Are social apps creating or killing romance?

apps love
A slew of up-and-coming apps promise love (or just sexy times) at the touch of a smartphone. Websites like Match.com and eHarmony remain at the top of the online dating game, but some up-and-comers want to foster connections between people with pre-existing social ties.

Is hooking up as easy as logging on?

Some of the apps are forthright about their R-rated intentions, like the Facebook plug-in BangWithFriends. As the title suggests, it helps young guys and gals get casually frisky. To use it, you select the Facebook profile of someone you want to know in the biblical sense. If the object of your desire also gives the app your name, it sends you both messages about your mutually amorous intentions.

bwfBangWithFriends may seem unnecessary – after all, if you’re bold enough to hit that “Down to Bang” button, you’re probably bold enough to message an acquaintance for the same purpose. But if you don’t want to risk embarrassing yourself, it could be a valuable tool. If the person (or people) you select don’t select you back, no one’s the wiser, so it’s a risk-free way to set up an erotic date, albeit an insanely tacky one.

BangWithFriends is aggressively and explicitly marketed for flings, not relationships, so it’s probably not going to catch on as a mainstream coupling tool. That’s not to say both genders don’t seek out casual, no-strings-attached sex online – numerous reports confirm they do—but it’s usually cloaked in the sheen of respectability traditional dating sites offer.

But what about love?

Other apps work similarly to Bang With Friends but are purer of heart. We spoke to the creators of CrushWithCupid, a Valentine’s Day-oriented app meant to foster love connections rather than purely carnal rendezvous. With CrushWithCupid – which is transitioning to an app called CrushWithFriends – people go through the same matching up process they go through using Bang With Friends, but CrushWithCupid focuses on people who want to start more serious romantic relationships. The benefits of using a service like CrushWithCupid are obvious.

“We believe (partially from personal experience) that most people already know someone they’d like to date,” the developers tell us. “With that in mind we took the worst part about dating—getting turned down—and did our best to eliminate it.”

There are plenty of direct benefits to using a risk-free romance app, they say. “There are some situations where the stakes are too high to ask someone out face to face. Getting turned down by a long-term friend, a co-worker, or a friend’s ex, can yield some pretty nasty results. You could also just be chicken, and that’s OK too. With CrushWithCupid you know for sure they’re into you before you make a move. That awkward, terrifying moment of will they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is gone. No flower petals to pick here.”

cwcAnd CrushWithCupid/CrushWithFriends isn’t the only social dating app throwing its hat in the ring. TrintMe is another app operating in a similar way, letting people choose potential romantic interests anonymously and alerting them if their crush responds in kind. The name “TrintMe” comes from a mashup of the words “true intentions” and the app aims to bring friends with feelings for each other together.

All of these products aim to spark unions, though their idea of the ideal coupling vary. Can they work? Robert Weiss, the Director of Intimacy and Sexual Disorders Programs for Elements Behavioral Health and Promises Treatment Centers, is skeptical. He doubts the efficacy of using something like BangWithFriends to start a full-blown relationship, calling it “no more helpful than picking up a stranger at a bar.” (Although if that’s what you’re looking for, judgement here.)

Weiss explained the line between adult friend finder apps and dating apps is blurry, and stressed that you often get out what you put in. If you want a date, he says, you should use a dating app rather than a hook-up app.

Weiss expressed pessimism about using hook-up oriented apps to start long-term relationships, but it seems like the chances of finding a real connection between people who already know each other are at least a little greater than falling head over heels for someone you sidle up to at your local pub or find in Craigslist’s Casual Encounters section.

A brave new world of romance

The idea of using an app to find romance might seem outlandish, especially apps that focus on your pre-existing social circle – why not just reach out to that friend you have a crush on? Are you really going to unearth your soulmate from your News Feed?

But it’s really no less outlandish than using the Internet to fish for dates from total strangers, which is how 1 in 5 relationships begin today. Even though an app like BangWithFriends seems gauche, it takes the same rationale behind the enormously successful hook up app Grindr and applies it to people you purportedly already know. And all three of these new apps seem to eliminate the risk by only revealing mutual matches.

These apps are some of the first social dating apps gaining attention, but they will likely not be the last. After all, people use social networks to cheat, so why not to find love?

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