Lab-grown Date Night

This column first appeared here, in The Sunday Times on 1 July 2018:


By Paige Nick

I once dated a guy who only had one real-life friend in the whole wide world. That should have been the first sign that something wasn’t quite right with him. There were other glow-in-the-dark red flags too, but the screwed-up heart wants what the screwed-up heart wants.

I try not to think of him too often. He turned out to be a massive con artist, and I turned out to be the massive idiot who needed to get a restraining order. But I was reminded of him earlier this week, when I saw in the news that Tinder has bought a 51% stake in a company called Hinge. Hinge is a relationship app that’s billed as an ‘anti-Tinder’ dating app. ‘A thoughtful app for thoughtful people.’

Will they stop me at the door? Do they share a Virginia Woolf poem with you and ask an essay question before you’re allowed to download it? Although it’s an American app, so maybe it’s just a multiple-choice question instead. If you get it wrong, are you instantly unhinged?

One of the things that sets Hinge apart from the forty-five other dating apps the Tinder parent company reportedly now owns, is that Hinge users can only see potential matches who share a mutual Facebook friend.

I reckon it’s a useful tool. I find I have different packs of friends on Facebook. My old-school friends (who are literally my old friends from school), advertising friends, author friends, friends who aren’t really friends, but you want to keep an eye on them anyway.

And then when someone you don’t know friends you, do you also look to see what mutual friends you have in common, so you can figure out what they want from your life?

Of course, there are also all those men, often in military kit, or standing in front of a car or bike, with whom you have no mutual friends, who are always welcome to a complimentary block and a swear word.

So, if that’s my standard quality control technique when it comes to who I choose to interact with on Facebook, it’s interesting that I don’t currently seek out the same when I’m on a dating app or website. Although I suppose when you’re dating, you want to meet someone completely outside of your braai circle, so you can dip into a new gene pool. After all, the same ten mates and their same ten mates that you’ve been hanging out with for the last fifteen years haven’t quite done the job, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

Although in con-artist hindsight, there’s a lot to be said for knowing a friend of a friend of a potential blind date. Or even just knowing they still have friends.

The other ‘anti-Tinder’ difference with Hinge is that the swipe is gone. You don’t get to make a split-second call, based on, well on nothing really. Hinge claims it’s profiles are much more filled out than Tinder’s, with lots of photographs and other info, a lot more like a Facebook profile.

Speaking of which, news is that Facebook is busy building a dating app of its own. I can’t imagine that won’t be a massive time-sucking success. Tinder must be poeping itself.

Maybe that’s why they’re buying up every other dating app out there? Perhaps they’re going to combine them all into some kind of Frankenstein-Dating-Super-App, that they’ll use to take on the Facebook Dating App when it launches.

This FrankenApp might mix Tinder with the best assets of Hinge, JDate, Grindr, Bumble, that dating app where you can seek out other Trekkie fans, or rich older guys, and that dating website where you choose your date by what cat they have, or what fetish they have, and that website in America, where you can date a prisoner. And don’t forget that old dating app where your mom picks your dates for you. That has to go in there too.

That way we’ll all be able to find our perfect gay, straight, Jewish, cat-owning, Trekkie, adult-diaper wearing, gold-digging, blesser, convict match. One we’ll be more than happy to take home to meet mom.


Hinge hopes to use your personal connections to help you make a personal connection with 'The One'.

2 responses to “Lab-grown Date Night”

  1. Jenny Ehlers says:

    This is hilarious and brings back too many good and bad memories of con artists. I miss you my friend, lets get together soon for some hilarity. Please.

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