My decision to try the ‘elite’ dating app The Inner Circle brought back memories of my old clubbing days, when I’d wait nervously outside the hottest new bar in town, hoping the bouncer would think I was cool enough to be allowed in. And when he’d give me the nod, lift that precious velvet rope and usher me through, I’d strut in, feeling like I’d somehow won at life.
The Inner Circle claims to employ its own team of virtual bouncers to vet each and every applicant before allowing them to join the ‘exclusive’ dating app. It says this allows the app to provide a more selective list of only ‘top-tier’ matches, which is apparently “well-educated professionals, with inspiring and ambitious careers”.
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You can only register via Linkedin or Facebook, so I guess that provides enough info to decide if you’re welcome inside the circle. It’s been reported only 50 per cent of applicants get approved after initial screening, and the rest are added to a waiting list. One friend who tried to join said he was advised his application was “under approval”, but he could “speed up the process” by inviting more friends to register.
A dating app that projects that kind of status anxiety onto vulnerable singles seems a little counter-productive to me (some singles say they’ve been on the wait list for six months!), but with a frustrating lack of quality candidates on other dating apps, I decided to take my chances and give it a go.
I submitted my application with some basic information (age, height, education, profession, kids, hobbies) and I was shocked to receive an email from ‘Anna at The Inner Circle’ less than an hour later saying, “Congratulations – you’re in!”
It did make me question the supposed ‘vetting process’ and rumoured wait list. The perception of scarcity is a notorious marketing tactic for making anything seem more desirable. Anyhoo, I was in and ready to find my well-educated professional husband.
Within a few hours, I had received 20 promising notifications (winks, likes, messages) but the app told me I could only access them by paying for a membership — $50 for one month, $100 for three months or $150 for six; or if I convinced two friends to sign up.
The app kept enticing me to whip out the credit card with constant messages about all the hot CEOs who were checking me out: “Stop what you’re doing – you’ve been winked at.” “You’re on fire!” “Well aren’t you popular – another message in your inbox”.
But I was curious to see how much I could get out of the app for free, so I invited two single girlfriends to join. Even after they both registered, I still wasn’t able to see the likes or winks. However I was able to swipe, see the views, get a good look at all potential matches and message back and forth for free.
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OK, but — and it’s a big ‘but’ — are the matches really ‘top-tier’?
I did think most of the profile pics looked more Linkedin-corporate than Tinder-clueless. Less shirtless guys posing with dead fish or dressed in women’s clothing, and more professional-looking headshots and men in suits.
It certainly wasn’t all corporates and doctors. I saw a bunch of different jobs — singer, fashion buyer, football player, builder, machine operator — but the overwhelming majority of professions listed were ‘self-employed’ or ‘business owner’.
I assumed the selection process was based on professional achievements, but I’d also read a review that mentioned everyone on the app was a “7 out of 10” or hotter. In my entirely subjective opinion, this was not the case. I saw a considerable number of 3s and 4s. But hey, looks aren’t everything, and your 4 might be my 9 and vice versa.
For a ‘well-educated’ bunch, they didn’t seem to be any more articulate than the fellas on other dating apps. I received some lovely considered messages, but it was mostly the same old boring “Hi beautiful”, “Hey you” and “Cute smile”.
In summary, I don’t think I’ll be meeting my future husband on The Inner Circle. This ‘elite’ dating app did not make me feel like I’d won at love. Ultimately, it just made me feel old.
When setting the target age range for matches, the scale only goes up to 50. You can nominate any specific age bracket below 50 (eg. 25-35 or 30-40) but anything older than 49 is a blanket 50+.
Sure, the messages from cuties in their 30s were flattering for a minute, but I live by the rule ‘if I can make you, I can’t date you’, so there just weren’t enough men in my preferred 45-55 age group. I got the dreaded “no more potential matches to show” message less than 24 hours after I joined!
To use another nightclub analogy, it reminded me of going to any club after the age of 40. It always sounds like a good idea when I’m a little tipsy and ready to boogie, but the moment I hit the dance floor, I suddenly realise I’m the oldest person in the room and I feel like everyone’s mother. So I swiftly decide to get the heck outta there and leave the kids to have their fun.
Which is exactly what I’ll be doing with The Inner Circle.
Follow Sami Lukis on Instagram @samilukis