Would you use a dating site that rates people?
As an on-off online dater for the past five years, I am keenly aware of the pros and cons of dating apps. The pros include excitement, the possibility of sex and romance, and the awesome people you can meet.
The cons include fake profiles, offensive messages, gross photos, indecent proposals, poor behaviour, unsolicited dick pics, and liars. Online dating is fraught with bad behaviour, and, until now, no-one has offered a solution.
I’ve long believed that dating apps should verify users’ identities, to ensure that fakers and scammers are weeded out. I’ve even joked with my friends about a rating system for dating sites, so that good behaviour is encouraged, and unsavoury users are outed.
Now, my fantasy app has become a reality, with the release this month of Pair. Billed as a “new dating app for iPhone designed to bring respect and honesty to dating”, Pair is the brainchild of husband and wife team Celeste and Hui Ong, founders of Eatability.
Pair combines features from apps such as Tinder and profile-based sites like RSVP, to offer both photo-based swiping, and an active search function based on mutual interests. There is no unsolicited messaging, so users are safe from harassment from undesirable members.
Still, the functions and features aren’t especially new. What is new is the detailed and compulsory
profile verification, for which users must submit a phone number and app-based selfie. And this
selfie forms part of each member’s dating profile, so that at least one photo is guaranteed to be
current and unfiltered.
“We are making sure everyone is keeping it real,” explained Celeste Ong. But what really distinguishes Pair from its competitors is the rating system.
Much like Uber, users rate each other, and these ratings are combined to form an overall rating. Yes! I thought, practically punching the air. This is the answer!
But then I wondered. How will a ratings system work in practice? Is it even feasible? And what impact will it have on the dating landscape in general?
Users rate each other across three categories – profile accuracy, safety, and general behaviour. The app itself prioritises those who are responsive and active on the site, and whose behaviour is rated highly. The value of the app, Ong told me, is to promote positive behaviour.
User ratings are the way of the future. We rate drivers, restaurants, accommodation, books, movies, products, even teachers, online. It was only a matter of time before we rated romantic prospects. But an uber driver or Air B&B won’t reject you, forget to call the next day, or decline a second date.
What’s to say a Pair user won’t rate a perfectly nice date poorly, simply because their feelings were hurt?
Ong has clearly thought deeply about all these issues. “It is possible,” she told me, “but we think that people will do the right thing. Even if a user thinks someone isn’t suitable, if they were safe to be around and behaved well, they will rate them well.”
What if they don’t do the right thing, I wondered. After all, people on dating sites are not well known
for doing the right thing.
“If someone rates someone in a negative manner they have to give a reason,” Ong continued. “If we see that a user has a pattern of abusing the system and rating everyone down, we will investigate. We have built in systems to stop abuse.” And will there be recourse for users who find themselves with a poor rating?
“Yes,” Ong said. “The user can contact the admin team and investigate it further. If someone has rated you down – say, for example, you’ve been rude in a taxi ride – we will find out why.”
Won’t it be an endless chain of he said/she said?
“Yes,” she agreed. “My husband and I have thought long and hard about how we can do this right. We will laboriously solve these problems and moderate these conflicts.”
I try to behave well online and on dates, but being rated for my efforts sounds faintly terrifying. On the other hand, a site free of fakers and abusers and out-of-date profiles seems like the holy grail of the dating world. Pair, to me, is both the inevitable solution to online dating, and an ethical minefield.
But I am pushing 50, and am still not quite used to the internet age. For millennials, who are used to rating every experience online, Pair will just be another day on the phone. And perhaps one day, the pros of online dating will finally outweigh the cons.
Kerri is an author, columnist and mother of three. Her latest book is ‘Out There: A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife’.