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New dating apps — and “in-person” mixers — are targeting religious and political niches

By on September 27, 2022 0

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(RNS) – Dating today can be a lot like ordering at Chipotle. The world of dating apps makes it easier than ever to custom order a partner of your choice – their height, their food preferences, their religion.

A new generation of dating apps aims to target the pickiest consumers – narrowing the menu by prioritizing a “main ingredient”. Want to date someone who is Mormon? There is an application for that. Want to date someone who is queer? Or gluten-free? Or more than 50? There’s a site for that too.

“What you’re seeing now is that the market is becoming more and more segmented as it goes mainstream,” said Eric Eichmann, CEO of Spark Networks, a dating umbrella company. “In our portfolio brand, you have Silver Singles for people looking for love later in life, we have Christian Mingle, we have Jdate, we also have JSwipe (both Jewish apps). is about people who are looking for other people who have the same criteria as their first criteria.

This month, as Tinder turns 10e anniversary, two new niche dating sites are hitting the market, joining countless other apps promising that shared beliefs and values ​​are the key to lasting relationships. While skeptics cringe at gadgets from some brands – or, in extreme cases, offensive — advertising, some specialized applications have proven their worth. Sites like Muzz, for Muslim singles, have over 7 million users. Yet some app users say even the most selective dating site can still lead to burnout, “creepers” and catfishing.

Dominion Dating. Picture via Facebook

Even before its official launch, the new site Dominion Dating turned out to be controversial. Its target audience is single Christians who believe that husbands should rule over their wives, wives should be housewives, and Christians should have children to exert their “dominion over the world”, according to the website. . His membership request requires users to both refrain from “dressing in a sensual or immodest manner” and to submit a approval of “the man to whom you are subjected to become a disciple”, which has greatly solicited the eyes of the many users of the application reviews.

Another ultra-conservative app, The good thing, is also set to debut this month. Co-founded by former Trump administration chief of staff John McEntee, the app is advertised as a “dating app for the right” and a substitute for “woke” apps. Although The Right Stuff is more political than religious, McEntee told Religion News Service that he expects most users to be Christians. He added that the idea of ​​the invite-only application stemmed from frustrations with existing options.

“Some of the current apps, it’s not just that users are being mean to conservatives. It’s that they make you accept things from the left, and it’s really in your face,” he said. “We’re just saying, ‘Why don’t we just create our own place where we at least know a giant filter is for us?'”

The Right Stuff is for conversations.  Screenshot

The Right Stuff is for conservatives. Screenshot

The site is backed by billionaire Peter Thiel, who is in a same-sex marriage, but it does not offer dating services for LGBTQ users.

Some of today’s most popular dating apps, including Hinge, allow users to filter by religion or political identity, but others, like Bumble, require a premium subscription to do so. .

According to John Angelis, 42, a college professor and app user who lives in Virginia, users often try to circumvent the cost of additional filters on consumer apps by announcing their political preferences.

“Some people are now putting on their profiles, ‘Don’t swipe right or left if you’re Republican or Democrat,’ depending on what it is,” Angelis said. “I think politics is the #1 thing I see mentioned in a profile. Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, I see much less religious preference expressed.

For Angelis, who occasionally uses Bumble and a site called Christian Cafe, it is faith that is non-negotiable when it comes to relationships. In his experience, Christian dating sites lead to higher quality dates, even if the pool is smaller.

“(Christian Café) asks you a lot more questions about how actively you participate in your faith, and you need to create a profile that is more about how you became a Christian, how active are you in the faith, how often do you go to church.

Michael Langlais, a professor at Florida State University who studies technology and relationships, noted that many contemporary dating apps cater to surface-level connections based on profile pictures or witty catchphrases. He suspects religious apps are likely more effective for those looking for weddings, rather than casual dates.

“These religious apps are kind of like, let’s skip the superficial side of things and go straight to the values,” Langlais said. “And that can be a very powerful predictor of relationships, if you know each other and that other individual shares values.”

Many well-established dating apps and sites set themselves apart from stereotypical hookup apps like Tinder by promoting themselves as tools for finding lifelong partners. Eichmann, CEO of Spark Networks, spoke to RNS about Jdate, a 20-year-old Jewish dating site that Eichmann says is ubiquitous in Jewish circles.

“When people think of Jdate, they realize it’s about finding a soul mate,” Eichmann said.

In some religious sectors, apps are changing the way religious groups think about dating and dating on a larger scale. Richma Piaraly is Marketing Director at Hawaya, a global Muslim dating app created in Egypt in 2017 and now a member of the Match Group. She says technology has enabled some Muslims, especially Muslim women, to take a more active role in their love lives, especially in settings where arranged marriages were the norm.

“I think we’re seeing a democratization of online dating, especially among women,” she said.

Screenshots of the Muzz app.  Courtesy images

Screenshots of Muslim dating app Muzz. Images courtesy of Muzz

Shahzad Younas, who founded Muzz, the London-based global Muslim dating app more than 11 years ago, says the Muslim world is still gearing up for online dating, but he has seen skepticism start to erode .

“In the Muslim market there is still an element of taboo,” he said. “However, there is no doubt, the stigma is definitely diminishing. I lost track of how many people I knew personally who during COVID reached out to me and said… okay how does your app work and tell me how do I sign up?

According Research benchan October 2019 survey found that 12% of Americans have been in a committed relationship with someone they met on an app or website, or married, and nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) have gone on a date with someone they met online.

Additionally, according to Langlais, research shows that today the quality of relationships formed online is similar to those formed in person, which he notes is a shift from what research was showing. barely 10 to 12 years ago. “My own research shows that people who meet on dating apps have as much satisfaction and engagement as those who meet in person,” he said.


RELATED: Dating as a Catholic: sweet dream or not-so-beautiful nightmare?


Even as the Covid-19 era ushered in a new addiction to digital tools, some app users have experienced online dating fatigue, with many feelings more frustrated than hopeful.

Langlais says app fatigue could fuel the trend toward value-driven apps, especially if fatigue is caused by superficial interactions. For 32-year-old Czeena Devera, her own burnout caused her and a few friends to rethink what in-person faith-based dating might look like.

Devera, who is based near Detroit, started using dating apps in early 2020. She loved meeting new people, but said it got exhausting after a while.

People attend a Catholic Young Adult Speed ​​Dating (with a twist!) event sponsored by Hot & Holy at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, Michigan on April 29, 2022. Photo by Katie Woodstock/© Hot & Holy

People attend a Catholic young adult speed dating event (with a twist!) sponsored by Hot & Holy at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, Michigan on April 29, 2022. Photo by Katie Woodstock / © Hot & Holy

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on CatholicMatch or Hinge or Bumble, it just seems like there’s always going to be one or two guys who are super disrespectful,” Devera said. “And you can’t really track that.”

After a chat with a few close friends, Devera learned that she wasn’t the only one feeling burnt out on dating apps — so together they decided to start their own young adult group to foster intentional dating. The result, a Catholic group called warm and holy, was a resounding success.

“When we launched in October (2021), we were expecting maybe 80 people, but we had over 130,” Devera said. Their most recent speed dating event had about 190 attendees, including people who drove several hours from Ohio and from Traverse City, Michigan. Each speed dating event is also attended by priests, brothers and/or consecrated virgins who are on hand to share their ideas with singles.

The group, which welcomes anyone open to the Catholic faith, also hosts monthly happy hours that begin with Eucharistic adoration and end with a drink outing, as well as social events such as quizzes and treasure hunts.

Devera told RNS she hopes the in-person approach will help people avoid the trap of thinking of potential spouses as a menu. Personally, she’s already met plenty of potential dates through Hot & Holy — though she hasn’t given up on dating apps yet.


RELATED: New app, believr, aims to create a ‘home for LGBTQ+ Christians’


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