Messaging Faster Won’t Stop Us From Dying Alone

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Photo: Courtesy of Hinge

One of the chief complaints of swipe-centric dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge is that they encourage an “all match, no talk” mentality. The constant flow of matches means that while you might match with 50 people in a month, chances are you'll only message with about five of them, and then you’ll probably spend weeks messaging without exchanging numbers or meeting up in real life.

Dating app Hinge thinks it’s found a way to rectify this common frustration. Today, it rolls out Timed Matches, a feature that penalizes users who take too long to initiate a conversation — a way to gently persuade them to get off the pot or shit, so to speak. Now Hinge users will only have 24 hours to start a conversation before their matches disappear into the ether — on average it takes users 2.5 days to initiate Phase Conversation — and 14 days to exchange numbers (and yes, in some Minority Report twist, the app can detect when a seven-number sequence appears in a message chain, explains Hinge publicist Jean-Marie McGrath). Hinge has beta-tested in five markets (Denver, Omaha, Houston, Atlanta, and Dallas) and found that messaging and phone-number exchanges have increased by 50 percent.

But despite those numbers, I don’t have a ton of faith that timed-messaging penalties will make a huge difference in the overall outcome of dating apps. Hinge is a more curated experience than Tinder — you’re given a lower volume of match options a day and those people are culled from somewhere in your social network. But swipe-based dating apps are all sort of akin to the Costco bulk-shopping experience: You’ll buy the one-ton jar of mayonnaise because you can; and because the price is low, there’s no real consequence if you don’t use it all before it expires. Dating apps, likewise, give you all the matches you want; and there’s very little consequence if you don’t use them all before they “expire” on Hinge, because you know there really is another match just waiting around the corner. (Plus, matching with more people than you ever intend to talk to appeals to some dark, narcissistic, ego-driven part of the soul.)   

And yes, while the all-match, no-message aspect is frustrating, the most frustrating aspect of dating apps is the difficulty in moving from messaging or texting to actually meeting up in real life. More often than not, people will message, and message, and message, and message some more, until you’ve ended up exchanging 2,000 texts with someone who's still making no move to meet up with you. (It happened to this guy; it could happen to us all.) 

When Hinge (or Tinder or Bumble or whatever) can create a feature that ensures people meet in real life and then don’t ghost one another, then maybe they’ll have finally found a way prevent us from dying alone, still texting “Sup?” to someone who swears he’ll be free next week “after work calms down.”