Online dating! We can agree that it is, officially, the worst, correct? (Well, dating is pretty awful already, but then when you add selfies to the mix, not much good can come from it.) The failure of online dating sites is, basically, that the whole business model is based on keeping you single. I mean, common sense, right? Does OKCupid want you to find the love of your live and leave the site? Probably not. But the site has been such a success that it has spawned plenty of other free sites and apps that cater to a generation of people who find themselves socializing online more often that in real life. The problem with these sites, though, is that they fail to truly consider the vast demographics of their user base, particularly those who don’t fall into the typical heterosexual communities.
Hinge is one of these new dating apps that you may have heard about. It’s similar to Tinder, which for a long time was billed as Grindr for straight people. Like Tinder, a user signs up for Hinge through Facebook, and the app pulls the important information you’d want potential dates to see: your pictures, your interests, your mutual friends. Unlike Tinder, however, Hinge gives you a limited number of “potentials” each day, depending on how many of your Facebook friends have also signed up for the app. Yes, it’s a bit of a pyramid scheme in that the app rewards you for inviting others to play along, but there are some benefits: you’re more likely to find matches with whom you have mutual friends, and it’s less anonymous — instead of a clever screen name, you get to see your match’s actual name. And it works in the same way as Tinder: if you both right-swipe each other, you are able to communicate through the app and then, hypothetically, take the conversation offline on a traditional date?
It’s a refreshing concept; it allows one to avoid all of those self-summaries and personal essays that one agonizes over when crafting the perfect OKCupid profile. It also means that you’re less likely to analyze the profiles of others to a crazy-making extent. Of course, the drawback is that you have less to learn about your potential match other than their pictures, their friends, and their Facebook interests. (Trust me, I recognized that the fact that I “like” Maxine and Delilah on Facebook might make me less appealing to a stranger who might mistake my ironic, jokey appreciation for Mom Culture as sincere.) Still, it feels a little more legitimate than a hook-up app, especially for those of us who are more interested in pursuing a real relationship than a one-night stand with someone in close proximity to our apartment.
Of course, Hinge has its problems. It crashes, messages are frequently lost, and, like many other apps of its kind, many of its members seem satisfied just in being told that the person they find somewhat attractive feels the same way about them — I haven’t heard of anyone actually meeting anyone off of the app. But the most glaring issue with the app is, from my experience, how it treats its gay users.
Months ago, after being on the app for a few weeks, I noticed that my daily potentials had started to include my personal Facebook friends. No big whoop, really, because guys I know show up on Tinder all of the time. (For the record, I left-swipe. It saves me a lot of anxiety over the two possible outcomes: either I like my friend and he doesn’t like me, or we turn out to like each other, and good lord, there’s a lot to unpack there, huh?) But the difference with Hinge was that my friends were all guys who were presumably straight. I didn’t believe that suddenly handfuls of my straight male friends were joining a dating app and looking for other men. A progressive thought, for sure, but it seemed unlikely. So I emailed Hinge’s customer service.
In the last two days the vast majority of my potential matches have been my own Facebook friends which I wouldn’t be upset about if the number of potentials wasn’t already limited. (Also, it seems pretty pointless to be suggested I match up with people I already know.) The problem, however, is that at least five of those guys are not gay men. I don’t think they’re all secretly on Hinge to find other men to date! I wanted to make you aware of this, because I think an algorithm is a bit screwy.
The algorithm! That must have been it, right? Five days later, when I received a response, I learned it was not a technical issue at all.
Hi Tyler, Apologies for this. We understand it’s frustrating and it’s because unfortunately, right now we have a relatively small number of gay Hinge members. We’re actively trying to grow our gay user base, so the more friends you invite to Hinge with largely gay networks, the more gay potentials we’ll be able to prioritize for you, and others! Cheers, Sophie Hinge Community Manager
Hmm, OK. Hinge didn’t have enough gay members to send my way, so instead they just started suggesting I match myself up with my straight friends. That seemed… unwise. I didn’t pursue the issue any further. Instead, I deleted the app.
I regret to inform you that a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the app again. It had been several months, and I thought, hey! Maybe more gay guys have signed up. (And let’s be honest: being single makes one especially desperate. I’ll own up to that here.) It all seemed fine and good for a few weeks. I got matched up with some cute guys. Some of them actually engaged with me. The app didn’t crash too often. Yet, of course, I didn’t actually meet anyone off of the app.
Then, for three days in a row, Hinge didn’t give me any potential matches. On the fourth day, I got four instead of my promised ten. Naturally, I sent another email — this time less friendly and more to-the-point: “For the last two days I’ve only gotten four possible matches instead of ten.” (Subtext: FIX IT, YA JERKS.)
I didn’t get a response for a few days, so, again, I deleted the app. Six days later, I received a response from customer service, one that actually made my jaw drop.
Hi Tyler, As of yet, we’ve done a pretty poor job of attracting a gay userbase, so that’s most of the problem: we’re running low on people to recommend to you. I’m guessing we’ll try to reboot our gay market at some point, but it’s not on the docket just yet. We’ll hope to better serve you in the near future. We’d love for you to keep active as it makes newcomers more likely to stay, perhaps you can consider it your civic duty? Well, worth a shot. Thanks for the email, Tim Customer Insights Specialist
Basically, it’s the gay Hinge user’s job to ensure more gay men join Hinge, rather than, say, someone on the Hinge payroll who is presumably tasked with outreach and encouraging new users to join. As a gay man, I know plenty about civic duty! Just think of all of those organizations who serve the LGBT community members afflicted with homelessness, mental health issues, HIV/AIDS, and discrimination. Perhaps one of those organizations can add a team to help more gay men sign up for shoddy dating apps, since Hinge’s makers have no interest in this demographic — presumably because they think the community is too different from their own.