Anybody who’s experienced online dating knows the icky feeling of being descended on by creeps (for lack of a better word) who are more interested in getting their porno on within 10 seconds of first contacting you than learning your name. Whether these guys somehow believe this is actually a polite way to talk to people (I doubt that) or are just total assholes who enjoy sexually harassing others, the rate of unsolicited dick pics in the dating world makes it pretty clear that something’s got to give. Wyldfire, the latest dating app to hit the scene, is a network that allows women to sign up freely, but only allows guys to join if they’re invited by a woman. The idea is to create a network of guys who are lady-approved and pre-screened for the creep factor.
The idea was sparked when the founders (who are men) heard one too many of their female friends complain about running into creeps on Tinder. Essentially, Wyldfire sounds to me like an effort at making dating online more authentic. I really like the idea that the network within the app is inspired by real-life social networks, because it feels easier to trust that friends of friends are quality people to date. I like the idea of women having a bit more control of who they’re meeting, but I wonder if girls on the app will outnumber guys in scores (on most dating sites, there are way more men than women, which I suppose isn’t helpful either).
This sounds empowering on one level, but how would this work in practice? What’s the social script for asking a platonic friend of the opposite sex to join a dating app? Maybe I’m underestimating people, but I get the impression that most women who know a guy they deem awesome and dateable probably want to date him themselves or set him up with another single friend, rather than add him to the pile for a stranger to date. The opposite could even happen — a woman may want to protect herself from an overly persistent guy who she isn’t interested in, so she may pass him along to the users of Wyldfire where he’ll hone in on disrespecting the boundaries of somebody new. On that note, how does a woman know her platonic friend would make a good boyfriend to someone? Being a nice guy isn’t always key evidence.
On top of the creep factor, Wyldfire is attempting to make some other improvements to the typical online dating routine — all profile pictures are filtered to black-and-white because “everyone looks their most attractive in black and white” and profile information is taken from Instagram and Facebook, which streamlines the process. Conversations are limited to 20 exchanges to encourage people to meet up in real life more quickly, which I think is really cool and will lead to stronger connections (and less wasted time on people who turn out to be very different than they seemed online).
Wyldfire also offers a “metrics” feature that shows exactly which actions get results in the app. Users can see how many more likes they’re getting versus giving, and how many more visitors they receive if they change their profile picture. The metrics are meant to show people the best way to utilize their profile (and use raw data to prove how to dudes how ineffective creep behavior is), but I think allowing people to see just how much they’re being judged minute-by-minute would make some among us way too neurotic to enjoy the process.
It seems like a step in the right direction, but I’ll be curious to see how it plays out in real life.