Finding Love in a Photoless Place
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
These apps are trying to crack the code of true romance — without relying on appearances.
By Fiona Zublin
Everyone who’s ever used a dating app — or ever dated, period — knows that looks matter. Aside from the usual front-and-center photo (and the myriad online guides to choosing the best angles and lighting to increase your chances of a connection), there are dating sites that require you to submit a photo to be judged before you’ll even be allowed on.
Of course, your face isn’t all you have to offer. And if we’re going to date via app (which most of us have decided to, just like we decided Twitter and Love Island were good ideas), it’s reasonable that those preferring to be judged by their hearts rather their faces would look for a different way to date.
A growing band of apps are emerging to offer just that. Taffy shows you photos of a person — but only after you exchange 10 messages. Lex, which launched in November, is for members of the queer community, discourages participation from straight men and has “a zero-tolerance policy for creeps.”
We believe in love. We believe in the true, crazy and wonderful love.
Juan Alonso, Appetence co-founder
Appetence required that you get to know someone before being shown their photo. It’s in the process of transforming into another app, If Not You, Nobody, with similar principles.
“We believe in love. We believe in the true, crazy and wonderful love,” says Madrid-based Juan Alonso, Appetence’s co-founder.
With the app’s new approach, two would-be daters will engage in a flirtatious game of learning about each other, during which their profile pictures are slowly revealed. The app’s website is now taking sign-ups for the beta test.
Some apps haven’t survived. Twine, which launched in 2013, showed only a blurred version of your Facebook profile picture until you chose to reveal that photo to whomever you were sparking with via chat. The following year, Twine’s parent company, Sourcebits, was sold and founder Rohit Singal had to shut down the project. Still, it was hardly a waste of time. “I continue to get emails from people who got connected via Twine and even got married, so I am sure there is merit to this idea,” Singal says.
Singal cautions that such apps will never go “viral as something like Tinder,” adding, “It can’t be grown like a typical Silicon Valley startup with huge capital infusion, but something that is to be done organically.” Such dating apps, he says, have to move slowly to find their niche.
That’s exactly what Personals — an Instagram account since shut down and released as dating app Lex — did. “Writing a personal, sitting down to write something, it just slows down the process for you,” says Kelly Rakowski, who founded the Instagram account in 2017. “You have to be more mindful … than with these other dating apps. What do I want to say? How do I want to present myself? What am I looking for?” The account began as part of Rakowski’s own Instagram, then became so popular that it needed its own account. The wait between submitting an ad and seeing it online could be weeks.
“I don’t get all the stories, but there is a hashtag, #MetOnPersonals, and people DM me to say they met their person on Personals,” Rakowski says. “Just yesterday, someone came up to me and said they just got out of a one-year relationship with someone they met on Personals.”
One of the only such apps still extant in its original form is Taffy. Blurry profile pics are topped with catchy headlines (“posts”), which serve as the main conversation starters. After 10 lines of chat, you can see peoples’ —unblurred — photos and then opt to ghost them, if you’re that kind of jerk. The main complaints in the reviews focus on there not being enough members and having to sign up via Facebook (which is no longer a requirement as of the relaunch earlier this year). Still, those who love “slow dating” seem to really love it — all part of the gradual process of building community.