Swiping for Love: Does Paying For Dating Apps Work?
Swiping for Love: Does Paying For Dating Apps Work?

Gone are the days when quietly brooding in a dingy bar would get you dates. Today, it’s either pay for the algorithm or improve your personality, whichever’s cheaper.

There’s a rather sad allegory between fishing and using dating apps as a man. Both demand an immeasurable amount of time spent holding your (fishing) rod and waiting for a catch. For some, matches arrive frequently; for others, it’s akin to witnessing the moon landing. This is, of course, if you don’t follow the two cardinal rules: 1) Be attractive. 2) Don’t be unattractive. So, what happens to involuntary rebels like us who don’t abide by the rules?



Fortunately for us, dating apps seem to have built an entire business model around insecurities, which ironically works similarly to the many online video games today. Matchmaking apps usually earn their revenue by locking you into a “freemium pricing model,” i.e., they are free to use, but there is always a push to lock their users into a monthly subscription model. Now, while there’s no proof that dating apps gatekeep potential matches from you, personal experience states that paying for a premium plan does tend to rack up your inbox, in terms of both quality and quantity.



It is essentially like bribing the doormen to enter the club. Most apps present these doormen as premium features, like ‘Spotlight’ on Bumble or Tinder, while Hinge offers its ‘+’ and ‘X’ subscriptions, with the latter allowing you to “skip the line and get recommended sooner.” And the business appears to be booming. Up until December 2022, and as per a survey by data.ai, Indian consumers spent nearly $10 million to find love online. Similarly, back in its peak, Tinder beat out Candy Crush to be the top-grossing app on the Apple Store with its Tinder Gold subscription.



But does it always work? For 30-year-old Automotive Journalist Jehan Darukhanawala, the experience was worth its rupee: “I tried paid for the sake of trying, got positive results in the first week of it. So I was happy,” and it appears to have worked in his favour. “I went out on a couple of dates, currently dating one such match.”


Others, like 27-year-old Media Professional Gaurav Davare, sharing his very limited experience, mention that the practice seems predatory: “Today, some apps almost resemble a pyramid scheme, continuously luring people to pay for more features with little to no results. I think there should be more features available for the free version, with only select items like superlikes requiring payment.”



But match or no match, the subscription-based dating module seems to be making headway in today’s culture. For a 30-year-old IT Professional who chose to go by the name of “Hugh Erickshun,” switching to a paid plan was a necessity: “I was using the free dating app (Bumble). But I was travelling quite a bit and wanted to swipe in the cities I was visiting. That led me to try the paid version of Bumble.” He further adds how the app helped him in “knowing who has swiped on me.” But he also points out how “paid versions merely improve the filtering for a match. Making something out of the match is down to you, your personality, your game yada yada – none of which is influenced by the paid version of the app.” The same sentiment was echoed by Darukhanawala, saying “The paid thing is an enabler. The key here is conversation more than anything else.”


Of course, the choice of whether to pay for premium features or navigate the free versions is a personal one. And yes, the experiences and outcomes vary, but the human element—conversation, personality, and charm—still reigns supreme, which sadly many men on the apps fail at. So, whether you’re tempted to pay for love or prefer to wait in line, remember that in the end, it’s not just about the app—it’s about the fish metaphors you bring to the table.


Image Credits – Unsplash

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