Funnel of love: App filters that make it easier to get lucky
Dating apps are adding filters on climate change, politics, religion, even Trump.
What are the things you’d typically want to know about someone before a first date?
Interests, field of work, height, weight, appearance, perhaps. Do they eat meat (which can be a big deal-breaker either way)? Do they like the same movies?
What about their politics, their stance on the environment, or where they stand on the climate crisis? New filters on dating apps are letting you screen for a range of new factors. You can banish climate change deniers. Trump supporters. Opt to meet only vegans. Or screen by star sign.
In January, OkCupid added a filter that essentially lets you block people who don’t think climate change is real. Hinge and Grindr have had (rather controversial) filters for religion and race for about three years. Bumble lets you search by star sign, since 2019. Veggly, founded in 2019, is a dating site exclusive to vegetarians and vegans. And Tinder said last month it plans to roll out filters for religion, political leanings and future family size.
“Apart from the filters, we also have several introductory questions that could help reflect a person’s political leanings, how frequently they vote, and their take on other current issues. We’ve added these because millennial and Gen-Z users care about issues when it comes to who they’re dating,” says Melissa Hobley, chief marketing officer at OkCupid.
OKCupid also has localised questions, to help users screen candidates, in more than 25 countries. In India, for example, setting up your profile now means having to answer the questions: Should women continue to work full-time after marriage? Would you peck on the cheek in public? And, should gay marriage be legalised?
A new political segment contains questions like: Would you date somebody who has the opposite stand on CAA and NRC? Do you think the protests are justified? And, is the state action against protestors acceptable?
“Filters are sure to help, up to a point,” says Paromita Vohra, writer, filmmaker and founder of Agents of Ishq, a multimedia project on love, sex and desire in modern India. “For instance, if you’re bisexual, you wouldn’t want to meet a homophobic person. But relationships are so much more complex than AI and maths can fathom.”
Technology, Vohra adds, can help you meet the right kinds of people, but developing and sustaining the relationship is always going to be up to you.
“Also, you have to remember that people’s thinking can change as they grow.” For instance, someone who had never voted could become devoted to the political process, simply because they ended up dating the right person — and were open to change.
Vohra’s advice: have an open mind, and learn to have better conversations and develop good judgment of what works for you in a person.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF AI
Sriram K, 27, an MBA student from Hyderabad, says of all the filters, he finds the political one most useful. “I have strong views on what’s happening in the country and I cannot gel with anyone who is either unaware of what’s going on or is on the other side of the fence on it,” he says. “Having similar views with my partner about social and political issues is crucial and that will determine my liking towards her.”
After a failed relationship with someone from another community, Ishita Dave, 25, a content analyst from Jaipur, added religion filters on Hinge, “even though I know that doesn’t have anything to do with liking a person”. They haven’t helped, she adds. “I was better off without this filter so I’ve taken it off.”
Many of these filters, Vohra point out, mirror the criteria you’d see in matrimonial ads from the last century.
Dave is an example of coming full circle, all over again. “I believe in existing with differences around me, be it political or religious,” she says.
Nilesh Samant, 28, a banking executive in Mumbai, has used filters so he can be matched with vegetarians (when he was a vegetarian) and now with meat eaters, since he’s switched. It helps to be able to eat easily at the same table, he says, but as it turned out, he and his last two matches on Tinder were looking for different things altogether, from the relationship. “I’m thinking long-term, they weren’t. But we are still friends on social media,” he says.
He hasn’t had a serious match in six months, Samant says, so he’s considering a different app with more elaborate filters. Filters he’d like to see added: do you want a live-in relationship, and where do you stand on long-distance relationships.