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Tinder and Bumble are desperate to convince you that you’re not desperate. Dating, they promise, is fun, so fun, that when one date ends badly, it’s a barely disguised blessing: You get to stay on the apps and keep on dating!
Both companies are pushing this message with recent advertising efforts. Tinder has a new publication, , specializing in personal essays that reinforce the idea that dating misadventures are cool, or at least exciting, invigorating and youthful.
(Swipe Life is a milestone in human life akin to buying your first beer and losing your virginity.) Bumble is selling itself as a means to personal betterment and greater sophistication.
It is profiling good-looking, high-achieving New Yorkers on articles on its blog, , and on bus stops and billboards around New York City. The dating-slash-friendship-slash-networking app is hoping to sell users on various types of upward mobility. The right romantic partner is surely on the app, but making other connections could serve you just as well. It’s as if the apps have realized we’ve become disenchanted with their ways, and now they’re making an effort to treat us right.
They want to gain our trust, so we’ll settle down with them for the long haul. After all, it’s been more than half a decade since they were invented, and if you’ve been single in the last five years, chances are you’ve used one. In its annual survey of 5,000 Americans, Match Group, the dating conglomerate that owns Tinder and OkCupid, found that singles met first dates on the internet more than through any other venue, and that 62 percent of millennials surveyed had used a dating app.
Dating via phone app was once novel and, consequently, exciting. Now, it’s just dating. Selling Short Tinder is the top dating app in the United States and worldwide, according to App Annie, the mobile data and analytics provider, and it tends to skew young.
More than 50 percent of Tinder’s users are ages 18 to 25, the company said. Elie Seidman, Tinder’s chief executive and the former head of OKCupid, said that the company wants to brand itself as the leader of early-adult dating.
“We actually embrace the fact that our members are in that dating-as-a-leisure activity phase of life,” Mr. Seidman said. He added that, with the new editorial content, Tinder hoped to offer users a positive outlook on that landscape.
Tinder relationships often don’t go anywhere at all — and that’s fine! When Swipe Life began this fall, its articles sang of the exciting spontaneity of singledom. For example: “I Moved to L.A. for a Tinder Relationship That Lasted Two Weeks, But I Don’t Regret It — Here’s Why.” [Relationships and advice. Beauty and health.
Stories picked for you. Sign up for . ] The author, Belinda Cai, in the summer of 2017, met a guy through the app, hung out with him twice, and then stayed in touch by phone. They bonded over their childhoods and “leftist ideologies.” Soon, she had moved from Ohio to live with him in California, but quickly found his apartment too messy, his “affinity for drinking” too gross and his “large hair-shedding dog” too destructive. As for their shared ideology?
In the end, she wrote, he turned out to be “a total brocialist.” Still, she praised Tinder for spurring her cross-country move, even though the relationship was a bust. “Little did I know, when I used the app last summer, I wasn’t swiping for love or anything crazy like that — I was swiping for change,” she wrote.
“GET ON TINDER,” reads the large, hyperlinked button at the end of the piece. Many other essays published this fall ended when the writer became single once again, and, consequently, ready for more Tindering. In another article, a woman who until she realized he had a drinking problem wrote, reflectively: “My time with my neighbor may have been fairly brief, but during those months, I think we actually gave each other exactly what the other one truly needed.” Bumble in the Jungle If Tinder has taken a page from the confessional style of sites like Thought Catalog or xoJane, Bumble’s strategy seems inspired by the Forbes’s annual 30 Under 30 lists.
Its “Find Them on Bumble” campaign collects the 112 “most inspiring New Yorkers,” according to the company, and subtly links their success to Bumble’s services. (In addition to being the second-most popular dating app in the United States according to App Annie, Bumble connects people to new friends through Bumble BFF and with professional contacts through Bumble Bizz.) In interviews, some of the campaign’s participants said that they had only joined the app as a condition of appearing on billboards and bus stops.
That is to say, you could not “find them on Bumble” until shortly before Bumble said you could. “A bunch of my friends work for Bumble,” said Noah Neiman, a 34-year-old co-founder of the boxing gym Rumble, whose face graces many a bus ad. (His mom has sent him a steady stream of photos of the billboards and posters featuring him in New York, even though she lives in Pittsburgh.) Mr. Neiman is single, but when asked about whether he uses dating apps, he was explicit: “No,” he said.
“No, no, no, no.” “It’s the devil’s playground,” he said. “I try to avoid all that temptation.” Todd Wiseman, another New Yorker featured in the Bumble campaign and the founder of the video production studio Hayden 5, said that he did use Bumble to find romantic prospects before he was chosen to embody the brand. If he could choose, though, he said: “I would prefer to meet someone out in real life.” Still, the campaign is supposed to show that the app can be used to create all kinds of connections, romantic and otherwise, which explains why the “Find Them on Bumble” list includes so many people who are already partnered up.
Maybe you cannot woo Alyssa Mastromonaco, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations under President Barack Obama, because she has been married since 2013. But perhaps she would be willing to network? The ballerina Isabella Boylston, who is also in the campaign and also married, said that she was on Bumble’s BFF platform, though she politely declined to answer a question about whether she uses the app regularly.
On dating apps in general, she said, “I feel like I was already in a relationship when those kind of became mainstream.” She added: “Otherwise I totally would have been on there, for sure.” Alex Williamson, Bumble’s head of brand, said that the search to find the New York Bumble representatives was extensive.
“For years we’ve been talking about an opportunity to showcase our users and their stories,” she said. “While we love our product, our product in some ways is really our people.” Not a Bad Gig The move to publish stories about romance is smart. It’s a subject people like to read about. (See: the success of our very own !) More generally, branded content is big business — kind of like editorial magazines used to be.
Swipe Life, the Beehive and Into represent a small fraction of editorial content now being funded by companies.
Snapchat sponsors an online publication, . The mattress company Casper started a digital site, Van Winkle’s, and last fall, pivoted to print, with a magazine called Woolly. Dollar Shave Club has , Equinox has and Airbnb has .
Brands don’t always clearly disclose their exclusive sponsorship of their publications’ editorial content. Into, for instance, says nothing about Grindr in its URL, on its home page or even in its “About” section.
It’s only when you click on an “Advertise” button that you are taken to . And these sites can certainly bring negative attention to their benefactors. , Into reported on a Facebook post written by Grindr’s president, Scott Chen, that suggested he was opposed to gay marriage. Mr. Chen said in a comment on the site that the report was “unbalanced and misleading,” and that he should have been asked to weigh in.
More recently, that called a new music video by Ariana Grande “virulently anti-queer” and “transmisogynstic” was torn apart on Twitter; many users suggested the article was poorly argued and offensive in its own right.
Into added an editor’s note and removed the author’s name, saying that she had received death threats and would be barred from writing for the time being. (The author, who seemingly deleted her Twitter account, could not be reached for comment.) Into later published a takedown of the original piece, calling it “.” With digital media companies like Mic , Tinder, Grindr and other brands offer opportunities for young writers to make some money.
Stephanie D’Agostini, a freelancer who has written for Swipe Life, said that she did not see Tinder’s website as any different from writing for sites like Refinery29. And over the past few months, Swipe Life in particular has become more nuanced. One essay, “,” was messy, possibly exploitative and occasionally earnest. The piece did not end with the “Get on Tinder” button.
It was a more subtle advertisement for the qualities with which Tinder hopes to be identified: personal growth, empathy and close connection that can feel difficult to find online. Swipe Life received only 4,000 unique views on desktop in October, its first month, according to comScore.
But mobile views, which comScore could not provide, are likely higher, and Tinder’s senior director of content, Kelsey Blodget, said that the company had been “pleasantly surprised” by the response to the site. “This is definitely ancillary to the app,” she said.
“The app is our core business. But this is something that we hope can accompany our users on their dating journey.” Ms. Williamson said that Bumble’s campaign has been a success. Though she could not provide specific numbers, she said that the app had seen a “significant uptick” in users since the campaign started in October, and that the company would be choosing cohorts of spokespeople in other large markets.
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Would it be fair to say the people who sit and edit a magazine for women, which focuses on dating and sex and having the best of those things, are experts at romance? No, absolutely not. The editors and writers at Cosmopolitan are regular folks who go on regular dates, which is to say that some of the dates are only OK, some are terrible, and others are write-it-down-in-your-diary great. That said, there is virtue in hearing about other people's dates, if only because, sometimes, your own love life feels stale, and you need some ideas to copy.
In that spirit, here are the best dates Cosmo editors went on in 2018. Steal the ideas, adapt them for your own purposes, or—at the very least—use this as motivation to make your own best dates list.
Reflecting on the good things about a year, rather than zooming forward to another one that will probably be the same, feels very nice.
A post shared by (@nomwahteaparlor) on Jan 4, 2018 at 8:04am PST "We ate dim sum in Chinatown and then got massages at this little hole-in-the-wall spa. $39 each got us an hour-long massage, which felt like an amazing bargain, and we were set up in this kooky little room together, but it was extremely not sexual. The masseuses meant business! I’m pretty sure I entered a catatonic state.
Pro tip, though: I would recommend reversing the order and getting the dim sum after the massages, rather than the other way around. The date was a highlight because it felt like we got a lot of bang for our buck—$50 goes a longgggg way at a dim sum joint in Chinatown. (And for you New Yorkers, if you haven’t had the shrimp and chive dumplings at Nom Wah, you haven’t lived!) The whole thing was a definite departure from our usual dinner-and-a-movie fallback." — Rosa Heyman, Deputy Editor 2.
A quick first date that lasted 14 hours. "We went to a bar but I had no expectations, because online dating. I only expected to hang out for an hour and then head home, since I had a long day.
That hour turned into 14. He was really easy to talk to, so we ended up at a second bar until 1 a.m. (we'd met up at 8 p.m.). And then we went to his house, and I left the next morning. We just had our fifth date." — Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, Associate Photo Editor 3. Blindfolded sculpting (with wine). A post shared by (@jaypugz) on Jan 26, 2018 at 6:41pm PST "There's a place in NYC called where we sculpted while blindfolded.
It was very different and not something we'd normally do. We were given clay heads, as well as a quick lesson on face proportions to help us out, then we were blindfolded. We sculpted to what I can only describe as epically sweeping film scores. My boyfriend and I coincidentally ended up both making something scary and weird, which made us feel closer.
Also, it was BYOB, which only improves everything." — Julia Pugachevsky, Sex & Relationships Editor 4. Fancy homemade spaghetti and spicy margaritas. "One Saturday night, we invited our friend over who was going through a breakup so we could cook her a big, fancy dinner: Spaghetti with clams. We bought all the ingredients for about $40, got home, made a bunch of spicy margaritas and started prepping.
But then she had to cancel. I pouted, threw my bra off, and was bummed... for about five minutes. Then my boyfriend turned up the Motown music, made another round of margs, and together, we puttered around the kitchen like Ina and Jeffrey.
Through fits of tequila-induced giggles and lots of sloppy, garlic-scented kisses, we had our favorite night of the year." — Jessica Goodman, Senior Editor 5. Toy shopping instead of dinner. "My boyfriend and I skipped dinner and instead went to a bunch of cute toy stores to pick out a bunch of toys to donate to Toys for Tots.
It was fun joking around and feeling kid-like again—throwing balls at each other, and picking out the cheapest yet coolest toys." — Chloe Metzger, Senior Beauty Editor 6. Big cups of wine at a silly Broadway show. A post shared by (@spongebobbway) on Jun 2, 2018 at 6:06am PDT "We went to dinner and drinks, and then went to go see Spongebob: The Musical, got tall boys of wine, got really drunk, and enjoyed the show! It was the absolute best because the super silly, casual environment of the show made it easy to just be yourself.
Neither of us felt the need to 'turn the sexy on'—it’s impossible to smize when you have a giant crab farting in surround sound in front of you. It was also a great test to see if his sense of humor naturally vibed with mine." — Mia Lardiere, Snapchat Discover Editor 7.
A simple and lovely first date that no one wanted to end. "I really, really hate first dates. It's essentially like a tipsy job interview where you have to spill out every good quality you have about yourself, while also adding some charm and wit in there.
But I went on a really great first date at the beginning of December. It was natural and easy, he asked me about my family, my job, my past relationships, et cetera. It was as if we had known each other for a while. It was simply drinks at a local bar in my neighborhood, but he somehow made it intimate. The thing that really made it great was we both didn't want the night to end.
He told me he was going to the bathroom, and instead brought two drinks back over to the table because he 'didn't want the night to end.' Sometimes a good date is really just about your chemistry with a person. And he was lovely." — Taylor Andrews, Assistant Editor 8. Painting a bedroom in the middle of summer.
A post shared by (@hannahsmo) on Nov 20, 2018 at 11:46am PST "I moved into a new apartment this summer, a few months after my boyfriend and I started dating, and the walls in my room were this very blah beige color so I decided to enlist his help to paint them white. It was September and super hot outside, so we painted with the windows closed and my AC blasting. It was fun to see how we worked together, and very endearing to see him covering himself in paint on my behalf. A few hours in, we were delirious from the paint fumes and realized we'd been listening to REM for like, three hours, which was further contributing to feeling insane.
He makes me laugh a lot, but I think that day we laughed the most." — Hannah Smothers, Staff Writer 9. A hotel room (just for a day). "We rented a hotel. For the day, on a weekday. They gave us a good rate because we weren't spending the night. Took off work and spent the day there from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. watching movies and ordering room service." – Meredith Bryan, Features Director 10.
A surprise that got ruined but was still the best. A post shared by (@hanchambers) on Oct 20, 2018 at 8:05pm PDT "For our one-year anniversary, my girlfriend told me to keep a Saturday night in October open, like a month in advance. About a week before, I heard that Lily Allen was coming to NY and it was on the same night that she told me to block off, so I was PISSED.
She was like 'Ugh, I'm sorry, I would totally bring you, but I planned this date for us weeks ago!' I was so grumpy. But when I got home, she handed me an envelope with two Lily Allen tickets in it that she'd had for weeks. I totally ruined the surprise but it was so perfect." – Hannah Chambers, Assistant Editor 11.
A feast for two. "My fiancé and I love Thanksgiving food, and since we live far away from our families, we celebrated by making a feast that could easily feed six people—for just the two of us. We spent the afternoon cooking and the next three days eating.
The date that keeps on giving." — Ashley Oerman, Senior Wellness Editor 12. A literal picnic under the Eiffel Tower. A post shared by (@sarahfweldon) on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:55pm PDT "My boyfriend and I had this trip to Paris planned for a while and we knew that having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower was one of the things that we definitely wanted to do.
The night we decided to have our little picnic, we stopped by what I can only describe as a Parisian 7/11, and picked up wine, meat, cheese, and a baguette (because obviously). I t was so fun leaning into the romance and the cheese factor of it all, especially since we've been together for years.
It was also nice discovering that I could spend six days non-stop with someone and still want to share my meat, cheese, and bread with them." — Sarah Weldon, Assistant Snapchat Discover Editor Follow Cosmopolitan on and .
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