The dating game became a bit more complex today as Tinder introduced new verified profiles. Users now have access (at least potentially) to hooking up with or dating public figures, athletes and other celebrities (we'll know once and for all if that really is Leonardo DiCaprio!) -- so let the games begin.
It’s likely the verified profiles will be largely saturated in cities like New York and L.A., but even if you're not already swimming in potential verifieds, it's almost too delicious not to entertain the fantasy on some level. Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to date a famous person you admire?
Be careful what you wish for. While the verified profiles will undoubtedly protect against catfishing and opportunistic lookalikes, they’re also commodifying dating to the next level by placing added values to certain users’ profiles. Imagine the level of excitement at the discovery that you’ve matched with a famous musician — now imagine the dismay if/when there never is a match.
According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, dopamine and norepinephrine levels soar when a person is confronted by the unknown, like in the early stages of courtship. “Romantic love is an urge, a craving, a homeostatic imbalance that drives you to pursue a particular partner and experience emotions like elation and hope, or despair and rage,” says Fisher, paraphrasing Plato. Throw in the high desirability of dating a celebrity -- the fame, the money, the love songs she'll write about you -- to the chemical cocktail that drives romance, and what you get resembles competition more than courtship, with a finite pool of verified singles and millions of regular users vying for their attention. This could mean the death of Tinder serendipity — swapping the romantic fantasy of stumbling into compatibility with a person you happen to admire for the calculated pursuit of a celebrity match.
It’s sexy to be with someone established, as if the tiny checkmark next to the profile also verifies a person’s potential for being a good partner. Verified status proves that someone somewhere has acknowledged this individual as exceptional at something. Being matched with that level of approval passes that verification — that validation — on to you.
It makes me question what the experience is going to be like for verified users themselves, especially more well-known singles. How many will question the intentions of their matches to be interested in getting know them rather than the rush of meeting up with the fantasy they’ve conjured? How much pressure (if any) will they feel to be a stellar date?
I also wonder how verified profiles will affect status in the outside world. Part of the fantasy of celebrity is the actual fantasy of it. We’re impressed by the magnificence of the great and powerful Oz, not the old man operating things behind the curtain. Maybe excitement will dwindle; maybe certain matches will work out. But surely, the verified profiles grant a certain power over the mere mortals that are non-verified. We want what we think is just out of reach, and our brains do what they can to help us achieve those goals.
And worst of all, imagine the inevitable brunches and happy hours with friends contemplating accepting a Tinder date with someone who — gasp — isn’t verified. By the same token, there’s likely to be an increased level of disappointment following a mediocre date by someone with a high-profile profile because we’re going to be expecting more from the person. I mean, they’re verified, after all.