Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shidduchim? There's An App For That!

Imagine if all it took to get a date would be opening an app on your phone, checking to see which guys/girls were available in the nearby vicinity, a few quick texts/first phone call, and you're off!

Apparently, this is a new thing that's catching on in the secular world. Check out this NY Times article called "With an App, Your Next Date Could Be Just Around the Corner."

Sounds interesting, right?

Of course, there are some potential issues which the article, and the makers of these apps, try to address, such as personal safety when you're meeting up with someone you've had next-to-no contact with. Users of the app seem to think highly of it, though they have some difficulty attempting to move past a mental/societal stigma that this sort of thing is geared toward hook-ups and one night stands.

They say the services allow them to skip the more elaborate mating rituals of standard online dating, which seems to move glacially in an era of text messaging and social networking.
“It can take a month to actually meet up with someone that you’re messaging online,” Ms. Wang said. Mobile services allow for a “quicker jump from virtual meetings to actually meeting.”
In my time as a shadchan, and as a dater, I know that it can take a long time to "officially" set up a date, and there is indeed a rush, because people frankly have limited time to devote to dating, especially in the fast-paced existence that we live in.

So is this sort of thing the way of the future for Jewish Orthodox dating, perhaps in more Modern/YU circles?

I tend to think we won't adopt this technology in the immediate future, particularly with our culture's obsession with resumes, fact finding, and research. Granted, everyone should try to find out something about the person who has been suggested to them, because no one wants to end up going out with a psycho who either wastes their time or puts them in danger of some sort.

However, I can see this catching on eventually, especially if it becomes more standard in secular society. We adapted the online dating model with J-Date and Future Simchas, then customized it further to be in-line with our shidduch values system with Saw You at Sinai and YU Connects - so if near-instant app dating becomes an accepted norm, I think it could happen.

Sure, you may say: "You're certifiably crazy Shades of Grey! Who in their right mind would try this or even find someone they would want to date or marry using an app that locates the nearest available singles of the opposite gender?"

I'll answer that question/exclamation with a story of my friend, who randomly met his wife while going on Yeshiva University's Torah Tours for Simchas Torah a few years ago, back when non-YU/Stern students could participate. In order to save time/gas, the CJF people running Torah Tours asked all the volunteers to coordinate rides with one another so that they could meet up and get to their communities together. My friend, along with another mutual friend, were told to pick up a girl who was assigned to their group and give her a ride to their destination. Of course, they gladly obliged - and she in fact lived one block over from his parents apartment.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. Over the course of Yom Tov they hit it off, began dating, and are now happily married with a young daughter. Too good to be true? They grew up within one block of one another and never encountered each other before! To make things spookier, upon showing his wife some old videos of us all hanging out together in Israel while we were in yeshiva, his not-yet-wife walked through the frame of one shot. Yes, they were in the exact same place, within 10-15 feet of one another and never even exchanged glances. Now they're married.

Yes, yes, you can tell me this is one more example of those crazy hashgacha pratis stories we all know and love (or hate), but hey, it happened! Imagine if we could input our own hishtadlus by making those nearby, but currently unnoticed connections sooner? Ultimately, how it works out will be in the hands of HaShem anyway, but why not "help" in anyway we can, k'v'yachol? Chazal tell us that even HaShem finds making shidduchim as hard as it was to split the Reed Sea when our ancestors left Mitzrayim, so why shouldn't we find every means of putting in our own effort?

For those who are scared of the idea of going on a date without sufficient research being conducted beforehand, I have a few ideas.

1) The dates necessarily won't be as instantaneous , but let's give a short window of opportunity, say an 1-2 hours, for the interested person, should he/she desire, to make a phone call or two.

2) If the system catches on, and we can create a network of references who "approve" the person, all you would have to do is check the list of registered references and see if there was anyone you know. The dater would have had to contact the person, invite them, we'll say, when they set up their mini-profile, and that individual has to reply and potentially be available for contact. Instead of having a few references, you could end up having a very long list - each categorized differently based on their personal connection to the dater - and odds are, you'll know someone on it, given how Jewish Geography works, especially if both of the daters live in close proximity.

3) For anyone who still wants a shadchan available - and ASoG and I have seen fewer people actually use us at all as intermediaries - those people could also be attached to the profile, "on call" as it were, for post-date follow ups and anything else that may need to be communicated, even a 1 and done reply.

I'll admit, the idea isn't perfect and would certainly require further thought and planning before YU Connects makes an app of their own like this. But with the increasingly fast-paced, time-crunched daily schedules we all deal with, perhaps this could be a new tool to be used in the never-ending quest to match up all the singles out there.


  1. I think if you could see everyone else's profiles without any intermediary actually suggesting one person to another, it'd be more like a JDate app than a SYAS/YU Connects app...

  2. What we really need is a Jewish version of Less creepy than meeting up based on proximity, and way more fun!


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