Photo by Bruno Gomiero on Unsplash
It wasn’t long ago that the internet and its limitless connectivity was met with a sense of skepticism, this virtual shadow for strangers to stay hidden. Chatrooms suddenly outranked strange men in vans as a plausible threat to the innocence of American youth.
Within the last decade, that great unknown has become the norm; having a Facebook profile in the US is more common than having a passport. And although it was once considered desperate or dangerous, the stigma around online dating has mostly lifted.
Apps like Tinder, OKCupid and Grindr still come out on top in the online dating market. They’ve mastered the cyber singles scene with a simple, yet addictive model that attracts the most online users to log in and find their next romantic encounter.
But more than anything else in this modern world, social media and the way we use the internet are constantly evolving. Whether it’s the latest iOS or new Facebook features, smart technology has begun adapting to individual users’ needs. So why should online dating be any different?
As the digital landscape changes to satisfy a new generation, app developers have come to realize that social media and online dating do not come with a one-size-fits-all format. Just as they would in real life, people are seeking niche online communities where they feel most comfortable. Apps like Bumble, Chappy and the League epitomize a new and effective approach to meeting someone new.
“We are all looking for different things and aspects in a partner,” says The League’s Meredith Davis, “so how could there possibly be one place for you to find every type of person? Every good college curates their community, every good company that you would want to work for curates their community; I don’t see why a dating community can’t also do the same.”
The League has found a way to use college and career in the selection process. Created by Amanda Bradford, the app offers an extra level of privacy from friends and business connections, requiring both Facebook and LinkedIn authentication from users. The waiting list ensures that the dating pool is only made up of people of a certain pedigree.
“What we want is to help move society towards redefining dating and letting go of antiquated gender stereotypes,” Davis says. “To us, equalism is not forcing women to message first or to be in control. It’s encouraging our users to seek intellectual equals and give them a platform that facilitates connecting based on more than just looks and attraction. Outdated social stigmas and the fact that women are achieving at an equal level to men is still a relatively new thing. We’ve found that with men at the age of 30, the desire to date smart women increases significantly, and that the desire to have a truly equal partnership is a concept that resonates more with well-educated men than less-educated men.”
One app that is putting control in women’s hands is Bumble. It was created by Whitney Wolfe and Andrey Andreev to address the gender imbalance of dating – and not only is it empowering for women to be able to make the first move, but it takes pressure off men.
“What I personally love about the community we’ve built at Bumble is that our users treat each other with respect,” says Alex Williamson el-Effendi, Vice President of Brand Content. “We don’t have a community where people are inundated with unwanted messages because first moves on Bumble tend to be more intentional. We also hold our users accountable for their actions, so we have extremely low reports of harassment on Bumble. We will always work to cultivate a kind, respectful, and safe community.”
Williamson el-Effendi reconnected with her own husband on Bumble, after dating six years earlier in college. They recently got married at a ceremony in Austin, Texas.
For gay men, the online dating market has always had a very one-track mind. That’s what encouraged British writer and TV personality Ollie Locke to come up with a new platform. He joined his friend Jack Rogers in co-founding Chappy to create that platform.
“I think mainly, the idea I didn’t like was it’s just a hookup culture and nothing else,” Locke says. “It wasn’t reflective of what we spent the last 50 years fighting for, to show that gay guys can only have hookups and nothing to do with relationships. That’s a really difficult thing, going in that direction for so long.”
In addition to letting users weed out “Mr. Right” from “Mr. Right Now,” it also creates a safe and positive place for singles. With other gay dating apps, things like sexual racism, body shaming and femme shaming are a huge issue. Requiring Facebook authentication eliminates the element of anonymity, holding users accountable for their language.
“The importance of having a strong brand in the dating world, a safe brand and a respectable brand, is now way more important,” Rogers says. “Because there’s so much competition, and that is how you differentiate from other apps. That’s what we’re trying to do, as well as build a family brand.”
Just as with many other dating apps, Chappy is evolving from a place to meet other singles into a lifestyle brand. Instead of leaving users once they’ve found their Mr. Right, they’re creating a space to find restaurants and events, making it a resource for gay men, both single and committed.
Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, online dating has become a norm in our modern, digitized society. As the industry evolves, new apps are closing the gap left by the first big wave of online dating sites. There’s now an online scene for every bar in every big city. It’s the happy hour of the 21st century.