New data gathered by the dating app company S’More suggests that their unique approach to online dating — one that puts chemistry ahead of “hotness” and relationships over casual encounters — may become the new norm in online dating, and some of the biggest players in the industry are getting in on the trend.
Surveying 1000 representative American dating app users, ages 18-50, in December of 2020, they found physical attraction was no longer rated as the most important factor when searching for a potential match.
“We compared the results of our most recent survey to one we conducted in March of 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic,” says Adam Cohen-Aslatei, CEO of S’More. “We found that the top two drivers of online dating behavior — physical attraction and location — had been supplanted by the need for compatibility and chemistry. Sexual connection also dropped in importance from March to December.”
The team at S’More believes these results reflect a growing need among dating app users for a more authentic and “anti-superficial” dating experience.
“Covid-19 certainly changed the equation,” says Cohen-Aslatei. “But beyond that, our data shows that people are starting to expect more from dating apps. They want real connections, not the fake photos and hyper-sexualization that has characterized so much of online dating over the past decade.”
This isn’t the only data that highlights the disconnect between the promise of online dating and reality. Studies have shown, for instance, that online dating can take a toll on users’ mental health, causing increases in depression and anxiety and decreases in self-esteem. One recent Pew Research study found that more people believe online dating has had a negative impact on dating and relationships than a positive one, and that people still think relationships that start in person are more likely to succeed than those that start online.
“Love seekers are frustrated,” says Cohen-Aslatei. “They are frustrated with the bad experiences they have had on dating apps. They are frustrated that these apps are somehow making it harder to find a romantic connection. You cannot filter your way into a perfect relationship. That takes real effort. And, perhaps most of all, they are frustrated with the image-obsessed nature of online dating. Most dating apps force us to make decisions based on little more than a headshot. While that may work for casual encounters, instant judgment, and gratification, it does not work for long-term relationships.”
To address these concerns, S’More has developed a suite of features aimed to reduce the superficiality of online dating, and slow down the process. For one, users aren’t able to view a clear photo of a potential match until they have had a meaningful conversation with that person.
“Our chat-to-unblur feature, the first of its kind in the marketplace, encourages people to get to know more about a person before making a dating decision,” says Cohen-Aslatei. “On most swiping apps, we make decisions in under three seconds without considering anything about the person but a headshot. And let’s face it, there is a 50% chance the photo is outdated, overly airbrushed, or fake.”
S’More provides its users with 100% profile customization via drag-and-drop technology, cover photos, custom icons, audio voice responses (its most popular feature), and music. S’More verifies its users’ profiles to reduce instances of catfishing and other bad-faith actions, gives users a behavior score to encourage positive activity, and they are integrating with Amazon’s new AI “Rekognition” technology to further protect its community. Moreover, the team recently launched S'MoreTV, a celebrity video service that connects daters based on similar content interests.
S’More is not alone in its effort to create a more anti-superficial dating experience; other dating apps are tuning into the trend. Tinder and Bumble recently added games to their video product, MeetMe added blurred video dating, and Chispa, a Match Group app for Latino and Latina singles, connects daters based on answers to trivia games. MuzMatch, a Muslim-focused dating app, also lets women keep their profiles blurred from men.
“These features are more fun, lead to better retention, and actually spark more conversations leading to potentially more relationships,” says Cohen-Aslatei.
While these initiatives may lead to better outcomes, it remains to be seen just how many users will adopt them. Research has shown that physical attractiveness is still the biggest predictor of decisions on dating apps and that judgments are often made in fractions of a second.
But there is reason for hope. When S’More asked its survey takers what they would do differently on dating apps in 2021, the top three responses were: (1) be more authentic, (2) treat people more respectfully, and (3) try not to pass judgment too quickly. Other research suggests that the pitch of one’s voice can serve as a cue to attractiveness that is on par with looks. And, a recent analysis on the predictors of a healthy relationship found that commitment and appreciation mattered more to the quality of one’s relationship than sexual satisfaction.
“While some dating app users will be reluctant to move away from the superficial aspects of online dating, others will embrace them,” says Cohen-Aslatei. “One thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years working in this space is not to underestimate this market’s appetite for innovation.”
S’more was founded by a former Bumble executive and is venture-backed. It is currently live in six U.S. cities.
Article by Mark Travers, Ph.D.
Mark Travers, Ph.D., is an American psychologist with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Colorado Boulder.
Written, Compiled & Edited by
The Bergen Review Media Team