Modern dating is governed by algorithms. The advent of dating applications and their rise from niche to norm has dramatically transformed the way society approaches romantic (or sexual) relations. As much as we have all fantasised about meeting the right person at the bar or in the aisles of the grocery store like some contrived romance narrative, the entire process of meeting someone new has been distilled into finger exercises conducted against a phone screen in the privacy of your bed on a bored Friday night. I’ve been there, potato chip crumbs down the front of my pyjamas and all.
Most of urban singledom have a dating application of choice. Tinder reigns as the most popular, with over 57 million users worldwide in 2018, but the branches spread far and wide when it comes to alternatives. Even though choices abound as is, there are always new dating applications to adopt, each promising to one-up pioneers like Tinder. The latest to join that fray is Facebook Dating, an integrated experience within the world’s most popular social media platform that promises to pair you up with someone of interest in a far more meaningful way than a quick swipe to the right chased down with a contrived message and a smattering of emojis.
The experience debuted 1 May in 19 new countries, including Singapore. There was no fanfare about its arrival. Overnight, it appeared in the form of a pink-and-purple heart-shaped widget on my sidebar, sharply labelled “Dating”. Spurred by an equal measure of curiosity and the fact that my boss wanted me to see how the service fared against its peers, I plunged into the world of Facebook Dating so you don’t have to. Consider this public service.
What to expect
A major deterrent when it comes to user adoption of Facebook Dating is the fact that you might see someone you know on the service. Given that Facebook functions as everyone’s online web of family, friends, and acquaintances, the idea that you might spot your third uncle (you know, the one with the extensive collection of female dioramas from popular animes) on your quest to find a date feels particularly uncomfortable.
Facebook has taken great lengths to mitigate that by only matching you with people based on common interests and mutual friends. Your Dating profile is not linked to your main profile, so a certain level of privacy is maintained. You’re allowed to express interest in recommended individuals, and start text-only conversations with them if you wish. Facebook Dating also encourages real-life interactions, so you’re able to look at a selection of events you will be attending on the platform, and unlock a feature that lets you see fellow Facebook Dating users who are going as well. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to mitigate the stress of a first date, on the other, it sounds like potential fodder for the stalker breed. Use at risk.
Overall, Facebook Dating appears to give users a better gauge of an individual’s character than applications like Tinder or Bumble. Fans of applications like Coffee Meets Bagel and OkCupid may find Facebook Dating of interest, but if it’s a quick and casual encounter you’re looking for, perhaps this platform is not up your alley.
What if I want to date my friends?
For those who have never dared slide into a DM, Facebook Dating has got you covered with its Secret Crush function. Add up to nine individuals you’re interested in from your Friends list, and the platform will alert you when they opt-in for Facebook Dating. Tadah, you now have a legitimate avenue to bond over your singlehood.
Setting up a profile
Most of the profile creation for Facebook Dating is the usual rigamarole, though the app proves a touch more comprehensive when selecting your preferences. Beyond being more inclusive about gender orientations and sexual preferences, you also get to state your religious views, whether you have and/or are keen on dating people with children, and more bizarrely, height preference. I suppose all those that discriminate against vertically-challenged people on their Tinder profiles now feel slightly more validated.
Facebook Dating promises a lot. It’s that sweet talking person you meet that makes you believe, even slightly, that the process of dating could actually feel mildly “authentic” again. As disinterested as I have become with dating applications in general, the prospect did spark some intrigue, which lasted all the way until I generated my profile, and was met with an excess of lagging. When the platform finally broke through, it told me I had to hang tight to be shown interested parties in my area.
It’s been five hours, and I am still waiting. Maybe what I like is too obscure (Game of Thrones is, for sure, a very very indie interest). Maybe there aren’t enough users on Facebook Dating just yet. Maybe Facebook Dating is just a giant, in-your-face metaphor about how we are all destined for loneliness in the end. Maybe the application is still in a glitchy, soft launch state and I have to be more forgiving.
In a society where all of us have turned to digital dating because of speed, convenience, and, to some measure, disillusionment, Facebook Dating’s user experience forces far too much waiting around for little in return. I’ll take swiping furiously any day, thank you.