The course of true love never did run smooth.
Actually, if you’re looking for love online that course can be especially bumpy.
For starters, 81% of people using dating apps and sites flat out lie about themselves in their profiles. And these are pretty obvious lies, like height, weight, and age.
More surprisingly, the personality traits and attitudes most dating site algorithms use to establish initial connections between people have been found to have no effect at all on the long-term viability of a potential relationship.
What those algorithms are good for is generating many near-enough-is-good-enough matches, and playing the quantity over quality card. Which is probably the reason why no one seems to end up spending years with the first suggested partner they encounter.
What has been proven to work over the course of a few millennia is face-to-face conversation, even eye contact.
That’s why you’re better off using a dating site or app that lets you meet your match over a video conference call before ever stepping out on the town together.
Video Flirt and Instamour
There are a few services out there that specialize in video chatting as a way of making the primary introductions.
We’ve written about them before, but Instamour and Video Flirt seem to be on the right path when it comes to giving people a little getting-to-know-you time before rushing them into a restaurant or bar confrontation.
Instamour, whose CEO is a failed online dater of 15 years–which may not make him someone you want to emulate–offers people the chance to make video profiles of themselves that can be more personal and more honest than the text-based, form letter templates of sites like OkCupid or Tinder.
It also has its own built-in chat services, which means you don’t have to reveal any personal details, not even your Skype handle, in order to meet with someone face-to-face.
Video Flirt operates on a similar premise, although you’ll have to log in with your Facebook or Google+ account to get started, which can present some privacy concerns if you’re a little more revealing with your social media friends than you intend to be with a potential date. And Video Flirt has a limited search function. Essentially you’ll just be narrowing your potential video chat partners by gender, age, and location, though the upside is you get to the interactive chatting part quickly.
Learning from the Bagels and Bumbles
What both those video chat apps lack, though, is a little of the fun and innovation of their more established rivals.
Coffee Meets Bagel, for instance, uses a cute bagel and beans currency system to give their service a light-hearted approach.
Tastebuds differentiates itself by putting music at the center of things. Here you concentrate your matchmaking efforts on finding people nearby who like the same sort of music you do. You can list your own favorites and even listen to people’s most loved tracks while reading through their profile.
Finally, Bumble changes the general dynamic of dating apps by leaving it solely up to the woman to decide if things proceed beyond the initial profile mash up. Beyond the marketing appeal of a “feminist” dating app, it’s certainly an easier way to make sure the less chivalrous male daters gets starved out of existence.
Meet Me in Paris
The point is, there’s a happy medium in here somewhere between the competition-driven innovation of the traditional dating services and the more earnest approach of video sites like Instamour.
For example, we could push the boundaries on the type of video link that’s possible in a dating app. Smartphone chat providers like Tango and JusTalk let their callers mess around with masks, avatars, and whiteboard scribblings that could help break the tension on a video first date.
Why not create a masquerade ball themed dating app that lets people don a mask representative of their personality during initial meetings?
Or, take a page from the Second Life and other virtual reality platforms and let people design their own backgrounds and settings for chatting. It’d be much cheaper, and safer, to meet in a virtual Parisian café–maybe one that played music from your personal collection–than a real one, and the surrounding would be an instant conversation starter.
Or, we could encourage people to take their VC date on a tour of their favorite haunts, such as a gallery, club, or garden, by making use of the two-camera technologies that will soon dominate modern smartphones. An app that let the front facing camera focus on the virtual dater while the reverse camera captured their surrounds could lead to a personalized first date that still maintains the boundaries of an anonymous Video Flirt-style VC conversation.
Video conferencing makes online dating more personal, now we just need to make it a little more fun.