Writing by Erandhi Mendis
Bumble has a reputation among my friends for being the app where you’re probably going to find a boyfriend or at least someone interested in the same situationship as you. It’s omnipresent in the world of women making the first move when dating. I met a girl the other week who married one of her Bumble dates which other than making me giddy with the thrill of a success story, it also solidified my thoughts that I should probably download the app and give it a go.
What I didn’t know – was that it’s not just the general swiping and matching. Sure that’s the objective main attraction, but as it turns out every week you can opt in for ‘speed dating’ from the comfort of your home. Again, speed dating brings up mental images of 90s powersuits crammed in a dimly lit bar trying desperately to not derail conversation with the mention of sweaty palms and an overpowering scent of Giorgio Armani. Safe to say, a healthy dose of hesitancy. And for everyone who says in-person speed dating is coming back, be my guest – I don’t think it’s for me.
I was far more enamoured with the idea of low risk high reward: sit in my house (probably in my pyjamas) but get to meet and converse with more men than I’d probably spoken to all year within the time it took to get dinner ready. Exhilarating.
The clock hits 7pm and my housemate and I stare at my phone, noticing the little alarm in the right hand corner telling us it’s time. We tap in, and immediately learn that speed dating on bumble is also BLIND dating. Two thrills for the price of one! Given the price was free + an hour of my life, this felt like an excellent journalistic adventure.
So here’s the deal. You don’t get to know your suitors name or what they look like. You’re randomly paired and you get three minutes to strike up a conversation. Yes – three minutes. It’s not long. According to my sources in the big wide world, three minutes is standard even in real life speed dating which is a truly horrifying thought.
After my 180 seconds in heaven expire, a small picture of the person is revealed along with their name and age. You might be able to access their full profile but my rudimentary tech skills didn’t allow me to figure out how. At that point, once you have a face, name and age you can decide if you want to keep chatting.
It’s a very similar vibe to swiping left or right but this time the interactions are based on a quick conversation rather than a profile. If you reject the norms of dating apps being surface level – this is for you.
Anyway, the hour continues! I chat with different people (and can stop whenever I like). At the end of the hour I’m matched with anyone who also swiped right on me in the timeframe. Whether that match continues me towards cute dates, matrimony, a Hills Hoist and/or three to six months of chaos, is yet to be determined.
My main takeaway is how bizarrely anxious the idea of talking to a stranger I didn’t have any visual reference for made me feel – even if it was just for three minutes. Everyone knows Bumble is the app where women make the first move and I found this app design empowers you to get comfortable taking agency for your own decisions.
I had only had the app for a few days prior to road-testing the speed dating portion and somehow still felt weird about striking up conversation behind a virtual wall. Call me old fashioned, but I think I generate some level of comfort from knowing who I’m talking to. Or maybe it’s the ability to acquire snap judgements from a photo that gives a false sense of control. Either way – feeling somewhat out of my depth in this new environment, my very sweet housemate (who is a far more confident dater/person than I) offered to assist.
What followed was one of the funniest hours I’ve ever had. This is what I learned:
- Fear is a Bandaid. Rip it off. Even though you are in the comfort and safety of your home, you might still be nervous, but once you have that first interaction you’ll feel like you can do a million more.
- Use the prompts the app gives you. The app provides funny little question prompts you can ask your match instead of doing the whole “hey” “how are you” and WASTING PRECIOUS SECONDS. Use the prompts, trust me.
- Come prepared. Bring reinforcements, if it’s your first time – bring a friend! It might sound odd but it takes the edge off and if you ever panic they can help and make it fun again. Speaking of preparation, I don’t know if this is cheating, but we drafted a list of amusing if not slightly erratic opening questions just in case we faltered. Ultimately we didn’t need to use them but it’s kind of like a safety blanket.
- You don’t have time for small talk! Leave “hi how are you” at the door. If your chat partner isn’t driving the convo, they will love that you are. Take control and ask questions that are a bit out of the box.
- Go with your gut. A very wise therapist once told me that I should trust my gut, but also test her. If you get a good feel from a conversation check in with yourself once you know this person’s age/face/etc – attraction is a funny thing!
- Don’t be afraid to be silly. This is the biggest tip of all. Particularly if you are nervous, leave all the inhibitions at the door. My housemate and I took turns to drive the conversations, make jokes and mostly just have fun with the people we were chatting with. Making things playful leads to better conversations and better connections.
- Maintain some level of mystique (for three minutes). Some of the people I chatted to immediately wanted to know my age and my ethnicity – this sort of defeats the blind date thing. Don’t be afraid to push back with a wink that all of that will be revealed in due time (literally in a matter of minutes).
- Have fun. Dating shouldn’t be scary or weird, but honestly sometimes it can be. Speed dating online though, is fun. And you deserve to have some fun.
If online dating stresses you out, or you just got out of a long-term relationship or have never chatted to anyone on an app – I highly, highly recommend speed dating as a way to dip a toe into the world of digital romance. Grab a friend for emotional support (even better – you could both be speed dating at the same time) buy some snacks and make an evening of it. In an hour’s time you will emerge a more confident, funny, knowledgeable dater and you might have even scored a date out of it.
I didn’t find my prince (or my three month situationship), but I did learn that dating at a slow and steady pace can be boring. It’s probably the pace that leads people to constantly delete and re-download apps. Speed Dating however, was fun, fast and honestly, a laugh. It made me associate being on a dating app with playfulness again. So if you have dating burnout and have forgotten how to let yourself have fun, the solution is simple: chat to a bunch of strangers for an hour. It’s a weird little dopamine hit but you might just find a special someone at the end of it.