Let’s face it. Dating in the age of social media is hard. And dating in New York City is particularly difficult.
Even if we meet someone who might exceed most of our expectations, we still find ourselves thinking our soulmate should have the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect everything. For some reason, it seems we’re all willing to hold out for that one Instagram model we hope we’ll cross paths with one day instead of falling for someone real, right in front of us.
It’s probably one reason why data aggregator TownCharts reports that 53 percent of New Yorkers are single.
Count me as part of that 53 percent. One day, I lamented to a co-worker about a date that I had been on. The date, in fact, had gone well — what was supposed to be just dinner ended up being a six-hour date — but it was clear to me, by the end of the night, that the person had some baggage (namely, an obsessive friend who is madly in love with her) that I wasn’t willing to shoulder. Even though I was genuinely feeling the person and wanted to get to know her better, I wasn’t ready to get on what could have possibly been an emotional rollercoaster with her.
As my faux-part-time therapist, my co-worker jokingly suggested that I sign myself up for “Love Is Blind,” a Netflix show I had never heard of until about a month after its premiere. Naturally, I was skeptical. This was the same co-worker who had famously taken my Instagram and slid into a random girl’s DMs in a desperate attempt to find me love (shameless plug, my IG’s @justinyutingchan if you’re looking for anything but thirst traps). This was also the SAME co-worker who once told me that the greatest TV show ever was “90 Day Fiancé” (come on, Christine).
After repeatedly hearing about “Love Is Blind” at the office, I finally caved to Christine’s wish and started watching it. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the basic premise of the show is this: Single men and women “date” each other in separate pods, where they can talk to, but not see, each other. Upon connecting on an incredibly deep emotional level, they then decide whether to get engaged and, eventually, married. Over the course of 10 episodes, I found myself laughing and cursing at my TV while also wondering why a 30-year-old man like myself was spending his nights obsessing over reality TV like a teenager. (Jessica, if you’re reading this, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU LEFT MY MAN MARK AT THE ALTAR? Also, what’s up, Lauren? Wink, wink.)
I came away from watching “Love Is Blind” with the feeling that there was maybe a lesson to be learned. Too often, we get caught up in each other’s looks — don’t get me wrong, physical attraction is still important — and ignore other things our potential partner should also bring to the table. Emotional maturity. Fiscal responsibility. Empathy. Acts of service. In many cases, we also tend to conflate lust and love.
That being said, Ellie, another thoughtful co-worker of mine, suggested I try a dating app called S’More (short for “Something More.”) Currently available in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., the app is essentially the social network version of “Love Is Blind.”
Setting up my account was relatively easy. I uploaded two photos of myself (one of which probably screamed thirst trap) and chose several prompts that I could only answer with preselected responses. Industry? Media/Entertainment. Dates? Dinner. Style? Casual. Dream Trip? Brazil. I also picked a song that best reflected my personality — and naturally, I chose “Wanna Get to Know You” by G-Unit (greatest love song of all time, if you ask me).
From there, I was given five suggested profiles every day. I could only see a user’s photo if I liked or “winked” at certain traits that the person had shared on their profile and interact with them. The more I chatted with the person, the more items I could unlock (such as the user’s social media feeds).
“What I started to find out when I spoke to people, specifically women, was there was such a high-intensity feeling on a lot of these dating apps of feeling judged,” S’More’s founder Adam Cohen-Aslatei told me, in explaining the thought process behind the app. “But, truly, they wanted to meet someone special. The feedback that I received was they felt as though they had to be inauthentic to attract a man because other women were being inauthentic.”
Cohen-Aslatei, who previously worked as a managing director at gay dating app Chappy, said he designed the entire concept for S’More in the summer of 2019, after having a conversation with a woman who had been frustrated with the dating scene. The Canadian Harvard graduate launched his app in January 2020 through a partnership with WeWork, where employees promoted the app through word of mouth. To date, it has just under 15,000 users, 68 percent of whom are women and 20 percent of whom identify as LGBTQ.
“For me, I don’t want to feel like I have to filter my photos or change my voice or be someone that I’m not, because relationships that start with lying probably are not going to end very well, even if it’s something that’s a white lie,” Cohen-Aslatei said.
While the app does seem promising and claims to limit personal biases, it also has several kinks. In an attempt to find the love of my life (and in an effort to get my cousins to stop asking me when I will get married), I scanned through the profiles on one occasion, “liking” certain traits that I found particularly appealing. It didn’t take much for me to get my first match’s photo to unblur. All I had to do was “like” three items on her profile and send her a “hello.”
That match turned out to be a white woman who — if I had to take a wild guess — was in her 50s. My second match turned out to be a woman who could only seem to say, “Good morning.” My third match stopped responding after she saw my photo (I guess Asian men aren’t her type). By the end of the week, I decided to take a break from the app. Just like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble, S’More seemed to confirm one thing for me — that I was better off meeting people organically, even if that meant signing up for a bachata class or a kickboxing session.
Still, my personal experience with S’More aside, that’s not to say that the dating app isn’t worth anyone’s time or energy. The intention behind the app is very much sincere. During our conversation, Cohen-Aslatei emphasized that he wasn’t trying to come up with another generic dating app or simply cash in on the estimated $2.5 billion dating market.
“We’re seeing the demand for our app has spiked like crazy since [‘Love Is Blind’] because people want to know what it feels like to have these really authentic conversations with [other] people who say they want to be in relationships,” Cohen-Aslatei told me. “In a controlled environment where you know that the other person wants to be in a relationship, it allows you to be more vulnerable.”
Unfortunately, for me, that never happened. If anything, hopping on a dating app like S’More reinforced what I already knew about myself. Over the past several years, some of the best chemistry I’ve had with women has come from natural occurrences — not through meeting someone who is intentionally looking for love on a dating app. Maybe I’m just too old-school.
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