Facebook Dating, which lives within the Facebook mobile app in a separate tab (it’s not available on the Facebook desktop site), promises to connect singles who opt into the service by algorithmically matching them according to geography and shared “interests, events, and groups”; users have the option of “unlocking” certain Facebook groups they’re part of and certain Facebook events they’ve RSVPed to in order to match with other group members or attendees. It also gives users the option of pulling biographical data from their Facebook page to populate their Facebook Dating profile: name, age, location, job title, photos.
Within the app’s privacy settings, users can also opt in or opt out of matching with their Facebook friends’ Facebook friends. The app does not match people with their own Facebook friends, unless explicitly directed to: The “Secret Crush” feature allows users to identify up to nine of their Facebook friends as people they have a crush on, and “no one will know that you’ve entered their name,” according to Facebook’s Newsroom blog, unless your name also appears on their Secret Crush list. In that case, Facebook Dating notifies both parties. (Facebook makes no mention of what happens if two, three, or—God forbid—all nine of a person’s crushes indicate that the secret crush is reciprocated.)
If those sound suspiciously like online versions of the old-school ways people used to find dates and meet partners—by joining groups and clubs, by meeting through friends, by going to events, sometimes even by telling a mutual friend about a crush and having them surreptitiously investigate and report back—that’s intentional. A representative for Facebook confirmed that developers wanted to address a couple of specific problems they saw with how existing dating apps had reformed, and arguably gamified, dating.
Earlier this summer, Facebook commissioned a survey of 3,000 Americans over the age of 18. It found that 40 percent of people who were currently online dating felt that the available apps and sites weren’t meeting their needs. It also found that similar interests were the top-ranked trait most people were looking for in a partner, over looks and financial prospects (which may be one reason apps like Bumble, which prominently features pictures and job titles but requires users to click through to a profile for more information, weren’t exactly cutting it for a good chunk of those surveyed).
As a result, the Facebook representative told me, the developers decided not to give Facebook Dating an instant “swipe” feature; instead of being able to approve or reject potential date candidates rapid-fire after having looked at only a single photo, Tinder-style, users have to open someone’s full profile before deciding to opt in or out on a potential match. The desire for deeper engagement with potential matches is also a big part of why the company decided that it will integrate Instagram stories and Facebook stories into Facebook Dating at some point in the next year, according to the representative—to show what potential matches are up to right this minute and offset the “static” nature of dating profiles as we currently know them.