One of the most frustrating parts of using dating apps is knowing what everyone else's intentions are. Dating apps don't exactly provide the best environment to be transparent about what you're looking for. When you have a one line bio to convey who you are, using it to say, "here for casual sex" or "Trying to get married ASAP" doesn't feel quite right. Some apps do let you list your intentions on your profile, but even that may not narrow it down since many people check off all the options provided. Sometimes it'll be clear within the first few minutes of the conversation, but more often than not, you meet up, go on a date or three, and then realize you're on totally different pages. If you are looking for a deeper connection with someone, this is frustrating as hell.
Last year, Vanity Fair's "Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse" article exposed the frustrating culture of dating apps — an environment of endless options, mindless swiping, and superficiality. Not all of the article resonated with me — I don't find dating apps to be as lonely or empty as the article portrayed — but seeing swiping culture exposed made me feel like I wasn't alone in my dating app fatigue. For many dating platforms, the article was a major reality check. New non-swiping dating apps popped up, some apps changed their features to get users offline faster, and one popular dating app, Hinge, spent the last year facing the facts, learning from its users, and rebuilding itself. As of October 11, Hinge will now be a paid app focused on relationships.
"For our team, it became impossible to ignore that we're no longer living up to our mission and that we were apart of something that we didn't like and didn't want in the world," Katie Hunt, Hinge's Chief Brand Officer, tells Bustle. "We wanted to be relationship-oriented and be something that really connected people in a digital space. We thought, Oh god, are we doing that?"
So they went to straight to their users. "They were swiping more than ever, but only 15 percent of those were leading to conversations," Hunt says. "So even after they matched they weren't talking to each other. Isn't that the entire point — to start a conversation and go on a date?"
"I think we've lost reality over what it means to be a bold person and say what you're looking for — and there's so much power in that."
Next, they launched HingeLabs, a beta testing platform where they could communicate with some of their community and find out what was working on the app and what wasn't. (Full disclosure: I was a member of HingeLabs as an active Hinge user, unrelated to my job at Bustle). Every few months we'd get a brand new Hinge to try out with different features and provide feedback.
The biggest finding from HingeLab surveys and data analysis? "We found that on a relationship scale from 1-10, they put Hinge at a 7," Hunt says. "Hinge is relationship-oriented. But, 70 percent [of users] would like it to be a 9. It posed the question for us: how do you make a relationship app versus a dating app? How do you create a Match for a Millennial group that's used to swiping? How do you make connections simple and easy and accessible to our generation?"
And so, Hinge developed a totally new, social media-inspired app that aims to be an escape from the mindless swipe culture. Hunt says it's the next step for Tinder grads who want a relationship but aren't quite ready to get married right now. According to Hinge, the new app has proven to be a 10X better experience for those seeking real connections in beta testing. Here's what you can expect:
There's No Swiping
Instead of going through a batch of matches per day and swiping on them, you can "discover" profiles (these people are based on your preferences and your behavior on the app), which actually look like Instagram profiles for dating. You can like or comment on someone's photo or their answer to one of Hinge's questions, which range from "Your first AOL screen name" to "Your Last Injury Sustained". Then, you can start a conversation if both parties want to interact.
"You don't have to feel embarrassed about commenting on someone's photo," Hunt says. "You're there saying 'I'm single' and they're there saying 'I'm single' too.
There May Be More Conversations
In beta testing, Hinge says their rich profiles drove 5X the conversations. On average, 2X as many people connected and 5X as many connections turned into two-way conversations.
I certainly can vouch for this. In HingeLabs, I found it much easier to have conversations and not one of them involved the usual "Hey, how's it going?" Because you have to interact with someone's profile before a two-way conversation opens up, there is no room for copy and pasted lines. The majority of the conversations I had on HingeLabs started out with people commenting on my answer to "Last Injury I Sustained," which was a Halloween horror story involving Brussels sprouts, a kitchen knife, the ER, and a Tinker Bell costume.
It's Now A Paid App
Users will now pay $7 per month for Hinge, which isn't nearly as much as eHarmony or Match, but as Hinge says, "it’s enough to make sure everyone is on the same page and not just using Hinge for entertainment." Current Hinge users will get a free three month trial.
Intentions Are Clear
I pointed out to Hunt that many people I've encountered on legacy Hinge, which was one of the few dating apps that offers you the opportunity to list what you're looking for on your profile, have all the options checked off: casual, dating, relationship. What about them? Will these users pay for the new Hinge?
"I hope that people will look at it and decide whether they personally will want to opt in," Hunt says. "I want a community that is relationship-oriented because that's the best experience for all of us — you're in there and you know the intentions of everyone else. You should be able to opt into hookup culture if that's what you want and you should be able to opt out of it if that's what you want. For us, it's about people joining new Hinge and opting in, and part of that is the paywall. Even though it's only $7, the idea of paying for something and behaving poorly is another jump I think people don't want to take and won't take. For our users, it protects everybody and makes sure everybody is one the same page."
But Will It Lead To Love?
Considering several dating apps, including Happn and OkCupid, have told Bustle that intentions are up to their users, I wondered at first if Hinge's new approach would be too limiting for Millennials. But, there are plenty of hookup-oriented apps that are straightforward about their mission, and it's crystal clear people aren't satisfied with their current dating apps. For those who are looking for a relationship, maybe it'll be a way to connect with better matches and take some of the pressure off wondering what everyone's looking for. Maybe this transparency is what the dating app industry needs.
Hunt pointed out how the "cool girl" mentality is perpetuated by dating apps, and I totally agree. Ghosting, zombieing, benching, and whatever the next trendy word we'll give to the shitty behavior we let each other get away with in dating, I think technology and how we use our apps plays a huge role in the IDGAF attitude. What if you're tired of the games and you actually do give a f*ck? "[Hinge will] take the pressure of having to play the cool girl," she says. "You can say what you want and go after it. I think we've lost reality over what it means to be a bold person and say what you're looking for — and there's so much power in that. My hope is that it'll allow Millennial women who want relationships to put actually put a stake in the ground and say, 'this is what I want, this is the type of treatment I want, and this is what I expect.'"
Whether a paid relationship-oriented app will appeal to single Millennials who've grown accustomed to swiping remains to be seen. But at a time where 81 percent of Hinge users have never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app and 65 percent don't feel like they have ever really connected with someone one, it sounds like it's the right time to change things up and get everyone on the same page.
Images: Fotolia; Courtesy of Hinge