Why Match Group, which owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and other dating apps, saw its stock price recover in October after investors decided that Facebook, which runs the world’s largest online community, wasn’t a threat.
Positive press for the new service has been scarce, and a comparison of search word mentions reveals that it is well behind its rivals. Tinder has been listed online an average of once every four minutes, according to social media monitoring website socialmention.com. Every four hours, Facebook Dating gets a mention.
When people discuss Facebook Dating, it’s usually to tell stories about people they wish they hadn’t met.
Facebook is a latecomer to the lucrative online dating market dominated by companies like Match Group, Bumble, and Coffee Meets Bagel. Match Group made $541 million in sales in the third quarter of this year alone. In principle, however, Facebook Dating seems to be well-positioned to conquer the field of online dating. 2.45 billion monthly active users are now connected to the service. It has, however, bounced off the surface rather than producing waves.
I decided that a week of Facebook Dating would reveal some answers.
I’m pessimistic about Facebook’s hold on my personal information. After years of using it to sign up for countless applications and websites, telling them what kind of people I want to date seemed like a drop in the ocean of knowledge they already had on me. But, after a week of scrolling through recommended matches, I’m pretty sure the service’s enigmatic algorithms haven’t found out who I want to date.
The way the service works is unremarkable. It looks like a cross between Tinder and Hinge in that users can upload photos and answer questions in their bios. You may either leave a direct comment on an image or like or dislike users who have been suggested to you. People who have liked you appear in a “stack” of profiles that you can peruse.
At the launch, Facebook product manager Nathan Sharp said, “Facebook Dating isn’t about swiping.”
In reality, I discovered that this is only partially accurate. Instead of swiping through accounts, I tapped the “Like” or “No Thanks” buttons at the bottom of the screen to move quickly through them. Many of the accounts had just a single photo and no explanation, making it difficult to come up with anything unique to tell. So, instead of wasting all that time and effort, why not just tap yes or no, the same way you swipe right and left on Tinder?
The service’s “secret crush” feature is one of its distinguishing features. Users can browse through their friends and choose one to be their crush. The pair will fit if the other individual does the same.
This intrigued me in the same way that a box of matches fascinates a boy.
It’s strange to declare your love for another secretly. It’s slightly thrilling because it helps you to make a move on someone without putting yourself in danger. That feeling faded when I realized that most of the people I mentioned as crushes didn’t use Facebook Dating and that I might as well have written myself a note
When I learned that the feature allows users to add virtually everyone from their friend list, my disappointment turned to horrified fascination. Bosses are the people in charge. Teachers from high school. Family members.
Another explanation of why Facebook Dating hasn’t taken off is the unsavory nature of the hidden crushes feature: Users dislike the way it mashes together previously separate realms of existence, a phenomenon known as “context collapse” by academics.
“In the past, you might go out to dinner and not have to think about seeing your boss and possibly your school teacher all in the same place,” Apryl Williams, a Harvard sociologist who studies online dating services, said. “Whereas Facebook and Twitter, as well as all of our other social media platforms, provide a place where our social lives converge. And I believe that because people are so emotional to dating, that’s one field of meaning collapse they don’t want to merge.”
Secret crushes aren’t the only feature that allows users to participate in potentially shady romances. Facebook Dating has also been chastised for allowing cheating to take place. Profiles on most common dating apps, such as Tinder, are public. Cheaters run the risk of their profiles being seen by people who know them and may reveal their alleged affairs. Users’ relationship status is not mirrored on Facebook Dating, and friends are never recommended matches. This means that users can follow whomever they want without fear of being heard by their peers. Ashley Madison, the Internet’s most popular cheating platform, has admitted that it may be due to rivalry.
I soon found that Facebook Dating was a wasteland for me. In a matter of minutes, I will run out of suggested matches. So I took drastic steps to broaden my options, including increasing the radius of how far away matches could be, joining Facebook groups, and RSVPing to events so that the app could search for other users inside those sites. However, this only resulted in a small number of potential matches.
That may be because few people my age — in their twenties — use Facebook. Young people left the site in droves after the social media giant announced last year that it had leaked the personal data of 87 million users to third parties for political purposes. In a Pew survey of US users, 44 percent of those aged 18 to 29 said they had removed Facebook from their phone in the previous year.
“People are thinking, ‘OK, enough is enough,’” Williams said. “I believe it is reasonable to conclude that the average user is more aware of privacy issues than we were previously, and as a result, they might be less willing to use Facebook’s additional services.”
However, even though young people flee Facebook’s grasp, they might not be able to hide forever. Analysts say the company plans to take over the $12 billion online dating market by purchasing Match Community, similar to how it dominated picture taking and Internet chatting since acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp.
After a week of dedicated time to the app, I had a total of five matches. That includes the one conversation I had, which veered off track and ended in a dead-end. I have no plans to use the service again, mainly because other apps work much better.