Can you click, swipe and “hey :)” your way to true love, or at least a warm bed? We went online to find out.
What is it? A smartphone app that works with Facebook to present you with a stack of “potential matches” in your vicinity. Based on only a photo and an optional tagline (plus mutual Facebook friends and interests, if you have any) you swipe left (no) or right (yes). You can only chat it up if you both swipe right. You won’t know who says no to you and vice versa, allowing for no mercy or guilt.
Who’s on there? An unending supply of 20-to-30-year-olds within a 2km radius of Neukölln. Swipe for long enough and patterns emerge: skydiving, DJing, Machu Picchu and a weird obsession with listing one’s height in the tagline. Does size matter that much?
The experience: The Angry Birds of dating: low-stakes and quite addictive. There’s no guarantee your mini-pic and snappy banter will lead to real-life sparks, but you can always lock yourself into a bathroom stall and set up a new date to meet in the next 20 minutes.
Warning! Be ready to be flooded with one-word messages like “Hi” – and beware of making more new ‘friends’ than you need.
Mbrace: Start me up
What is it? Launched in January, the Berlin-based app positions itself as a cooler version of Tinder, guaranteeing access only to friends of existing users or people with over 100 Facebook friends. You can swipe right on people you like, or you can complete a “challenge” for them.
Who’s on there? The app’s tens of thousands of Berlin users include seemingly the entire startup scene, looking to network – and not necessarily euphemistically.
The experience: Like Tinder, but less intuitive and more frustrating. You can only swipe through 55 people per day unless you invite friends to use the app or complete a certain number of challenges. With every other user promoting their company, more mergers may result than dates.
Synergy: Mbrace also organises events like pub crawls; one of their challenges is “Invite me to a cool event!” Hmm.
ElitePartner: Love for squares
What is it? Germany’s answer to EHarmony. Members fill out a short, generic profile and take a personality test to find their matches. You can only see someone’s picture if you contact them – and you can only contact them if you pay for a membership (€300/six months).
Who’s on there? “Academics and singles with class!” proclaims the site. In reality: four million painfully sincere Germans with ‘real jobs’ in their thirties and forties looking to settle down.
The experience: Because you can’t see pictures until you make contact, messages are shots in the dark. “How do you feel about The Big Bang Theory, volleyball and female domination?” inquires one. Singles with class, indeed. But hey, you might find the love of your life – just ask Sonia Rossi.
Thanks, mum: When you sign up, you get an email warning you to be careful and urging you to get a burner phone.
OKCupid: Hipster hookups
What is it? A US-based site with a tongue-in-cheek tone that matches users up via a well-honed personality algorithm. Create a profile (the wittier, the better), answer loads of questions and indicate which answers you’ll accept, and message whomever you want for free.
Who’s on there? The preferred platform for internationals and creatives, it’s Berlin’s one-stop shop for vegan polyamorists, artsy wallflowers and naughty software developers. Monogamists are about as rare on the site as yuppies and investment bankers.
The experience: Wanna have a regret-free one-night stand auf Englisch while listening to The National? Here’s your chance, once you weed out the creepy messages (and if you’re female, you will get creepy messages).
Bonus: Savvy users have milked the site for WG leads and couch-surfing hosts – with or without benefits.
Im Gegenteil: Dating meets lifestyle porn
What is it? Launched last November, Hamburg- and Berlin-based Im Gegenteil isn’t so much a dating site as an “online magazine” where members are the subject and models of their own story. Once you’re in, a group of writers and photographers meet you for an interview and a photo shoot, resulting in an in-depth profile with professional-quality pics. Once your profile’s online, sit back and let the messages flood in.
Who’s on there? So far, about 80 people including 65 Berliners. They’re mostly straight, hip-looking twenty-somethings with super trendy-looking flats – or is it the super-trendy photography?
The experience: At less than seven months old, the site hubristically claims one-quarter of its members find “lasting relationships”, but with its Traum portfolios of childhood pics, immaculate kitchen counters and ‘relaxed’ poses with favourite pets, it caters more to exhibitionistic narcissists in “lasting relationships” with themselves. Once they’re accepted, that is: 80-100 people sign up every month and the team works on a first come, first serve basis, so the process can take forever.
Eternal love: Your profile will remain online even after you’ve been officially labelled as “no longer looking”.
Smeeters: Awkward threesomes
What is it? Started in the UK and newly available in Berlin, this website sets you and two of your friends up on a blind date with three friends of the opposite sex. After answering a couple of quickie questions, picking a day and paying €15 per person, the site will tell you a time and place to meet your matches. The locations aren’t always the coolest bars in town, but they’ll give you a free drink to ease the awkwardness.
Who’s on there? About 2000 Berliners, many of them young, outgoing and even good-looking.
The experience: Smeeters minimises the risk of a truly terrible date – if your potential beaus are bombs, you can always get tipsy with your friends – but doesn’t make much effort to pair compatible people up. There’s also no real way to make sure everyone’s expectations line up, so prospective bachelors may wind up frustrated over being friend-zoned.
German alert! To save yourself two hours of drunken pantomiming, make sure you’re extremely honest about your linguistic aptitude.
Grindr/Scruff/Gay Romeo: Sex first, date later
What is it? Three different platforms, one goal: gay sex. On demand. And based on geographical proximity. All three require at least one of your sexiest man-pics. The apps then line the boys up according to distance. Then it’s up to you to make contact.
Who’s on there? Many, many gay men, all with an apparent allergy to shirts. Gay Romeo is the most German. Grindr and Scruff are more international, with the former being younger and more plebeian (Holocaust Memorial selfies, anyone?) and the latter boasting more mature and successful expats and Touris.
The experience: Sex is generally expected but not guaranteed, with many users preferring to meet for dinner or drinks before getting to the good stuff. Don’t expect old-fashioned romantic overtures, but your post-sex chat just might end up resulting in a lasting connection.
Latest addition: Hornet, which specialises in the Eastern Bloc. Into young Russian or cute East European boys? Look no further. Putin’s favourite app!
Originally published in issue #128, June 2014.