Dating apps are usually very clear about their purpose. It’s literally in the name: they’re there to help you date. They might want you to find a one night stand, or perhaps they’re geared towards lasting relationships and even marriage. But as any good business person will tell you, diversifying your company is a good way to make sure that it stays profitable, so many dating apps have reached out into new markets, addressing social issues or helping people to connect and find more than romantic love.
ChristianMingle is a dating site designed specifically for Christians looking for long-term relationships and marriage. They want God and faith to be important to any couple that meets on their site. Many Christians consider charity to be a good way to help others and connect with their faith, and so the site has donated to World Vision, a Christian charitable organisation that works to help children in poverty. However, ChristianMingle has been criticised for their attitude towards other issues: in 2016, they allowed gay and lesbian users, after they were sued for discrimination. They’ve also deliberately made it difficult for the LGBT+ community to navigate their site, and many people now avoid them because they’ve refused to be loving and accepting to all – which many Christians see as just as important as charity.
Other dating sites understand that some traditional dates are prohibitively expensive and therefore exclude many people. Sure, it would be lovely to be whisked off to Rome on a first date, but for anyone living outside of a romcom, it’s just not really practical. PlentyOfFish have a number of blog posts which discuss different aspects of modern dating, from how to kiss well to how to organise a fun but affordable first date. Incidentally, they recommend: going to see live comedy; visiting a food market; minigolf and picnics.
Bumble is probably the dating site best known for expanding into new areas. They’ve recently opened a cafe, they organise social events through Bumble Hive (no news on how many confused Beyonce stans have turned up) and they also look to connect people for friendships and business ventures. Bumble’s website says that they believe that networking shouldn’t be hard or uncomfortable, and to be honest their attitude makes a lot of sense. Getting information from someone who works in an industry you want to join can be really helpful, and from the other side, it can be extremely rewarding to mentor up-and-comers and aid people in your field. LinkedIn can feel stuffy and inauthentic, so many people might feel more comfortable on Bumble instead.
Some dating sites are open to discuss the sides of dating that we find less pleasant. Having an STD is unpleasant for many reasons and often highly stigmatised. However, many people do not have access to medical care or information about their conditions, and dating site Positive Singles is trying to change that. The dating site is designed specifically for people who have STDs and allows them to connect with each other. Because dating sites access users’ locations to make sure that they can actually see each other, Positive Singles also sends their users information about local clinics and anywhere nearby where they can go to get help for their disease. Given how much people dislike talking or thinking about such things, it’s great to see a site doing such important work and helping so many people in need. Positive Singles is available in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada, and now a competitor, Positive Plus One, has been created in the UK.
Much like PlentyOfFish, many dating sites have blogs where they discuss aspects of dating in the 21st Century. Things have changed dramatically in the past 20 years and it’s often interesting to see what is considered a faux pas and what is just a normal part of online relationships. Some of the blogs will discuss social or topical issues, which can range from how to be a sexy little elf for Santa to how to handle Valentine’s day in a new relationship to commemorating Pride month and celebrating same-sex relationships. It’s part of a movement where people want to see their dating sites as well-rounded, helpful and inclusive. Dating sites might not be leading a revolution or saving the environment, but they are stretching and expanding into places where dating might be the primary focus – but it’s not the sole focus.