In the aftermath of the pandemic, human social interactions have become increasingly digital, as a slew of online services and social networks have made it easier than ever for people to connect using digital tools.
Nowadays it’s become almost normal for people to link up with strangers via the internet, hoping the interaction will turn into a lasting friendship, or transpire into something more romantic.
Though in the wake of the Metaverse and the shift to Web 3.0, social networking companies, including Facebook parent company Meta have become largely interested in the possibilities that await within virtual and augmented reality. In 2021, the company spent more than $10 billion to help construct the metaverse, an enthusiastic partnership that has now led to other major tech giants throwing their hats in the ring as well.
From Google, Amazon, and Qualcomm, the metaverse, along with its interlocking services and products including, cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance (DeFi), Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs), and blockchain-based virtual reality gaming have completely changed the future of the digital social spectrum.
While these companies play a massive part in the further development of the Metaverse, and Web 3.0, an alternative branch of online social networks has also caught up with the trend in recent years – online dating.
Dating has become digital, and it’s only looking to take off further in the wake of the metaverse and Web 3.0 technologies.
Although not as nearly as big as conventional social networks, online dating sees more than 300 million users worldwide, of which 20 million are paying for premium features.
San Francisco-based software and technologies company, Sensor Tower Usage Intelligence data found that the global usage of popular social dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge have collectively grown by 17% in January 2022 when compared to the same month in 2019.
Online dating has become a catalyst for many users, a place where they can connect with people with the potential for the relationship to turn into something more romantic and intimate.
While it’s possible to say that crypto and blockchain have left no industry untouched, the overarching influence has also led to a sharp increase in online scams, catfishing, and blackmail in recent years.
Shaken out of millions of dollars, the most well-known and notorious of all scams was the acclaimed Tinder Swindler, which in early 2021 received its own Netflix documentary.
The few minutes of fame created a polarizing view on the growing troubles related to scams many online dating apps and social networks face. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that in the past five years, online users and consumers have reported more than $1.3 billion in losses, with 2021 seeing more than $547 million in reported losses, the most recorded.
But crypto is no shy contender as well to online scams, especially on dating sites and apps, and has played both assailant and victim to the increasing number of scams costing users millions in crypto and fiat currencies every year.
It’s not looking as if dating apps or social networks will see a decrease in active users anytime soon. And with the growing interest surrounding cryptocurrencies and blockchain protocols, how have these technologies changed online dating services, and what are the potential threats and rewards they can bring to the table?
Crypto’s Unconventional Influence On Online Dating
While research has found that around 16% of Americans have invested in crypto or some form thereof in the last couple of years, an exploration of its impact on online dating earlier this year revealed that owning crypto or related products can make users seem more attractive online.
Yes, that’s correct, for the millions who own or dabble in the crypto market, and who have a dating profile on one of the many online dating sites, it was found that 33% of Americans claimed that they were more likely to go on a date with if someone mentioned their crypto assets in their online dating profile.
More interestingly, it was found that three in four adults would consider a second date with someone if they paid the bill in Bitcoin (BTC). Another 20% of singles also claimed that they were romantically interested in someone if their profile picture or avatar was set to an NFT according to findings by eToro.
Crypto is not only an indication of progressivism anymore, but it’s helping many people land dates and foster intimate relationships with those using online dating.
Though it’s interesting to see how the recent pandemic and the persisting economic challenges have sparked major interest in cryptocurrencies. The challenging economic conditions have led many people to look to find partners who are more financially stable and carry some form of financial security, regardless of their age.
Investment companies and brokers have been closely following the set moving average of cryptos in the broader market as widespread adoption becomes more commonplace among different consumer-focused industries.
While not shying away from the impact crypto has on online dating, some Web 3.0 entrepreneurs and soon-to-be startups are now taking advantage of crypto and DeFi as a way to monetize online dating and physical intimacy.
While work surrounding these yet-to-launch mobile apps, Datingverse and Sexn are still ongoing, the concept is pretty straightforward.
Datingverse, a dating world that exists primarily in the Metaverse, is looking to pay users in cryptocurrency to go on dates with other Metaverse users. Even if the date was a success or a complete disaster, users will still be compensated – in crypto – for their so-called date.
The motivation behind the concept is to change how people interact with one another in the Metaverse, and help create more motivation for users to both utilize online dating and realize the potential of the virtual and augmented world.
Similarly is Sexn, another yet-to-launch dating app looking to pay users in crypto, but this time it’s for when users engage in having sex or self-stimulation.
The app will make use of smartwatches as a way to monitor these intimate activities, assessing heart rates, blood oxygen levels, and respiratory rates. The technical aspects stretch further than tracking or monitoring user data, as clinical analysis will help the app reward and compensate users based on their sexual activities.
The concept behind Sexn is nothing new, the startup is simply taking the idea globally through mass commercialization.
Recent changes and modifications in financial regulations and digital payment policies looking to curb the increasing problem surrounding sex trafficking made it harder for many sex workers and adult entertainers to trade online.
So instead, many have looked towards cryptocurrencies as a way to accept payments, with some creating personalized tokens for their services and products, all the while some cash in more than $1.3 million in one year according to CNBC reports.
The combination of crypto and dating apps has opened new opportunities for both users and Web 3.0 entrepreneurs who can monetize from its growing popularity. Although it’s completely different from what many thought cryptos would become, it’s providing real-world solutions – in some cases – for many online users and professional adult entertainers.
The Not-so Good of Crypto in Online Dating
While blockchain features and crypto assets may create a slew of positive aspects for entrepreneurs and users, both in the real and virtual world, it’s also been causing havoc in recent months, and not for good reasons.
The first bucket of bad news is the somewhat recent crackdown from Congress, more so, The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the steps it has taken to increase pressure on crypto exchange platforms to protect American users from the alarming amount of fraudsters operating in the space.
The seriousness surrounding crypto fraud has now involved several federal agencies, including, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Trade Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Alongside these are also popular digital asset exchanges, Coinbase, FTX, Binance, KuCoin, and Kraken. The house committee is requesting supplemental information on the protocols these agencies and platforms are taking to help combat the more than $1.3 billion lost in online scams, and the soaring rate of online fraud that’s plaguing the crypto world.
Aside from widespread fraud on digital exchanges, a new trend has also reached far and wide targeting users who frequently make use of online dating sites and social networks.
Known as “Pig Butchering,” a method through which scammers infiltrate and hack users’ accounts and phones through interactions on dating apps and social networking platforms.
Hackers, or “butchers” set up fake accounts as a way to build relationships with their potential victims. Typically, butchers will look towards employees or users of online dating sites who work in tech or crypto-based industries.
A most recent incident saw two victims, one from a Silicon Valley tech company losing a cumulative $2.5 million in life savings after a malware attack infected their devices and tapped their accounts.
The rise in suspicious activities has left many questioning the legitimacy of crypto and other digital assets outside the financial services ecosystem. Instead of flowing or operating on more traditional and conservative means, it’s now become almost too powerful to stop, as widespread adoption and utilization is spearheading forward.
The number of scams, running from users requesting money to purchase plane tickets to meeting up with potential lovers, to creating fake accounts using real photos from members of the military to reel in victims have raised red flags across multiple industries.
In a study by Pew Research, around half 53% of surveyed Americans have cited that dating apps are a very or somewhat safe place to meet new people, the latter, 46% believe these apps and websites are not safe at all and are being plagued by malicious activities.
Perceptions surrounding online dating, and dating apps vary, and many have argued that while it remains a popular place to meet and find new people, especially for those looking for something more romantic or intimate, many still report having negative interactions on these platforms.
Regardless of which lens we view these online dating apps, it’s clear that digital technology – crypto and blockchain – has already to some extent enhanced the online dating and social networking world.
The Bottom Line
Our growing need for social interactions will only continue to grow in the coming decades, and the use of dating apps and social networks will only play a more vital role in our day-to-day lives as we transition from the offline world to the virtual world.
The combination of efforts, running from the Metaverse to blockchain-based protocols and digital assets have all made a major impact on our perception of online dating and how we use these apps to meet and interact with people, and more importantly, become more accustomed to the notions of cryptocurrencies in our lives.
Though transactional progress is fast gaining momentum, it’s important for developers and entrepreneurs to consider the importance of user safety in the broader spectrum. The soaring number of online dating scams, coupled with the increase of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets have only polluted the industry, putting in steps behind the so-called Web 3.0 revolution.
So, will cryptocurrency and blockchain technology help bring more integrity to online dating, or will we see it as a new way for many to catfish into users’ lives only to crater the industry even further, a tough call to make, but it all depends on who may ask, and which way they’re swiping?