I tried looking for love online — with a blindfold on
Forget the age-old question “Is love blind?” In the age of social media filters, online footprints and the countless swipe rights (or lefts) of dating-app technology, the better question might be “Can a dating-app connection be blind?”
That’s the idea behind S’More, a 9-month-old dating app that differs from the myriad other online options in one key way: users can’t see photos of potential dates at the starting line. If you interact with a profile, you can start to unblur the image.
After 46 blind dates that were mostly disastrous, my expectations were not too high. I had survived so many evenings of challenging conversation, no attraction and boredom that I figured what was one more to add to the list. It would at least give me another funny story to share with my friends and family.
The emergence of S’More happened to coincide with my 30th birthday. Riding on the promise of this new decade, I decided to give the app a try when it rolled out in L.A. this summer (other cities are New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago). And, in full disclosure, my non-single colleagues wanted me to kick the tires on this new concept — which they couldn’t, in good conscience anyway, do themselves.
The prospect of joining S’More made me reflect on my dating evolution. On the one hand, I felt like an ideal candidate: a freshly minted 30-something who spent her 20s zigging and zagging through myriad dating experiences both digital and analog. With eHarmony, Match, OkCupid and Bumble in my rear-view mirror — and pandemic-limited opportunities for in-person interaction, I was game for a refreshing new concept.
On the other hand, my current dating priorities felt slightly disconnected from S’More’s novel approach. Over the last two years, for example, I’d come to realize the see-where-things-go approach no longer interested me, so I’d shifted into date-with-a-purpose mode. That purpose? I want to be with someone with similar drive, a busy lifestyle and clear-cut goals.
Those hesitations aside, and in the interest of journalistic integrity, I gave myself four weeks with S’More. Yes, I wanted to see if I could find a match. But, more important, I wanted to see if S’More and I were compatible. A successful connection with this app could prove that dating apps could still help me find love. And, in the event our time together didn’t prove fruitful, maybe I’d take it as a sign that it’s time to move on from dating apps entirely. Either way, I was excited to take on the project.
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The first step to S’More is building your profile. With profile photos blurred from the start, I zoned in on the various descriptors that the app provides, which include standard offerings like industry and education along with more unique choices like personality, current mood, music track and style. Since the descriptors are quite broad, I felt it was important to open up and highlight my personal interests, to present an appealing image to potential matches.
Another key element to your profile is your introductory message. I put a lot of thought into mine, ultimately deciding to go in a personal direction: “My mom nicknamed me ‘Happy Baby’ at birth. The moniker set the tone for the rest of my life!” Using the app for a month, I saw a wide variety of approaches to this section. Some were as simple as the waving hand emoji, while others touched on something personal. I was always drawn to the latter. This particular section was the most helpful in gauging the overall maturity of users, which is something I value.
I wanted to take a unique approach with my photos. I made my first photo a fun cartoon avatar, a nod to my creative side. My second photo was a professional head shot, which highlighted how I prioritize my career. My third photo was from a vacation, which demonstrated my love of travel. Although photos wouldn’t be an initial factor on this app, I wanted to make sure that when they were revealed, they painted a well-rounded picture of who I am.
The photos also factor into a nifty “selfie filter” safety feature that requires users to snap a selfie each time they open the app (as well as a first message from a potential match). The photo is then compared to images in the user’s profile to make sure you’re who say you are (as well as using photos that portray the user accurately).
With my profile completed, I moved on to my first interactions. I’ve never been afraid to make the first move on dating apps. I’m proactive with everything else in my life, so why would this be any different? I put a lot of effort into crafting introduction messages that specifically connected to profile descriptors that particular person had chosen. Things like: “It looks like we’re both USC Trojans! What did you study?,”“It looks like we’re both Cancers! Do you enjoy astrology?” and “I love Mexican food too! What’s your favorite taco shop in L.A.?”
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Some of these introductory messages received no response, while others garnered a few brief responses before the back-and-forth quickly dropped off. This phase of using the app reminded me of an evergreen dating-app tip: Ask questions when you’re talking to someone new. It keeps the discussion exciting and propels the momentum forward. The best conversations I’ve had on dating apps have included a back-and-forth exchange of questions.
I did have a few enjoyable extended conversations that reached the photo-reveal stage, which is supposed to be S’More’s shining don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover moment. For me it was a learning moment. The lesson? Someone can come across as very nice through messages exchanged back and forth but have a profile photo that showcases a whole different vibe — an image that’s menacing or angry-looking, for example. It’s a disconcerting feeling, especially after you’ve invested time and energy in a conversation. (In my experience, the time from first conversation to photo-reveal seemed to vary, happening earlier in some instances and later in others.)
S’More’s conceit of downplaying looks in the early stages of the online dating ritual may be laudable, but it doesn’t obscure the fact that physical attraction plays a big part in making a romantic connection.
In some ways, the delayed reveal of a photo can actually make you feel worse — not only superficial (when it turns out there’s no physical attraction), but also guilty (for disconnecting from the conversation afterward).
Once the profile photos of a potential match are revealed, you can also have an unblurred video chat (a blurry version is available as soon as you’ve made a match), and this was what I’d set as the final goal of my S’More adventure. Out of my numerous conversations, I made it to the unblurred-video-chat stage with one person who was very nice — but with whom I ultimately didn’t click. (It’s worth noting that my match’s messaging demeanor was more in line with how he came across in the video than with his S’More profile photos, so the video chat might be useful as tie-breaker for some who make it this far.)
So, after four weeks of chatting with 16 potential matches, seeing the photos of seven potential suitors revealed and video chatting with one very nice (but not for me) guy, I came to the conclusion that my relationship with S’More would be no more. But, as is often said when a relationship nears the end of its life, in this case it’s me, S’More, not you.
Our time together was as memorable as it was brief, S’More, and you really opened my eyes about a lot of things. If we’d met when I was in my early 20s, long before I’d refined my list of love-life goals, you might have been perfect for me. (Age, which is a big deal to me, is not listed in profiles, for example.) Or maybe I can introduce you to those singles in my social circle who are all-in on the let’s see-where-things-go approach.
I will say you were awfully attentive; you served up 12 potential matches a day for me to look at (those other apps didn’t seem to care if I scrolled endlessly). And you seemed to genuinely care about my safety (by making sure my potential matches matched up to their profile photos via the selfie filter). And you even introduced me to some of your celebrity friends (I’m thinking here of Olivia Culpo, who popped up at some of your live social media events).
Even though we won’t be continuing our search for meaningful connections together, S’More, I’m glad we had a chance to meet so soon after you arrived in town so I could tell all my friends that you’re available. Welcome to L.A.!
S’More is available on Apple iOS with prices ranging from $6.99 (per week) to $29.99 (for three months).
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