It’s been 10 years since Tinder radically changed the landscape of online dating with its slogan: Swipe Right® to like someone or Swipe Left™ to say no. In this month of celebrating a whopping 75 million monthly active users, it’s a slogan that’s coming under increasing scrutiny as more of us begin to question the impact of our constant swiping – and it seems, as if dates like CJ are looking for alternatives that better suit their needs and desires.
“There are many examples of users who have gone on virtual reality dates, who have fallen in love, have moved in together, and have plans to get married and have children,” says Cam Mullen, CEO and co-founder of Nevermet, via Zoom Call in Brooklyn. CJ isn’t the only one who found something tangible in a hypothetical world. “We have tens of thousands of users and have created over 300,000 metaverse relationships to date,” Mullen informs me. Certainly a considerable number – but is virtual reality really the future?
It is undeniable that most of us are now looking for new partners through digital means. According to a study published earlier this year, over 300 million people worldwide use dating apps, with 20 million paying for premium features. Yes, dating apps are “the new normal,” says Mullen. “But we’ve found that they don’t really work for the majority of their users.” That’s what prompted Mullen to launch his “personality-focused dating app” this year; an app driven by fictional avatars, not Instagram selfies, where VR enthusiasts (74% of whom are between the ages of 18 and 24) match up and go on a date somewhere in the metaverse. “We’re at this interesting intersection of an emerging Gen Z culture that’s more tolerant of issues of fluidity — identity, gender, sexuality — and I think our Metaverse space actually allows people to have that fluidity safely.” “, he says. Though it’s worth noting that, by and large, the Metaverse is a relatively new and unregulated space, subject to the same levels of trolling, microaggression, and harassment as elsewhere.
VR dating is just one industry response to a growing boredom that shows no signs of resolving. After a decade of swiping, the paralysis is real for many. In a never-ending world of spinning profiles, where any conversation can end at any time (and usually doesn’t require a hand-waving emoji), it’s easy to get lost in close-quarters combat. “Tough years of the pandemic have sparked mass self-reflection and subsequent self-empowerment in which data are realizing their own standards and true desires in the romantic realm of their lives,” says Rachel Lee, Insights and Cultural Analyst at The Digital Fairy as we discuss this inertia and discussing the way daters in their love lives are looking for alternative avenues that are being turned off by inaccurate algorithms and online discrimination.