This past Passover, while some of us were nursing our full bellies and wondering whether or not we finally understood the Haggadah this year, others were on their smartphones checking out a a new Jewish dating app, which came out right over the holiday, joining a flurry of new Jewish dating apps that have come out recently.
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JSwipe, the new addition, function like the others do: a user logs on, establishes some screening criteria, and then rates people who are geographically nearby as potential matches. When there’s a match, the app will tell you so. Due to their reliance on quick impressions based mostly on appearance, critics accuse these apps of perpetuating a widespread acceptance of the “hook up culture.” Those of you who are familiar with the Tinder dating app will know what I’m talking about.
So now that the Jews have their own version of “hot or not,” is that a good or a bad thing? What does it mean when Jewish people look for Jewish hook up partners? A Jewish app, for that?
The point of these apps is to facilitate quick interactions that could lead to something more. However, some critics say this will continue encouraging quick, digital interactions in favor of lasting, in-person relationships. Others comment that the app favors looks over substance, with other people “rating” potential matches or friends based solely on a picture.
The first thing to understand is that while Tinder can lead to one night stands—and the inevitable creepy interaction with strangers, as artist Anna Gensler illustrates—it can also lead to something more. But it’s not only for one night stands. Some people find lasting, longer-term relationships through the superficially shallow site: according to Elle Magazine, Tinder has led to over 1,000 engagements and some marriages.
Sure, these apps probably don’t elicit provoking, deep, intelligent conversations about personal and shared values immediately. At the same time, they present an easy, non-committal way for other Jewish people in an area to meet other Jewish people. When JDate first launched, people claimed that it would also digitize peoples’ dating lives in a way that would be unhealthy; no one would dare say that, today, as JDate has facilitated so many lasting relationships.
Jewish apps have their downsides as tools for learning. But these dating apps are a bit more nuanced. Rather than giving your child an app about Judaism and telling him or her to learn something, we’ve placed a dating app in the hands of people who are presumably old enough to date. And that person will, allegedly, follow up on a digital interaction—whether it’s liking someone’s picture or not—with an in-person date or meeting, made even easier considering that you are communicating with people in your own neighborhood. Unlike other platforms, these dating apps enable you to communicate in a way that is very, very short and sweet. This in essence might encourage you to talk about something deeper—now that you’ve already rated someone as attractive on the app.
So, although I’m married myself, I say, JCrush or JSwipe away, and be merry. You just might meet your soul mate, or, at least, get some objective information about your looks.
Yael Miller lives in Washington, D.C.