Say goodbye to "swipe right": Curated apps like PokéDate aim to create an immediate sense of intimacy

These new apps are designed to make online dating feel more lifelike—but does it last?

Published July 20, 2016 6:02PM (EDT)

 (AP/Alan Diaz)
(AP/Alan Diaz)

Shakespeare wrote "the course of true love never did run smooth," and it's no exception in the modern age as the world of dating takes many different directions at a very fast speed.

This week, for instance, has already seen the launch of two new dating services that seem to distance would-be lovers as often as they unite.

Enter PokéDates and Lively.

PokéDates is designed to allow users to explore their environments with a date while playing Pokémon Go. The dates are curated based on users' responses to a questionnaire that serves to match potential partners, and then sets up a date at a convenient and Pokémon-friendly location. Not that into your date? No problem! You can totally ignore the person while trying to catch other Pokémon characters (or a better date) or updating your profile.

Overwhelmingly, curation is taking over our social media pages and real-world relationships.

Lively is dating company Zoosk's latest venture designed to make online dating more lifelike and original. Rather than the now-customary swiping method of selection, Lively employs photos and videos of users in order to piece together a multidimensional narrative to enhance the get-to-know-you phase of online dating.

The app compresses the images and videos in a collage that's essentially a fluid story rather than a slideshow, creating a more immediate sense of intimacy.

What's interesting about both of these services is the market they're appealing to. Dating sites and apps have become highly specialized in order to resemble former courtship behaviors, so that meeting someone feels natural despite the knowledge that the encounters are based upon simulated designs.

Users, formerly known as people, crave romantic connection just like every other generation before us, but go about it virtually. Real-life relationships are often replaced by real-time exchanges online, effectively allowing us to feel more connected to someone a phone tap away than to someone sitting next to us.

Dating through curated services inevitably creates yet another layer of meta-closeness because they're designed to feel relatable, which can translate into a sense of compatibility. By showcasing common interests via photo, video or an interest in the latest fad, people feel less alone and are more likely to engage outside the meticulously-crafted worlds they've created on social platforms, as long as their phones are still in their hands. The new directions of dating continue to be complicated to navigate as our real and digital lives coalesce.

What's missing is information regarding the emotional success of these new methods. Does the excitement pass like a trend? Do we skip over the person once the encounter becomes too tedious or involved? The curated dating experiences lay all the groundwork for a potentially successful relationship, but can't provide for genuine connection and, you know, catching feelings. For a relationship to be successful, it seems we do have to catch 'em all.

By Erin Coulehan

Erin Coulehan is a freelance journalist with work in Rolling Stone, Elle, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @miss_coulehan

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