Did you know that Facebook is getting into the dating game? According to a September article by Louise Matsakis on Wired.com, Facebook has launched their version of a matching app called Dating. It is currently only live in Columbia but Facebook plans to offer the feature in other countries in the future. I don't know about you, but I was quite excited upon hearing this news. Facebook is the undisputed leader in connecting people with other people. It only makes sense that they would offer a service designed to match people looking for love. I couldn't wait to see how this innovation giant used is massive store of brilliant minds and limitless resources to improve upon existing dating apps. I. Could. Not. Wait.
Guess what. It doesn't seem all that different than apps that are already out there. There are some things unique about Facebook's Dating, but the foundation of the app's approach is the same; matching people based on commonality. According to Matsakis, after creating a profile, Facebook's "unique algorithm" will create matches "based on factors like things you have in common and mutual friends." That's not unique! That's the same tired formula we've always had. Maybe the innovation happens in the profile construction, I thought. Nope. Like every other platform out there, you can facilitate the match process by specifying "your height, religion, job title, where you work, where you went to school, and whether you have children." Sigh.
Think about the last person you connected with; I mean really clicked with. Can you honestly say that spark was because the other person was your preferred height or because you liked the same music? Don't get me wrong. Starting from some kind of common ground isn't bad in and of itself. Because it is so prominent in the structure of dating today, however, it has taken on an air of importance in the match process that I'm not sure it deserves. As I think through the list of the closest non-family people in my life, I wouldn't have matched with any of them based on what we have in common; including my husband of 20 years. The differences are significant enough, in fact, that on paper, I'm pretty sure none of us would have clicked, winked or swiped to meet. But these people mean everything to me and I wouldn't trade any of them. We get along fabulously at the same time we marvel at how different we all are. The difference adds depth and richness. We are never bored with each other and we are always deeply comfortable. These are feed-my-soul relationships and they have nothing to do with commonality. At least not the kind the dating world suggests is the holy grail of match-making.
Connecting with someone happens on a deep, felt-sense level. It can be hard to describe why you feel drawn to someone. You just are. There may be commonalities that contribute to this "click" but they are much less overt and much more dynamic, meaning that there will be a shared developmental/emotional/relational experience that resonates almost unconsciously as familiarity or comfort.
This is what dating apps are missing. No one has yet to develop the algorithm that taps into that knowing on a deep level that leads to compatibility. So, we continue to use language and concepts that are familiar and quantifiable to try to create good dating matches. And sometimes it works. But I know a lot more people than not who are frustrated on the apps and have a hard time finding meaningful connection. They feel like they are wasting their time and often must take breaks from engaging in the process altogether.
This is why I encourage my clients to avoid seeking what's comfortable before you even leave the starting block. Starting with what feels like the safest bet eases your anxiety but dramatically limits your options. Why would you hem yourself in based on a very constrained set of information that doesn't tell you much about what kind of partner someone would be? Step outside of the app-defined box of familiarity. Proceed by feel, not by facts. Take a risk and reach out to different and more people than you normally would.
Related to this last point, Facebook's new app does offer a feature I do like. Dating uses an "opt-in" format to highlight their focus on intentionality that may not appeal to the hook-up crowd. Everyone is a "yes" unless you tap "Not Interested". This organically creates the potential for a broader pool of dating partners because you don't lose a match by being passive in your choosing.
Another aspect of Dating that is like most apps, but which holds promise for something more meaningful, is in the creation of the profile. Matsakis points out that "you can round out your profile with up to nine photos or ice-breaker questions provided by Facebook." This is where there the app can offer its users the opportunity to go for depth versus commonality. It is yet to be seen what the pool of questions looks like and whether they will deliver more complexity or stay on the surface. As Joshua Pompey, an expert in profile creation and management, says in the article, Facebook should "make sure that [users] have an opportunity to create fully developed profiles that tap into a lot of different aspects of the person's personality." He's right. Personality, interpersonal style and attachment patterns matter so much more than how you like to spend your Friday night. An investment in learning about how these factors impact your dating and relationship life will pay off in spades; far more than an investment in one more dating app.
You can read the full Wired article on Dating here: