In a recent issue of Wired magazine, Elise Craig reports on the harmful effects of niche dating apps. Whereas big-tent dating sites like Match.com basically just throw everyone together into one big pool, more and more boutique sites now cater to oddly specific tastes.
Craig reports: “Apps now exist for pairing people based on the right astrological sign (Align), an affinity for sci-fi (Trek Passions), similar eating habits (Veggiemate), and a love of weed (My420Mate).” There also exist whole dating sites premised solely on their exclusivity, like Luxy, which purposefully bills itself as a Tinder for rich people.
Craig worries, reasonably, that this self-sorting will have deleterious effects. For one thing, it’s not a good predictor of success in a relationship, as good matches most often come from those who share values rather than identities. Moreover, it robs dating of its inherent fun—i.e., the thrill of meeting and being surprised by new types of people, people you might not have otherwise met.
But most troubling for Craig is how this romantic siloing subverts the egalitarian ends of the internet, leading to the systematised exclusion of whole swaths of participants (in this case, daters) based on variables like height or facial hair.
As charities continue to harness the galloping powers of tech for fundraising purposes, the same questions confront them. Anyone who has searched for academic scholarships, for instance, will see just how absurdly specific certain charities are—money is put aside for soccer-playing Texans of French-Canadian descent or for twins named Dennis from Indonesia. And much of this money goes unclaimed for years as moribund selection committees search in vain for suitable candidates.
Charities and trusts are entitled to their particular issue-areas, of course, and shouldn’t necessarily be criticized for giving to one group rather than another. But hyper-specialization, as much in charity as in love, can defeat the purpose.