Dating in today’s pandemic ridden world may be the last thing on people’s minds, but life nevertheless goes on.
It is in times like these that people look for companionship. And while the ideal dinner and a movie date, coffee, and intertwined hand strolls in the park may no longer be possible, what is possible is a meaningful conversation with someone via a screen in your own home.
The Dating app – ‘Filter Off’, launched in February 2020 is a unique video-based app that helps conversations move forward, and there is absolutely no hiding behind a screen or room for edited selfies or catfishing as it keeps complete authenticity intact. It will be available in India soon.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, Zach Schleien, Founder of Filter Off discusses, how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people’s dating lives, how video and speed dating are currently trending, and how the ‘Filter Off’ app is providing international quarantine singles’ events, during this unprecedented time.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
YSWeekender: How do you feel this pandemic is disrupting the dating life of many people?
Zach Schleien (ZS): It’s highly disruptive because you can’t meet in person. And that’s what dating is about, which is to meet and see whether you vibe with someone and if you are romantically interested and if you are a good fit.
YSW: When was ‘Filter Off’ launched and what was your main aim/goal with the app?
ZS: The app was launched in February 2020, and the main aim of the app is to create authentic human connections and to see if you do vibe with a person. It isn’t about going through all the mechanisms of swiping and messaging back and forth, but being up-front and seeing if you are a good fit with this other person or not.
YSW: How do you feel ‘Filter Off’ stands out from other dating apps in the market such as Bumble, Tinder, Ok Cupid, and Aisle etc.?
ZS: ‘Filter Off’ is primarily video first, whereas dating apps are traditionally swipe apps and we are creating a new paradigm.
Our app allows you to see a person face to face through a video in a 90-second time frame.
If you like each other and you match then you can message or FaceTime. Other apps usually swipe first and you really don’t know much, based on a profile photo.
For us it’s beyond the profile, to see if you stand out because of your personality or interests, and whether you share that romantic connection with the other person.
YSW: Tell us about ‘Filter Off’ and its unique features?
ZS: Our unique factors include the video feature and speed dating. We have also curated specific events. If you are South East Asian or perhaps Chinese, we have events based on ethnicity, and we also have events, which are interest-based.
For example, brands can sponsor interest-based events such as a health speed dating event or a brand or individual sponsoring a tennis interest event.
This allows you to date like-minded individuals who share similar interests. We also have an NYC Indian speed-dating event and an NYC Chinese speed-dating event coming up in the next couple of weeks.
YSW: How do you think ‘Filter Off’ is helping potential couples during this lockdown time?
ZS: It’s creating authentic connections, and helping you find someone special. And if you don’t meet someone, we offer plenty of date nights.
We offer three date nights a week, where you can meet people in your area over video, and if there is no one in your area, then we will be offering international quarantine single events weekly so you can date wherever you’re located.
This allows users who have no one nearby to still use ‘Filter Off’ and date other quarantined singles around the world.
YSW: Is it helping lonely singles out there feel less lonely? What is the user feedback?
ZS: The feedback has been great. We know that there are areas we can improve upon and that’s why we are adding these events. Events help people deal with loneliness and also find a virtual date.
YSW: Do you think people who meet during this unprecedented time will continue a friendship/relationship after this is over? Or are they just talking to people out of loneliness and boredom?
ZS: I can’t say for certain because there are people who talk and connect because they are lonely and might never meet once the lockdown is over. But ‘Filter Off’ is about authentic connections, and for those who do connect, the hope is that they do continue to meet once the pandemic is over. But it is ultimately the decision of the users.
YSW: What do you see the future of dating apps to be like?
ZS: People want human connections, and I think during this period it’s going to accelerate.
So back in the day if you said you were on a dating app, it was a very uncomfortable feeling, and people didn’t want other people to know that they were using a dating app.
However now everyone is on a dating app, and there are apps like Tinder that accelerated this cultural acceptance.
With ‘Filter off’ having the video feature, people are adopting and turning towards video and being more comfortable using it during this pandemic, and it has also accelerated the acceptance of video dating.
YSW: How do you make sure data privacy is ensured through Filter Off?
ZS: Privacy is extremely important to us. The video is encrypted in transit as well as at rest in storage.
YSW: Are there any new exciting developments you are currently working on for the app?
ZS: We are going to be rolling out international events, religious events, and interest events in the next week or two.
We are also doing our first raise, and raising money to really expand the growth of this app. Right now, we are in New York City and UK, and we will be in India very soon.
It’s really exciting that adoption has happened globally, but we want more people to learn about the app, and have the ability and chance to connect romantically.
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