In the 21st century, apparently everyone is here for a good time, not a long time. Whatever that means
This is the longest I’ve procrastinated in writing a story. I put it off for as long as I could. But with Valentine’s Day looming closer with each passing second, I bit the bullet and signed myself up on three dating apps. After all, when your colleague needs a “different kind of story for Valentine’s Day”, who am I to say no, right?
I was merely intending to do a roundup of dating apps that target working professionals along with the quality of people on the app. “Why not talk about your experience,” quipped said colleague. “Let people know what it’s really like. People like reading about these sort of things.”
Gulp. Okay then.
It certainly didn’t help that I was sent this article for… inspiration. But lest you grab your pitchforks and tell me that “not all men are like this”, hear me out.
My gripe with internet dating is that it’s all about instant gratification.
One, you need to like what you see, and rightfully so, because nobody falls for your personality at first sight. This leaves the sixes (and below) a smaller pool to work with, and the sevens (and above) with an inflated ego.
Two, if the person doesn’t respond or engage near immediately, just strike them off. To ignore, unmatch, block or report, that’s entirely up to you. Others will be able to give you the attention you crave.
Three, let’s say you get a match and start talking. It’s extremely easy to dismiss someone based on an offhand remark they made. I’m not even talking about possessing different values, but merely misreading the tone or intention of the message. As one friend said, why bother trying to iron things out when you’ve just begun talking, especially when the ‘right’ person could be just a few swipes away?
In short, internet dating offers low risk, and in return, extremely low rewards.
Of course, there are a rare few looking for a genuine connection. A relative of mine met her husband on a dating app, and he’s one of the funniest and most sincere people I know. Two other friends also married the men they met online, one even has a child.
Despite all my grouses, I give the apps a shot. All in the name of a story. Like a sacrificial lamb awaiting slaughter, I sign up for three dating apps, which target successful professionals and c-suite executives : Bumble, The Inner Circle, The League. But before I talk about my experience, here’s a low-down on what each offers.
Upload up to six pictures of yourself, write an introduction, and answer a few fun questions. If you like what you see (and read), swipe right. A match is formed when both parties swipe right on each other. On Bumble, females have to make the first move by initiating the conversation within 24 hours. Men have 24 hours to reply. If they don’t, the match disappears. Of course, you can buy tokens to extend the match reasoning with yourself that they were just too busy to respond.
There’s a good mix of PMEBs, with a couple of C-Suite execs. It’s a 40/60 for locals and foreigners. It offers the best user experience; scroll through a profile, swipe accordingly (left for no, right for yes), and a next profile appears.
The Inner Circle
You’ve to sign up via LinkedIn or Facebook and wait to be ‘vetted’ by The Inner Circle team. In the mean time, you can pen your introduction and answer questions such as your favourite cities and how you spend your free time. Unlike Bumble, anyone can take the initiative to start a conversation. It’s a 50/50 local/foreigner mix, but a good 80 per cent take mostly blurry and unflattering selfies.
This app is the most intrusive of the lot, as it encourages you to list the bars and restaurants you frequent, along with your travel plans. The idea is to meet up with others who go to the same places that you do, but honestly, it feels more like a data mine than anything.
This is the newest app of the lot, and is coincidentally the most exclusive. The League gives you just five profiles to consider each day, its rationale being that it only pairs you up with people who are a good fit with you. It also wants to discourage mindless swiping, which I’m up for. Users have to link at least one of their social media accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).
Users have to fill in as much of their profile as possible in order to have a higher possibility of being matched with others. I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact that The League just entered Singapore’s market less than a month ago, but many profiles are left blank, with most just stating their country and religion. How they’ve made the cut and managed to be verified, I’m not sure.
But perhaps its biggest selling point is League Live. Enter its chatroom every Sunday at 9pm, and get paired with a person, who you’ll video call for two minutes, and discuss a question posed by the app. Enjoy the conversation? Click ‘like’ and if the other party ‘likes’ you back, a match forms and you can continue chatting on the app.
That said, for everything it tries to sell, The League feels like a sorority; you’re ranked based on the number of times you log in a day, how often you respond and how many people you’ve introduced to the app. All your friends are married? Well, off to the bottom of the barrel you go. Based on your ranking, your profile will be shown to others in that rank. Want to move up a few notches, or have your profile be more prominent? Sign up for a subscription. If you think this sounds a lot like a Black Mirror episode, you’re right. Money talks, and in this case, can buy you more airtime. Affection not included.
Putting myself out there
I’m no stranger to dating apps. I’ve been on a few and once, in a bid to keep others from bugging me about my love life, met six guys in three days. As an introvert who struggles to make small talk, I crashed and burned real hard, and had to take a break.
This time, to keep things consistent, I upload the same pictures and use the same introduction across all apps.
Bumble comes off as the easiest to use of the lot; perhaps I’m familiar with the interface, but its easy navigation wins me over. I also enjoy the fact that I’ve to come up with witty openers. But what I like most about Bumble is that your preferences are clearly stated at the top of your profile. I’m not looking for someone who wants ‘something casual’, nor am I open to dating an atheist, and the app makes it easy to weed others out.
I hit it off with a few, and meet up with a sales and marketing manager in the executive education industry. We have a late lunch – peppered with witty banter and monologues that’ll make for great stand-up comedy – and end up heading to the arcade on a whim, before spending the rest of the night chatting. He is attractive and I can be potentially attracted to his personality, but we haven’t met up since.
I don’t get the same conversations on The Inner Circle. Users don’t have to ‘like’ each other To start a conversation, and within half a day, I’ve men sending winky faced emojis, calling me pet names and worse, asking if I’m up for fun.
Thankfully, the basket’s not all filled with rotten apples, with a bulk of them asking me how’s my day. But Bumble has unknowingly set the bar high. I’m now used to coming up with strong openers, and I start expecting the same from others. Of the lot, I meet a design engineer for lunch, but it’s too short a time to tell if there’s any potential.
Then, there’s a senior manager in the manufacturing industry, who, upon exchanging numbers, takes it upon himself to send me selfie. With a hundred per cent bluntness and zero per cent tact, I blurt out, “Good Lord, here’s a selfie I never asked for”. He quickly deletes the image and apologises, but the conversation dies there and then.
It gets worse on The League. I’m constantly paired with people who have zero introductions on their profiles; a hard no for me. The only saving grace is that I’m shown men who share the same religion. I try League Live on one Sunday; the app perpetually tells me that ‘all my matches are talking to someone else’ and I should hold out for a bit more. I end up having a really awkward video call with a consultant, and it could be due to a mix of a ticking clock and the nervousness, but we don’t really have much in common and the conversation is, to put it in one word, painful.
Oh, The Horror
Because The League tells you exactly how your match is verified, there’s an events manager who, after a couple of days of chatting, decides that he should add me. On LinkedIn. Looking someone up is one thing – we all do that – but making the other party aware is a different thing altogether. After all, that’s the difference between stalking and being caught for stalking, isn’t it?
Truth be told, we hit it off, and I would have met him if he asked me out. But I’m not so sure anymore.
I tell him I’m uncomfortable with this, and he says he laughs it off, saying he “happened to search” for me, and my profile popped up. I don’t buy his reasoning and am not sure how I should proceed. If I stop talking to him just because of this, I’ll be no different from the people I detest. After some consideration, I try explaining my rationale, and here comes the kicker: he asks if he can – wait for it – sing me a song as a way of an apology. I take a deep breath, and reason with myself that I tried to give him a chance. I tell him that he has missed the point entirely, and he promptly unmatches me. This works well for me, though while penning this story, I find out that said events manager was once jailed in Singapore for filming women in the bathroom.
At this point, social media verification does nothing when weighed against a criminal record, especially with regard to crimes of such nature. Should dating apps put some policies in place to protect its users? Can more be done? That’s another story for another day.
In fact, the most fun I have on The League is with my concierge, Conor. He’s not a bot, and I have fun replying his daily updates (because he is somewhat obligated to reply and keep users happy). Which says a lot about my time spent on the app.
And that sums of my dating life after being on the apps for the past three weeks. To be honest, regardless of how apps try to set themselves apart from others, the fact is, nets are cast extremely wide, and you’ll see the same person on multiple apps.
I’ve a few more dates lined up, and while I’m more wary of my dates and their backgrounds, I’m not letting the fear stop me from expanding my dating circle. Every match, conversation and date is a risk you’ve to be willing to take. Putting measures in place, such as meeting in a public space, alerting and updating a trusted friend or family member about the date, and setting a time to leave all help.
One thing’s for sure. Regardless of how dating apps differentiate themselves, or the type of professionals that flock to a particular platform, there’s still a chance for situations to take an extremely different turn. At the end of the day, having a high-level job says close to nothing about someone’s personality.
Is it possible to hit it off with someone online, and score a second or third date and even something more? Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t have any expectations, but if something works out, that’ll be pretty cool. At least I can say that there’s a silver lining to writing this story.
But the fact is, in order to really hit it off with someone, you’ll need to give yourself time, and not be too hard on the person (or yourself). And I’m not sure if a bulk of the people on the app – myself included – are ready to take that leap of faith just yet.