From Poking to Dating: Getting Romantic with Facebook

David Schimpf
August 31, 2018

With 40 percent of Americans participating in online dating, it’s no surprise that dating apps are so mainstream (read: not taboo) compared to a few years ago.

Ignoring the stigma surrounding them, there is, by and large, a dating app for every situation. Hookups? Tinder. Relationship or friendship? Bumble. Pickier? CoffeeMeetsBagel or Hinge.

Each of these apps has specific features that draw in users, and they all have their fair share of positive and negative reviews. With Tinder’s new TinderU feature, it’s clear that even the more established apps are constantly reinventing themselves.

A new dating app… er… feature is about to come crashing onto the scene, though, and it has the potential to be incredibly successful (or to crash and burn).

Facebook. You heard that right. Facebook, the social network with 2.23 billion monthly active users, is launching a dating service within the Facebook app and website. Now, I think this initiative has the potential to be incredibly successful simply because of the sheer reach that Facebook has over any other app or website. But I also think it could crash and burn horribly because, well, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke only a few months ago, and people certainly haven’t forgotten about that.

Enough setup—let’s talk about this new dating service.

The service was originally unveiled during Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference back in May. Mark Zuckerberg called it a place “for building real, long term-relationships—not just for hookups.” That’s pretty ambitious if you ask me, but we’ll get more into that soon.

On August 3, Twitter user @wongmjane tweeted screenshots of the sign-up screen for the new service. The screenshots detail the sign-up process, including selections for gender, location, genders you’re interested in matching with, and selections for “communities.” This all seems to point to the fact that this dating profile will be entirely separate from a user’s normal Facebook profile.

Screenshots via @wongmjane on Twitter.

Screenshots released at F8 detailed three features called “Dating Home,” “Events and Groups,” and “Conversation Starters,” which give us a few insights into what the service might entail.

“Dating Home” will probably be very similar to other dating apps: profiles, swiping, locations, the works.

“Conversation Starters” may give ideas or suggestions for how to pierce the deafening silence of a new match. Screenshots suggest it may also prompt users to respond to pictures or other parts of a person’s bio.

Image via Facebook / The Verge

“Events and Groups” is where things really get interesting for this new service. While other apps and services may link to your Facebook profile to fill in information within their platform, Facebook Dating allows users’ profiles to display events that they are interested in and/or groups that they are a part of. The hope is that this will give users either something to do, a common interest, or a shared activity for their first date (instead of an awkward dinner or drinks in a crowded bar).

Facebook has also stated that you won’t get matched with people that are already on your list of friends, which is an issue with other dating apps that are simply linked to your profile. There will also allegedly be settings that will allow you to opt out of being matched with friends of friends in order to keep you totally disconnected from any mutual friend pools.

The service is currently being “dogfooded” (i.e. tested internally) by Facebook employees in order to work out bugs and confusing UX. That being said, it is possible that the service never goes public, as many similar endeavors are nixed before they ever see the light of day. Facebook’s announcement of the tech at F8 seems promising for its place in the company’s future, though.

The success of Facebook’s Dating Service, of course, teeters on the decision of the general population to trust Facebook again after the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. I’m trying to stay optimistic here, as it may help Facebook regain some ground with the public and give the online dating game a much-needed shakeup.

Would you try Facebook Dating? Let us know in the comments!