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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Facebook breaks into saturated online dating market

Is it too late for tech giant to stake claim?

Facebook is attempting to further its agenda as an app-of-all-trades with Facebook Dating, which launched in September 2019 and is available in 19 countries throughout North and South America and East Asia, with a rollout in Europe expected in early 2020. The opt-in, in-app feature resembles many of its competitors in appearance and what it offers, but the introduction of a few features and a heightened concern for safety and privacy may help Facebook stand out in the crowded business of finding love online. 

Users can create a “Secret Crush” list based on their Facebook and Instagram networks. Users can add up to nine crushes and are notified if they’re in another users’ nine crushes — much like a game of Battleship where the objective is to find matching coordinates behind a wall.

“Secret Crush lets you match with people you already know on Facebook and/or Instagram,” according to the Facebook website. “By default, Facebook Dating won’t match you with your Facebook Friends, but people told us they were interested in exploring potential romantic relationships within their extended circles, like their Facebook friend list and Instagram followers.” 

Users have the choice to share their Facebook and Instagram stories on their dating profiles. It’s a window into someone’s day-to-day life, which may be an effective counter to the catfishing epidemic as a backdoor background check and identity verification method.

Users can see who likes them and “swipe” with just those profiles. This is a feature that’s available on other apps, but they’re commonly behind a paywall. 

“There’s a lot of competition, and I don’t think it would do that well because there’s Bumble, Hinge, Tinder and Grindr,” said Rabiya Oberoi, a third-year international relations major. “I associate Facebook with staying connected to people I already know.”

Facebook is trying to ensure safety and privacy, especially through protection from malicious use of personal data, for its users.

Michael Walters, a museum scientist at UC Davis, commented on whether he thinks Facebook can compete in the online dating market with many of the apps available having the same recurring issues.

“I don’t think so — I think the dating app market is saturated already,” Walters said. “Plus, not to mention this would be using, or gathering, more of our personal data, [and] Facebook has had issues with security.”

According to Facebook’s website, “Finding a romantic partner is deeply personal, which is why we built Dating to be safe, inclusive and opt-in. Safety, security and privacy are at the forefront of this product. We worked with experts in these areas to build protections into Facebook Dating from the start, including the ability to report and block anyone.” 

Alex Zoch, a fourth-year communication major, expressed her hesitation when deciding to meet someone she met online in person.

“I get scared about meeting someone new, and that environment is very vulnerable,” Zoch said. “I get worried about their intentions as opposed to being out in a neutral place.”

Regardless of new features or safety measures, there are still social stigmas surrounding the use of dating apps.

“If you’re using a dating app, it’s expected to just be for hooking up,” Zoch said. 

Walters also said some view the experience as a whole to be lacking a human emotional element. 

“With my experience using online dating apps, people seem to use online dating apps in lieu of interpersonal connections,” Walters said. 

Written by: Josh Madrid — arts@theaggie.org


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