You could call it the rise of “slow dating.”
Since the debut of dating apps — Tinder launched in 2012 — they’ve been all about speed, a suitor a second. Once you created an account, your relationship prospects depended almost exclusively on how fast you could move your thumb.
Now, that appears to be changing.
Time Out New York recently reported on the dating app Once (they’re the ones who use the term “slow dating”), which sends users just one match every day. You answer some questions about your preferences in a mate and rate the attractiveness of different profile pictures — and the algorithm takes over from there. Then, you have 24 hours to decide whether you’re interested.
Once has been available in Europe since 2015; it launched in the United States in February 2018 and now has 200,000 US users, according to Time Out New York.
But Once is hardly the only app on the market that offers a more curated dating experience. Coffee Meets Bagel, for example, which launched in 2012, presents women with one “bagel” — i.e. match — a day. (Men receive up to 21 matches every day and select the people they like, so the app chooses women’s bagels from among the men who indicated they liked them.)
The League, which hit the online-dating scene in 2015, is a more selective dating app for ambitious (or ambitious-seeming) young professionals: You have to give access to your LinkedIn profile and get approved. League members get five matches every day.
Then there’s dating app Happn, which debuted in 2014 in Paris, and allows you to see people you’ve crossed paths with (geographically). Users who subscribe to Happn Essential get 10 chances to “Say Hi” to another user every day.
The trickle-down continues: As INSIDER’s Talia Lakritz reported, matchmaking is trendy again, especially among people who are frustrated by dating apps.
Lakritz spoke to E. Jean Carroll, cofounder of Tawkify, a network of “dating concierges,” and Carroll told her that the service works at least partly because it “limits your choices.” Carroll also said you have double the odds of meeting someone through a matchmaker than through online dating — though you have to be in a certain financial position to use one. Tawkify’s services range from $99 to $6,000 a year, Lakritz reported.
Having too many choices can wind up sabotaging our relationship prospects
It’s unclear exactly what precipitated this shift. But it’s possible that daters and app-developers alike have begun to observe the effects of what social scientists call “choice overload” or the “paradox of choice.” The more options you have, research suggests, the less likely you are to make any decision at all.
INSIDER’s Kristin Salaky reported that having a seemingly infinite pool of potential dates to choose from can change the way we behave in relationships. As soon as a relationship gets rocky, one expert told Salaky, instead of working to repair it, we look to see what else is out there.
Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and chief scientific officer at Match.com, has noticed something similar. The Verge reported that Fisher said the biggest problem with dating apps is “cognitive overload,” adding that “the brain is not well built to choose between hundreds or thousands of alternatives.” Fisher advises people to stop when they’ve hit nine matches and consider those.
And as most everyone who’s used a dating app can attest, you can swipe for hours and match with dozens of people, only to not hear back from anyone or have your conversations peter out.
Ashley Fetters, a 26-year-old editor at GQ, told The Atlantic’s Julie Beck that “there’s an illusion of plentifulness,” adding, “It makes it look like the world is full of more single, eager people than it probably is.”
Having someone restrict your dating options for you may be the smartest decision you can make. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense: Aren’t you more likely to find your soulmate in a pool of thousands versus a pool of five? Well, maybe not.
As couples therapist Esther Perel previously told Business Insider, there’s no such thing as “the one.” There’s someone who suits you well enough — and once you decide you’re going to be in a relationship with that person, you mold the relationship into something that suits you even better.
The rise of slow dating suggests that maybe finding love is about taking a leap of faith, about trusting that whatever dating service you’re using knows what it’s doing and has located the best possible person or people for you. Could there be someone or many people better out there? Ultimately, that may not be the most productive question to ask.