Tinder may have 50 million users worldwide but how many of them would you actually like to date? If you’ve been using dating apps for a while now, that’s the conundrum you’re probably facing. Fun for a summer fling, but not likely to find you someone that will see you through to next summer – and beyond.
Fortunately, the new wave of dating sites and apps are only too aware of that. Elite dating apps – those that approve and curate their users – promise a better calibre of matches. But how?
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Everyone’s a contender
We’ve all been there – you hit on a great pic, backed up by a round of others, there’s a few lines promising an engaging personality, and when you message you get a reply. But after 24 hours the trail has gone cold. Repeat ten more times that week, and you’re resigning yourself to the idea that your significant other this winter will be Call of Duty.
They’ll check you out on social media to ensure the data and pics you’ve supplied are an accurate representation. Some require you to sign up with a work or college email address to prove those credentials. Here’s where elite apps come in – they maintain a small database purposefully so that they can sort the wheat from the chaff, vetting all users.It might sound invasive, but remember, they’re only assessing information that’s already out there in the public domain, and they’re doing this with every user.
And once you are in? You’re going to need to use your membership.
As The League CEO Meredith Davis explains, “Our algorithm deprioritises people with high ‘flakiness’ scores. Flaky is when you constantly match but never message, or don’t reply to messages from people you’ve matched with. We also kick users out of the League for inactivity! Every couple of weeks we replace inactive users with active users from our waitlist. Once a user is kicked out for inactivity they are placed back at the end of the line to be re-reviewed by our team.”
You pay for the privilege
How money services intention is a fascinating part of elite dating apps. The fees aren’t just there to make these companies millions; they also act to create additional emotional investment on the part of the user. It’s now an established psychological precept within the dating world that people invest more in what they pay for – which is why, however it’s repackaged, Tinder and its ilk will always have a higher relationship attrition rate.
How that’s structured depends very much on the app, and how it interprets the concept of erotic capital – the notion that men and women are always ‘trading’ sex by way of their charm, good looks, or solid currency.
One of the more controversial arrangements exists on HerSmile, an app which requires women to pay a £20 monthly subscription while men throw in £4 a pop to message their chosen lady (an amount which is returned if she spurns his digital advances.)
Its founder, Cosmo Currey, sells the £4 price point as an amount that’s “cheaper than a G&T” and claims that it creates confidence in the experience for both parties – men know that the women on there are looking for a relationship, and women know that the men that invest the £4 as an opening gambit are invested in getting to know them specifically.
That the men – but not the women – get a refund if their advance is spurned makes it even more controversial, but Currey claims the structure merely reflects “the different biological drives of men and women.”
He’s not alone. US-based dating site Sparkology requires women to take out a monthly subscription while men pay a one-off joining fee which buys them ‘currency’ with which they can message women. It works, according to CEO Cameron Amigo, because “in general, women come to dating prepared to make a greater personal investment. And men go all in when there’s a larger up-front financial investment.”
Whatever the controversy, those working this business model refuse to see it as sexist, instead arguing that it merely reflects the actual dating behaviour of users.
So the message is clear: if you want to woo a great woman, put your money where your heart is.
What you’ve achieved counts
One of the urban myths about dating intentions is that women go for the wallet and men go for looks. Not necessarily so, says The League’s Meredith Davis: “We’ve found that for 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.”
And why shouldn’t it be this way? It’s 2017, after all. Women are outperforming men at every level of education, and dating someone you can only talk TOWIE and lapdogs with doesn’t need to be your reality. Nor does the prospect of paying for every meal, cinema ticket and holiday ever after.
For the League, having a top-notch education is one of the key criteria of membership. But what if you’re a late bloomer, someone who wasn’t academic but has flourished in the workplace, and wants to find someone as driven as you, regardless of university attendance?
It’s why an increasing number of apps are verifying users, not with Facebook, where any clown can doctor their college or employment trail, but LinkedIn. As Max Fischer, CEO of BeLinked which does just that explains, “When people can get a sense of your professional success, they give you more respect from the outset. Professional people are attractive people. Plus, when people know they’re being judged to some extent on that profile, they are more accountable, and less likely to ignore messages or engage in a way that’s disrespectful.”
The algorithm is on its way out
In 2017, the dating algorithm is about to be dumped. Ever since a quartet of American professors published a paper back in 2012 explaining the negligible benefits of algorithms when it comes to successful matching, the industry is slowly coming round to the idea that algorithms are not the most efficient ways of matching people. Basically, we don’t always know what we think we want. Instead, matching success lies in establishing other factors such as socio-economic background, employment stability and attachment style, which more successfully predict whether the people you match with can actually meet your needs.
Most of us are not ready to share that kind of information with someone we’ve had a three-minute online interaction with, and understandably so.
But for the sites that are shunning the algorithm, there are other ways to get ahead. Sites including Sparkology, for example, are partnering with other dating services to offer a concierge – for a small fee, you can now get someone else to write your profile, or even coach you to improve your date-ready performance.
The success is in the recommendations
What’s slightly frustrating when researching elite apps is their reluctance to release hard data about their successes, or how many users they have in their systems. So while several CEOs assure me their sites have lead to marriage, it’s a bit of a limp testimonial when unsubstantiated.
Besides, being serious about dating doesn’t mean you’re thinking that far ahead. Instead, someone equally compatible with you and your friendship group is high on most daters’ lists.
It’s for this reason that elite apps with an entry system rely on other users bringing in friends and contacts of a similar calibre. As Sparkology’s Cameron Amiga puts it, “Every business knows that word of the mouth is always the best recommendation. And if you know a friend that’s met a great partner on an elite site, you’re that much more likely to try it yourself.”