About a year ago, when I was hanging out at a bar after work, talking about dating-the swipes, the winks, awkward IRL meetups, and, in my case, a message from a swinger who wanted me to help him with a woodworking project in his garage while his kids were at school-a friend brought up a new site called the League. “There’s a wait list,” she said. “I want to get on it.”
The League, for the uninitiated, is the ivy-covered country club of dating apps, designed for people who are “too popular as it is.” There’s a rigorous screening process-“We do all that dirty work for you”-that takes into account where your diplomas come from, the prestige of your titles, and, crucially, your influence on social media. Two months after the League’s November 2014 launch, the wait list was 75,000 people long.
This, let’s be clear, is not a good thing-and not just because elitism is lame. Apps like the League go against the entire promise and thrill of online dating.
When sites like Match.com first came on the scene, way back in 1995, they gave singles a weird wide web of potential significant (and insignificant) others. You picked an age range, sure, and height requirements, fine, but your options expanded. Thanks to the all-inclusive power of the Internet, you were scrolling through goths and triathletes and electricians and investment bankers and chefs, and suddenly it didn’t seem so crazy to start trading emails with someone who rooted for the wrong sports team or even lived across the country. These people didn’t go to your college, and they didn’t know your friends (or your mom). But 20 years later, that diverse pool of potential daters hasn’t grown broader and deeper-it’s been subdivided into stupidly specific zones.
The pool of potential daters hasn’t grown-it’s been subdivided into stupidly specific zones.
The process started with Tinder (and later Hinge) requiring social media integration. Dating basically became six degrees of Facebook, and it only got narrower and more exclusive from there. The League is just one of a gaggle of services that appeal to the better-heeled crowd; there’s also Sparkology, the Dating Lounge, and Luxy (“Tinder, minus the poor people”-no joke). The most selective of all, Raya, is invite-only-you basically have to be a celebrity with a sizable Instagram following to be asked. But specialization isn’t just for snobs. Apps now exist for pairing people based on the right astrological sign (Align), an affinity for sci-fi (Trek Passions), similar eating habits (Veggiemate), and a love of weed (My420Mate). Having interests in common is not a bad thing-especially if, say, religious identity is important to you-but making sure every potential match has a beard (Bristlr) or is at least 6’4″ (Tall People Meet) means interacting only with the segment of humanity we think we’ll like. It’s wrong and also ineffective, because the truth is, most of us are pretty terrible at knowing what, or who, we actually want.
You might think that having a dating site for, oh, Democrats would be a good idea if you’re the kind of person who can’t fathom a Carville-Matalin match. But here’s the thing: When OkCupid scrubbed the data, it found that political affiliation didn’t tip the scales on compatibility. People didn’t really care if you were a Republican or a Communist. What mattered most was simply how passionate each person was about politics in general: Diehards go with diehards, lukewarms with lukewarms.
The site also combed through its data on successful matches, looking for the questions that best predicted which two profiles would couple up. Three stood out, and none of them had anything to do with politics, religion, or social status: Would you ditch it all to go live on a sailboat? Do you like scary movies? And have you ever traveled in another country alone? Though all three questions may give daters a sense of how adventurous the other person might be, they’re universal. They apply to elitists just as well as they apply to blue-collar workers-bearded or beardless.
According to a 2015 study out of France, after 2006, niche dating sites began specifically pushing endogamy. “In love,” the researchers wrote, “people have long looked for their other half; now it seems that we are rather looking for our double, as if reflected in a mirror.” This is not cute. At best, it’s narcissism; at worst, it’s a kind of social inbreeding that, in the case of the most exclusive apps, begins to look suspiciously like eugenics. Social media succeeded because it abandoned notions of exclusivity, yet the tech community-infamous at this point for its diversity problems-is now happily siloing daters by race, income, and dietary preference. These are not values to live by.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with dating someone who checks the same boxes as you do. But by drastically reducing the pool of potential matches, you’re not only hurting yourself, you’re ruining online dating for those of us who want to keep our options open. So as tempting as it might be to date my mirror image, I won’t be joining any wait lists. The swinging woodworker dad is definitely not the guy for me, but I hope it’s someone just as unexpected. I’ll take my chances.
Elise Craig (@e_craig) is a journalist based in San Francisco and the former managing editor of San Francisco magazine.
Originally found athttp://www.wired.com/
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