Are you single? Do you feel like you haven’t given enough of your personal information to Mark Zuckerberg? Do you love endless notifications? Then have I got the dating app for you!
Well, not an app so much as a feature — of Facebook. Yes, I know you’re all going to tell me you quit FB ages ago, and good for you — but some of us need it for work. And life. And apparently now finding soulmates.*
*If your first criterion for a soulmate is that they don’t use Facebook, this is probably not the service for you.
Facebook Dating has been around for ages in some territories, but as usual, the UK was very late to the party. Presumably, matching up Brits to eventually make more little Brits just isn’t a priority for Silicon Valley, which is pretty rude when you consider what a big deal they make of our accents.
It’s taken a surprisingly long time for Zuck & co to make a dating product — surely it’s more of a no-brainer than pretty much anything they’ve done in the last five years? “Help our users find love? Nah, let’s mandate Facebook accounts for Oculus headsets. And then undo that. And make our desktop website a giant white page with a tiny column of content right in the middle. And tweak our advertising algorithm so it only shows completely unrecognisable objects from Wish. Oh, and make another ten TikTok clones. OK *now* we can do dating.”
One of the worst bits of signing up to a new dating site is creating a profile, and half the time you end up connecting said site to Facebook so you can bring over all your latest (I SAID LATEST, dude using a photo from 2003) pictures. So it makes sense to use Facebook as a base and build out from there.
Weirdly, the Dating part of Facebook is only available on the mobile app. You can’t use it from web at all. This makes absolutely zero sense, especially given that once you match with someone, it’s essentially just instant messaging with a stranger — which Messenger is more than capable of doing on web. ALSO, who wants to be typing out their deepest desires on a bloody mobile phone keyboard???? [Yes, I know there are ways around this, but they’re faffy and it shouldn’t be necessary!]
Even weirder, you can’t screenshot Facebook Dating *at all* — on Android. It pops up a message about privacy (HA HA, good one, Zuck) and refuses to comply. But if you screenshot on iOS, that’s totally fine. iPhone users can capture bad profiles and mock them in the group chat with impunity, knowing people can’t do it back if they’re on a Samsung. Gross. [Obviously you can still take a photo of your phone with another phone, which is what I’ve done for this review. Ner-ner].
Speaking of chat, when things go well on a dating site, the logical next step is to swap numbers and chat on another platform. What platform? WhatsApp, owned by… Facebook. So Zuck Inc is going to have better data than other dating sites about whether you continued the conversation, and even potentially whether it all worked out, if you’re still trading memes in five years’ time.
How Facebook Dating works
The profile bit of Facebook Dating is fairly easy. Chuck up some pictures (or import your Instagram, another Facebook-owned product), write an optional intro, answer some questions if you want to.
From there, you can set your preferences and dealbreakers, including distance and gender identity (you can be bi/pansexual — hooray!).
Alcohol and smoking preferences are there but unlike many dating sites, drug use is not — even though it’s a big potential difference. That said, a lot of people probably wouldn’t want to tell on themselves to the Big Blue F, so fair enough.
Annoyingly, while you can say whether or not you HAVE kids, there’s no setting for whether you want any. As a childfree-by-choice, tubes-tied, fully paid up member of the never-replicating-my-genes club, this is quite important to me, and has resulted in matching with people who turn out to want ankle-biters (evidently they didn’t read my profile, big surprise).
You can, however, set what you’re looking for — including long and short term dating, friends (lol) and hookups.
One thing I was hugely relieved to see is that there’s no swiping at all. There’s a heart button and an X button, and that’s it. People you tap the heart on receive a ‘Like’ (so on brand), and it’s easy to browse the likes you’ve received and find people you’re interested in.
When you tap the heart on someone who’s liked you, you match, and they go into a separate tab. In there, you can see all your matches, and message threads with each one. No one can message you unless you like them back, although they can comment on one of your photos, which appears at the top of their profile when you view it in Likes.
What if Facebook doesn’t like my face
When I and some friends first signed up, it took days to show us anyone nearby at all, and we worried we were unlovable. Then, all at once, a BAZILLION people appeared, and we would never be free of Facebook notifications again.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is turn off ALL push notifications from Facebook Dating. ‘Push’ notifications are the ones that appear at the top of the screen when you’re not using the app, to interrupt you. Otherwise, it’s a constant stream of RANDOM MCKENZIE LIKED YOU! and you’ll never get any sleep again. Annoyingly, these still pop up even if you have normal Facebook notifications turned off, as I do. You have to disable them separately.
The second, especially if you’re a woman, is to check out the safety features. You can block people (although it only seems to block them in Dating, not in Facebook itself, and you don’t know their last name to block them elsewhere), delete conversation threads and report messages (which, knowing Facebook, is like writing “halp?” on a post-it note and throwing it into the ocean) .
Helpfully, you can’t send photos or videos through Dating chat. Gifs yes, emojis yes, horrible eyesore stickers yes — but nothing of your own, which is definitely a good thing (I don’t need more places to receive unsolicited sausage). Of course, that does still mean they can write horrendous things, and once you switch to WhatsApp, they can send anything. So as ever, be extra cautious.
One other thing to be aware of is that even once you’ve turned push notifications off, you’ll still get a kabillion notifications within the Facebook app itself, unless you turn those off too. Oh, and Dating will add a tab for itself next to the bell, marked with a heart.
Does Facebook Dating work?
Since it has access to all your friend data, in theory Facebook Dating should bring you better matches than elsewhere. Sadly, I haven’t found that to be the case, but it has shown me a lot of people I haven’t seen on the usual dating sites, which is both a positive and a negative. It’s really brought home how many types of people I’m completely uninterested in — like those with frames on their FB avatar that say “proud Brexiteer” or “unvaccinated,” for instance. Or people in their early twenties or late sixties. Or people using Bitmoji. OR PEOPLE MY FRIENDS HAVE DATED!
There are some useful search tools, including people who attended events you went to (remember events? Ha ha, sob) and people in the same Facebook groups as you. It’ll also show you any mutual Facebook friends, although you can’t search for people you have friends in common with. That was the original idea behind the dating app Hinge, and it’s gone on to great success, so that’s an oversight.
Finally, and most interestingly, you can add secret crushes. These are Facebook friends or Instagram followers you fancy. Like the old Bang With Friends app (eventually renamed Down after a copyright claim from Words With Friends!), this notifies you that someone has a crush, but you only find out who if you’re crushing back. It sounds ridiculous, but my friend Willard met his wife on Bang With Friends, so evidently it works!
As with all things Facebook, Dating is free and there’s no option to upgrade or add features to your account for a premium. This, as the old adage goes, means that you — the person looking for love — are the product.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this particular product has yet to sell. Anyone for a Black Friday special?