If quarantine has taught us one thing, it’s that humans crave socialization. Even if you’re the most introverted introvert in the world, there’s likely a part of you that struggled with staying home and avoiding in-person interaction for a few months, not to mention how us extroverts have dealt with it. One part of the social distancing conversation that have made the rounds time and again since March revolves around dating: Should you just put it on hold? Should you try and get creative? Should you meet someone online and see if it works out when you can finally meet in person?
A widely-used solution to the quarantined dating scene, of course, has been apps. It’s no secret that dating app usage soared once stay-at-home measures were implemented, but in most cases, these apps are only as good as the people using them. You can set up six virtual dates every day, but if you’re not getting what you need out of them, they’re just as useless as a botched blind date in person.
Apps have had to adjust to the times, and one success story is found in Filter Off. Creator Zach Schleien wanted to make an app that was contingent upon video, both to hopefully curb catfishing and to put more emphasis on face-to-face communication that swiping-style apps don’t prioritize.
“This is a lot more than a dating app. We’re literally changing how people date romantically, being video first. It’s like a whole different paradigm versus the typical swipe and browsing, looking at profile photos,” Schleien told Dailybreak.
The idea of Filter Off is that of old-school speed dating. The app is set up into two different sections: events and matchmaking. When “attending” a Filter Off event, you’re sorted into general pools of potential matches based on your location, or an organization can set up an event based on their own communities. The app schedules dates for you based on your preferences (religious, ethnic, gender, age), and you’re set up on a slew of quick-speed, FaceTime-style video chat dates.
“You may have a date at 8, one date at 8:03, one date at 8:06,” and so on, up to seven during a given event, Schleien said. The catch is that you can’t quite see who you’ll be talking to until you’re there.
“You can see their names and fun facts, but the photos are blurred, and we do that intentionally so you look beyond the profile photo, because our goal is to really connect you with another human over video so you can make the decision whether or not you’re a potential match,” Schleien said.
After any of your miniature-sized dates, if you and your date “like” each other, a match is made and you can go on to chat and get to know one another. Filter Off’s matchmaker section works the same way, but with less frequent dates -- you’ll get three, super curated potential matches per week.
What a regular Tinder or Bumble user may see as less control over their matches, Schleien sees as an appealing aspect of his platform for a group of users (singles who want results!) that value efficiency.
“I think what’s been really valuable for our user base is the little effort they have to spend to try to get a match. We will send you those dates, it's very low touch...you’re not just swiping for hours,” he said.
Even when you do find someone you’d like to match with on other dating apps, Schleien added, sometimes the person isn’t quite what you were expecting, and it’s difficult to get a really good idea of who they are primarily through messaging. Using an app that puts video first acts as a shortcut to finding better matches, faster.
“When it comes down to it, you have an idea: Are you attracted to them? Sometimes on dating apps, it’s very easy to tailor a photo or use a filter, and you have no idea how they sound or what their values are, because everyone writes the same bio: ‘I like to travel, I like to go out with friends’ -- it’s all the same BS, because everyone’s doing it, so you have to!” Schleien said. “It’s tough on people, and I think the only solution is ripping apart the online dating industry and starting anew, and I think the world is ready to start anew, especially during this time.”
And what a time it’s been. Overnight, the world went from conferences and buttoned-up business meetings to Zoom calls in their slippers. What once would have been an unconventional idea -- Video chatting? Right away?! -- has become something way more commonplace and comfortable than we thought possible. Schleien shared that in his own dating life, he would often ask dates to hop right on video chats, a lot of which would never happen. Lately, though, video vulnerability is like dust in the wind.
“It definitely sped up the cultural acceptance of video dating, this pandemic, because everyone’s jumping on video, lacking connection. Previously, people would say, ‘I’m uncomfortable being on video,’ and I’d say, ‘Aren’t you uncomfortable going on your first date, too?’” he said. “In order to meet people, sometimes you have to just go through the discomfort, and it gets easier, and I think people realize that being on Zoom calls all day for work. Now they're living a different, more virtual lifestyle. Now, it’s no issues whatsoever.”
Not only do people have less of a problem being on video now that it’s become our sole tool for human connectivity, but Filter Off users are getting into it.
“People are treating this like an event. They’re doing their makeup, they’re bringing over a glass of wine -- it’s an experience. You have it in your calendar, you’re jumping on your couch, you have good lighting. We do all the work; you just need to show up,” Schelein said.
Another part of the human condition that plays into both the pandemic and the dating scene? Mental health. Schleien is also the co-creator of 18percent, a free digital mental health community integrated through business communication platform Slack. It’s a service meant to open up communication and peer-to-peer support when you may just need someone to talk to for a moment during your work day. His experience with mental health advocacy and value of community, Schleien said, played into his thought process when creating the swipe-less interface of Filter Off.
“When it comes to the mental health aspect, when you’re swiping, when you treat someone just like a profile photo, it actually does something to your mental state,” he said. “A lot of people use dating apps, but for those people who don’t, it’s because they don’t want to feel like a number; they don’t want to be swiped on. And I think the ability to connect on a human level, whether they like you or not, is very healthy, so I think we’re bringing back that aspect of traditional dating.”
The virtual landscape is changing every day, and so is the dating world -- finding a way to experience both in conjunction with each other that works for you is something quite special. With a combination of low effort (let’s face it, we’re all kind of inherently lazy) and as human a connection you can get online, Filter Off gives you the chance to experience a new kind of app dating. And what better time to experiment, right?
“We chose video because it’s the most authentic way to connect efficiently,” Schleien said. “Obviously, meeting in person is more authentic, but if you go on a blind date with someone...you may realize a minute into your date, ‘Wow, we’re not a match.’ And now you need to uncomfortably stay there until you can get out of that date, and I think that’s the beauty of Filter Off: You do it from the comfort of your own home.”
And with any form of dating, obviously it’s important to be yourself and give it your all -- which is easy to do on a Filter Off video date.
“Relationships start from this, marriages start with this, so I’m excited to hear those stories as they come in. It’s really cool to be able to influence that or enable people to be able to get romantically connected during this time,” Schleien said.