The Secret Dating App You've Never Heard Of

by Pamela J. Hobart

Online dating, in theory, is no longer a new thing, but the creators of dating sites and apps certainly continue to get creative with twists on the process. The exclusive Raya dating app is the latest platform designed to help people find love, and it's basically Tinder for famous people and influencers. To join Raya, members have to satisfy a mysterious algorithm involving Instagram following, mutual connections with other Raya members, personal recommendations, and some kind of selection committee. Oh, and of course it's not free to use.

Once Raya members are accepted, the experience seems pretty controlled, as described by Alice Hines at New York Magazine's The Cut: "Raya solves the privacy problem through careful curation, as well as its interface: Try to screenshot someone’s profile, and you’ll get an alert threatening to kick you off the network if the photo makes it online." Raya is basically the walled garden to Tinder's free-for-all swiping.

This whole membership model of Tinder-for-famous-people might seem a little off at first, but it's really just another development in the unfolding history of "assortative mating." Assortative mating is the phenomenon of people with similar backgrounds pairing off and having kids who, shocker, turn out to be much like both of the parents in many ways. Americans are assortatively mating more than we used to for a variety of reasons, especially now that women have relatively increased their positions socioeconomically in recent decades. Now people are marrying later, and they're marrying people from their school and work-related social circles.

Assortative mating refutes the folk wisdom that opposites attract, and assortative mating also inconveniently throws fuel on the fire of income inequality, but it's probably here to stay. Selective dating apps actually reflect this new mating reality more than they contribute to it. Even when people use regular, non-selective online dating services like OKCupid, they're combing the site for people much like themselves when it's time to marry — whether they realize it or not.

So, maybe the users of Raya are actually just more self-aware than the rest of us. They know that they want similarly high-profile partners, and would rather be honest about that than waste a bunch of their own time (and that of other people who would message them on regular dating sites). These people are already physically hanging out in high-end social clubs for the creative class, and they want a digital dating experience to match. Hey, to each their own.

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