Sex & Health

Erdekian: This dating app swerves Tinder’s boring banter, but it’s not for everyone

Courtesy of First

First is a new dating app that skips the messaging and goes straight to the date. This may not be the app for people who are flaky. If someone stands a date up more than twice they will be banned from the app.

All the single pringles out there may be interested to learn a new dating app, First, hit the market last Tuesday. It differs from college students’ most frequently used dating apps, Tinder and Bumble, in a huge, controversial way. No swiping. No messaging. Only meetups.

Here’s how it works: after you open the app, it makes an account by authenticating through Facebook. To facilitate meetups, there are two options: choose from a list of dates posted in your area or post your own date and see who’s down. If you sign up for a date, you’ll be notified if you’re chosen, and if you make your own date, you get to choose the lucky guy or girl from your pool of options.

To all the flakes out there, First might not be for you. It holds users accountable for ditching dates. Anyone who stands up a First date more than twice will be banned from the app for good.

Truman Kain, a 25-year-old from Los Angeles, is the mastermind behind the app. He told Mashable the main purpose of First is, “getting you off of your phone and onto the date.”

A study by Pew Research Center showed a third of online daters have never taken any of their virtual interactions off-screen.

This cut-to-the-chase option might sound appealing compared to the time wasted with people you might never connect with. The thrill of meeting someone new without knowing anything about them beforehand piqued my interest, too.

Azadeh Aalai, who holds a doctorate in social psychology and assistant professor at Queensborough Community College in New York, has written about dating apps and social media, said she thinks the app could make it big in the online dating world.

“For individuals who don’t want to get caught in that quagmire of being stuck on screen, this is a way for them to bypass that,” Aalai said.

She pointed out that the competitiveness of our world today makes it natural for some to find comfort in the virtual world of relationships instead of the real one.

She compared First to Bumble, an app that’s primary defining feature is having women make the first move. As a result of that feature, the app attracted specific demographics — guys who want the pressure off and girls who want more control over their interactions. Aalai intuited that likewise, First may attract a different type of user from the other dating apps — one with more serious intentions in the here and now.

I decided to see what all the hype is about before this app ultimately either gets big or quietly fades away.

Here is a brief timeline of my experience:

4:30 p.m., the afternoon before: I open the app for the first time and create an account. I add a short bio to my profile, listing my generic likes and interests because I don’t have time to think of something witty.

I stick with the default photos the app downloaded from Facebook: a straight on shot of me smiling with the skyline of Florence behind me from my semester abroad, a black-and-white edited picture of me on someone’s shoulders in the crowd at Firefly Music Festival, and a photo of me and my friend dressed up.

A few minutes later: I explored the app a bit, browsing the existing dates listed. The app automatically set my account only to show dates posted by men, likely based on information provided by Facebook.

The dates can be browsed in four categories, “all,” “his treat,” “50/50” and “your treat.” In the “all” category, there was a total of about 30 dates, each of which showed the profile of the host and the date’s time and place/activity.

I scrolled past, “Zack, 20, is thirsty for Starbucks!”, “David, 20, wants to see Wonder Woman!” and someone who “wants to hike a cliff walk!” — at 6 a.m. Uh, no thanks to that last one. Sounds like a horror movie where I’m the main character.

6 p.m. the night before: While all the dates listed look fine, I decide to create my own. Out of the options provided for creating a date, I chose “Italian food” as the activity, paying 50/50 as the style, “catch me outside” as the meetup message, and “stealth mode” as my privacy setting.

Stealth mode hid the name and location of the restaurant I chose so that no one from the app could crash my date. Unfortunately, when I first tried to post the date, the app was acting very glitchy. On the screen where I clicked to confirm the date, the app crashed. This happened a total of eight times, even though I hard-closed and reopened the app, updated the app and restarted my phone. I decided to call it quits for the night.

Scrolling on my phone before bed the night before: Right before I was about to retire my phone to alarm status for the night, I decided to give the app one last chance. I deleted it and re-downloaded it. I tried posting my date again, and this time it successfully worked on the first try.

Lunch the day of: I check the app again to see how my date is sizing up with the public. I see nine people signed up for it, and I make a decision, choosing out of the group of people closest to my age based on whose bio I like the best.

A couple hours before the date: I check the app again, and proceed to have a horrible realization. In the spur of the moment when I posted the date before bed, I was not all there because the time the date is scheduled for is three hours later than intended. And I have no way of contacting my date to reschedule. I start to freak out because I really don’t want to ruin someone’s night because of my mistake.

Half an hour later: Thanks to my superior stalker skills, I’m able to pin down my date on Facebook using only his first name and listed college, even though we had zero mutual friends. I request him on Messenger and explain my error, apologizing for my extreme creepiness as well.

An hour before the date: Miraculously, my date sees the message, and responds that he can still make it at the time I intended it to be at. Whew.

The date itself: I’m running a couple minutes late as I’m walking over to the restaurant, so I feel relieved that I’m connected with my date on Facebook Messenger and can keep him in the loop.

Funnily enough, the first conversation we had was about the app itself. I learned that he, like me, learned about it from the article about it on Mashable’s Snapchat Story on Thursday. I also learned there are currently fewer straight/bi women on the app than straight/bi men — while I saw 30 dates posted by men on my side of the screen, he only saw three women who posted dates.

We both agreed that we were most drawn to the practicality of the app’s concept. The date lasted about an hour and a half, and we conversed about entrepreneurship, our favorite restaurants, our experiences growing up and plenty more.

Overall, it was a good time, and I didn’t feel that the communication-free feature of the app made it more difficult to sense my chemistry with someone before meeting — I still feel that it can only be determined after spending time with someone in person. And if anything, it was kind of nice that we had so much to talk about on the first date.

The next day: After the date was over, it moved to the “past” section of my planner. Now with the button “How’d it go?,” I rated the date three stars out of four, signaling “pretty good.”

Overall, I don’t think this app is a great fit for me. While I love the complete blind date aspect, and the fact it gets users off their phones and meeting in person, the logistical challenges of being unable to contact my date are unnecessarily stressful.

Plans can change and they can also just flat-out fail. If this happens — which it does to me pretty often — I don’t want to be trapped in a situation where I’m forced to inconsiderately stand someone up.

But for anyone who is sick of annoying Tinder messages, down for the excitement of meeting new people and very reliable in every plan they make, First is a logical route in the online dating scene.

I also need to add that I’m impressed by the altruism of First. While Tinder and Bumble are designed to make users spend as much time on them as possible in order to maximize profit, First’s design stands apart by prioritizing users’ need to actually meet each other instead of trying to suck them into a perpetual cycle of virtual cat and mouse.

Alex Erdekian is a senior magazine journalism major and psychology minor. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her learning about different coffees while working at Karma Coffee Roasters or intensely searching WebMD for ironically unhealthy amounts of time. Reach her at aerdekia@syr.edu or on Twitter at @alexxe08.

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