It's wild to think that only 15 years ago, the landscape of dating looked quite differently to how it does now. Dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Grindr and Bumble were still in their basement germination phases and online dating websites that hit the World Wide Web in the early aughts hadn't fully shaken their sticky stigmas. The 2010s brought swipes, likes, hearts and roses into our lives and we've never looked back. Well, until recently.
Just three years after dating apps softened the pandemic with virtual dates, quarantine companions and a flirty glimmer of hope, the most recent temperature check on the apps is curiously woeful. In 2023, user frustration has peaked and dating fatigue is at an all time high. The infinite choices, swipes and faces of the growing virtual dating pool has started to work against the user. And if dating apps were the cool younger brother to online websites — the technological upgrade of the classifieds' personal ad (which had revolutionized the time-honored tradition of yelling "who wants some" into large crowds) — then, maybe it's time for another disrupter.
Adam Cohen Aslatei, the founder and CEO of the "anti-superficial" dating app, S'More, believes the future of dating lays in the hands of matchmakers. After working and advising for various dating companies like The Meet Group, Raya, Zoosk, Bumble, Perry Street and more, Aslatei concludes that "dating apps are just not designed to work for you."
Kellie Ammerman, the CEO of the matchmaking company Tawkify, is equally dubious of the gamification of these dating apps. She explains that the "addiction-driven design [of dating apps] prioritizes quantity over quality [that] benefits the app developers" and sadly, not the users. Tawkify recently acquired Aslatei's dating app into their relationship one-stop shop. Ammerman is pushing beyond the company's foundation of matchmaking to expand into a more holistic suite of relationship wellness, coaching and post match services.
But for many, the idea of "matchmaking" will either raise alarms or trigger the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof. So come chat the dating tech pioneers of New York, Adam Cohen Aslatei and Kellie Ammerman where PAPER asks all the questions you would want to know about matchmaking.
How have dating apps changed the landscape of dating in NYC?
Kellie Ammerman: Dating has become more convenient than ever with dating apps offering a vast pool of potential matches available at one's fingertips. However, many dating apps prioritize physical attraction over long-term compatibility, personality and values, leading to a culture where people are often reduced to a mere set of images and a brief bio. As a result, finding the right match can be quite difficult, as swipers often believe that there is always someone more attractive or desirable out there. This tendency can be frustrating for intentional daters looking for meaningful and lasting relationships.
Is there a future of dating culture in big cities that doesn’t include dating technology?
KA: With the fast-paced lifestyle in big cities, dating technology has become a convenient and efficient way to connect with potential partners. As technology advances, it is expected to play an even bigger role in the future of dating, providing more sophisticated and inclusive ways for people to find meaningful relationships.
Are the original disrupter apps, like Tinder and Bumble, still the pioneering apps of dating culture in 2023?
Adam Cohen Aslatei: The dating industry has been disrupted by online dating apps, offering a new approach to finding love. However, it's important to keep in mind that the industry is constantly evolving, with new apps emerging and fresh approaches to connecting singles. The future of dating culture is moving towards a more humanized approach, with matchmakers playing a crucial role in helping individuals find long-lasting and meaningful relationships.
Adam, during your years advising and working for dating app companies (such as Zoosk, Bumble and The Meet Group), what have you learned about the prevailing gaps in the dating app market?
AA: There is a gap for more intentional products that provide new ways to start conversations and connect at scale. This is especially true as it relates to Gen-Zers who are generally not as into dating apps as Millennials or Gen-Xers have been. Gen-zers have so many ways to meet and connect with other singles. There are many new community, social and common interest apps, gaming and utility apps that drive a huge number of singles into relationships.
The next big thing in dating won’t come from an app that’s already launched. It will come from a new entrant that is completely disrupting the way people meet and connect. The next big thing is Tawkify — the company is already the #1 matchmaking platform in the country, and with the launch of our app, and our expanded offerings, millions of Americans will be able to experience how professional matchmaking can get them into healthy long term relationships.
Why is there an all-time high of user frustration with popular dating apps?
KA: The design of dating apps is based on principles of gamification, which can create a misalignment of incentives between the app developers and their users. Dating apps are designed to be highly addictive, with features such as swiping, liking, and messaging that encourage users to spend more time on the app. This addiction-driven design that prioritizes quantity over quality benefits the app developers by increasing user engagement and advertising revenue, but it can have negative consequences for users.
So, really, dating apps aren't designed to work for users.
AA: Dating apps are primarily designed to maximize user engagement and generate revenue for the app creators. Maximizing user engagement with dating app business models means keeping people on the platform, and if people are on the platform, they are likely not in the meaningful relationship they desire.
What solutions in dating culture is Tawkify able to solve?
KA: Tawkify is the first-ever relationship wellness platform offering coaching, matchmaking, date planning, events and more. Our exclusive community of exceptional singles from across the country is ideal for individuals seeking genuine and meaningful connections. We are excited to introduce the industry's first-ever matchmaking app. While algorithms and machine learning have their place in dating, they lack the intuition and human touch that a professional matchmaker provides. By combining the benefits of dating technology with the expertise of a matchmaker, individuals can increase their chances of finding a genuine and authentic connection with a partner.
For some people, the idea of “match-making” will seem archaic and outdated. Is that an accurate depiction of match-making?
KA: As people increasingly rely on personal trainers to achieve their fitness goals and on delivery platforms like Caviar, Amazon and Whole Foods to simplify their daily routines, it is also becoming normalized to enlist the help of a matchmaker to streamline the process of finding a compatible partner who shares their values and interests. Working with a matchmaker allows individuals to benefit from the expertise that will increase the odds of relationship success. A trained professional makes all the difference in finding a partner who is intentional about building a lasting relationship.
If people haven’t heard of Tawkify, does that mean that the number of users (and therefore the pool of potential dates) is too small to be worth a subscription yet?
KA: Tawkify has long been a leader in the matchmaking industry, with an impressive network of over 1 million singles and a track record of over 200,000 successful matches. While we have deliberately maintained a low profile in the past, the impending release of our app marks a turning point for the company, as we offer our expertise to an even wider audience in the coming year.
If there is one dating myth in 2023 that you could squash, what would it be?
KA: There is a common myth that people must have everything figured out in life before entering into a relationship. Love is a journey, not a destination and relationships are a process that require ongoing effort and attention. Being in a relationship can provide individuals with the opportunity to learn, grow, and deepen their understanding of themselves and their partner.
Plus, no one has it all figured out. Sometimes the idea of waiting until we have everything figured out can be rooted in perfectionism, which can be a roadblock to love. These roadblocks are one of the reasons we offer coaching at Tawkify. Coaching can be a valuable tool for individuals who are looking to overcome beliefs that are holding them back and help them identify patterns, develop self-awareness, improve communication skills, build confidence, and create a plan, which can increase their chances of finding a fulfilling and lasting relationship.
Photos courtesy of Tawkify and S'More
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