then dramatically reconcile in an inappropriate public forum, like all the great stories tell us they should.
It really is the worst game ever, and the users know it. A 2022 survey from NEA found that customer dissatisfaction with dating apps is higher than any other consumer-facing industry. People would literally rather wait on hold with their internet service provider or cram into the middle seat on the longest, smelliest flight in the southwest.
And Again…All the major dating apps continue to grow their user base year after year because despite the poor user experience, they still provide a balm for the two greatest diseases of the modern age: loneliness and self-doubt.
Jessica Alderson, co-founder and CEO of So Syncd, a UK-based dating app, believes that “technology has advanced in many ways, and yet dating apps are still very basic.” Syncd therefore uses psychology-based personality tests to help users find matches.
Consider the superficial way profiles are presented on the biggest dating app — many Tinder profiles don’t even have their bios filled out. And if they do, it’s often superficial, superficial information — whether the user likes coffee or that they’re Gemini.
We always leave compatibility to the stars when we should be turning to science. Maybe it’s because the Western image of perfect romance is based on chance, running into each other on the street or in a bar. The idea that fate has brought you together.
But Alderson thinks there’s still room for that serendipity, even when it’s a very advanced algorithm that brings you together.
“There’s a serendipity in a different way on a dating app…you’re almost further away from your existing network…you’re more likely to meet people you just wouldn’t meet otherwise. .there is therefore a beautiful coincidence in an otherwise. It is simply not due to chance.
Romance comes less from how you met than from how you understand each other. On the one hand, a personality-driven dating app gives a lot more to matchmaking. If two users are told that they share very specific psychological traits, the conversation begins on its own.
Arranged marriages, still common in many Eastern cultures, are based on this principle: the idea that love develops, rather than being found at first sight.
In Western culture, we always want “the best”, whether it’s our hairdresser, our doctor or our romantic partner. But the latter is very prone to subjective bias – a doctor is competent or not. A partner may fit certain societal norms of what is desirable, but not really fit your psychology.
Think of the “quarterback effect,” the idea that we view quarterbacks in football as more attractive because of their place of power and leadership on the field. And yet, according to the New York Times in 2009, the divorce rate for NFL players is between 60 and 80 percent. Their perceived attractiveness does not make them better partners.
Therefore, a more advanced dating app could be a huge boon, taking some of the subjectivity out of dating and giving you what you need, not what you want.
And if that sounds too prescriptive, it’s not like a dating app could ever take away the choice. Jessica Alderson points out how her app aims to let users search for what they find appealing, it just encourages them to expand that reach. “On some dating apps, you can search for people with brown hair and blue eyes, that sort of thing. If you know you’re really into extroverts, we want to help you find that person you’re attracted to.
With our rapidly improving technology, the sky is the limit. Personality is one thing. But the visuals are also important. The way we present ourselves in pictures and videos is often superficial and does not help others assess who we really are. Once again, an application that presents us as we are, and not what we want to look like, could revolutionize the market. Perhaps an AI that creates accurate, representative, and profound counterfeits from our Instagrams?
If dating apps, like so much technology, augment humanity and help us overcome our shortcomings, it should follow that a well-designed app could catapult love and romance into its next evolutionary stage. Humans evolve, become more moral and productive over time. Why can’t their love life keep up?
Bumble has revolutionized dating for women by giving them the power to start conversations. Now, new apps like So Syncd can pave the way for the next big dating revolution.
Theo Miller is the co-founder and CEO of Press Start, as well as the host of Tech Tmrw, a podcast where he interviews founders, innovators and thinkers about the future of technology. The episode discussing the future of dating with So synchronized co-founder and CEO, Jessica Alderson, will be released on July 1, 2022. Tech Tmrw is available on Apple and Spotify.