Breaking News Emails
In a dating scene where Tinder and OKCupid encourage match overload, a new breed of apps is giving users manageable, daily doses of romance.
When it comes to romance, people are not great at dealing with too many options. In scientific terms, they become "cognitively overwhelmed." In other words, the more men or women there are to choose from, the harder it can be to pick just one.
No, those observations did not come from a sassy best friend in a romantic comedy. They are from a 2012 study published by the Association for Psychological Studies.
That dating pool is only getting bigger. Last year, more than half of Americans (59 percent) said that "online dating is a good way to meet people," according to the Pew Research Center, a 15-point increase from 2005.
Less stigma means more choices. But not everybody wants to sort through endless profiles from hopeful singles. For people like Jennifer Crawford, 31, emerging dating apps that limit choices are just the thing.
Last summer, Crawford did not have a lot of spare time to look for Mr. Right.
She was spending 70 hours a week studying for the Medical School Admissions Test (MCAT) and working at a healthcare company in Chicago. But she also wanted to meet someone, so last spring, Crawford signed up for a relatively new dating service called Coffee Meets Bagel.
Unlike online dating sites Match or OKCupid, both of which she'd tried, Coffee Meets Bagel didn't flood Crawford with messages from interested men or invite her to examine profiles of eligible dates, wasting time she did not have.
"If you have to look through 20 different profiles, it can be a little too much," she told NBC News.
Instead, Coffee Meets Bagel sent one profile, every single day at noon. She could respond right away, ignore it completely, or take an entire day to mull it over. Either way, she could make it fit into her busy lifestyle.
Hinge, another free dating app on the rise, has a similar philosophy with a slightly higher volume, sending members five to 15 potential matches a day.
Breaking News Emails
That means users never get more matches than they can handle — a draw for women who would otherwise be bombarded with messages from men on OKCupid or Tinder. Online, men share strategies like cut-and-pasting opening lines and then sending them to as many women as possible, or “swiping right” on every single profile they see on Tinder to increase their number of matches.
Both can make it more difficult to spot the diamonds in the digital rough.
“People are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity, but they are underwhelmed with the quality,” Justin McLeod, co-founder of Hinge, told NBC News.
Other sites tempt users with endless potential dates, resulting in a “tidal wave of matches” followed by having “nobody to talk to” once they run out. Researchers at Hinge, which is based in New York City, also found that the more matches users have, the less likely they are to chat with each match.
In other words, there is only so much flirting someone can handle at one time.
“It doesn’t matter if they get three matches or 30 matches, people are only going to message three or four people week,” McLeod said.
Dawoon Kang and her two sisters started Coffee Meets Bagel with a similar philosophy.
“So many of the dating sites out there are about serving up as many pictures of possible,” Kang told NBC News. “Because you are seeing so many of them, you don’t actually consider them people.”
Instead of being overwhelmed with an inbox filled with “brunettes” or “tall guys,” users on Coffee Meets Bagel have 24 hours to consider one living, breathing human being.
“It really lets people read through a profile and give that person a chance,” she said.
And while no dating app can guarantee the absence of creepy messages, the fact that both Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel only connect people with friends of friends on Facebook at least discourages totally random people from mass-messaging things like “Sup?”
So what happened Crawford?
She spent two months on the site before getting matched up with Roshan Alvares, 37, a tech entrepreneur who also lived in Chicago.
They began texting, which is how the service first connects people. (It added an instant messaging function this week). Then they started talking on the phone. Eventually, he took her out.
"He wasn't the first person I talked to on Coffee Meets Bagel, but he was the first person I went on date with," she said.
Apparently, the first date was a charm. In September, a little more than a year after she decided to click "Like" under his profile, the two are getting married in Chicago.