It's hard to believe that as recently as March, if you hit it off with a Tinder match, the typical next step would be to meet up IRL — say, over drinks or apps at a trendy local bar. Flash forward just a few months, and people have been forced to get a little creative in finding new ways to foster the connections they’ve made. So, what’s the next best thing to an in-person date? A video call, of course — and Tinder’s Face to Face video chat feature, which is currently being tested in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, and Colorado, as well as nine other countries around the world, has a few elements that set it apart — especially on the safety side of things. The best part? Unlike with FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype, there's no need to give out your number before you're comfortable doing so because the video call happens right from within the app.
Seeing as numerous other dating apps have already launched video calling capabilities earlier this year (or prior), it might appear that Tinder is a little late to the party. But as they say, slow and steady wins the race, and taking more time in thoughtfully designing this function definitely seems to have paid off. Bumble was one of the first dating app platforms to introduce a video chat function, and while men have to wait for women to make the first move, women have the option to make a video call as soon as they've matched with someone. With Hinge's video call feature, both users must indicate they're open to video chatting before they can enjoy some face-to-face time. Like Hinge's in-app video tool, Tinder's Face to Face requires both users to "opt in" to video calls — and what's more, they allow the option to temporarily turn the feature off whenever you feel like it.
"Making sure that our members had control over the experience was really important to us, which is different than some of the ways that other people are doing it," Bernadette Morgan, Senior Product Manager (Trust & Safety), tells Elite Daily. "So we wanted to ensure that you could enable this feature on a match to match basis… just to make sure that both of you are excited about this."
Here's how it works. Once you've got the ball rolling with a match and you're ready to see them face to face, tap the video in the top right-hand corner of your convo screen. To opt into the feature, you'll need to toggle on the button that reads "I'm interested in a Face to Face with [match's name]." Your match won't see that you've added the option to video chat until they've turned on Face to Face as well. When you and your match have both enabled Face to Face, you'll get an exciting little congratulatory message (complete with digital confetti) letting you know that you're all set to have a video call. From there, tap the video icon again to call your match.
Before you start your Face to Face convo, however, you'll need to agree to the ground rules. Tinder's guidelines are as follows:
Keep it PG: no nudity or sexual content
Keep it clean: no harassment, hate speech, violence, or other illegal activities
Keep it age-appropriate: no content involving minors
Morgan says these measures are Tinder's way of setting expectations for the experience — and requiring users to hit "I agree" is important for ensuring that everyone involved is committing to respectful behavior.
Just like with other video chatting apps, you're able to flip the camera off of selfie mode at any point — for example, if you want to show off your beloved fur baby or your killer craft beer collection. You may notice that the experience is a little different from what you're used to on Zoom or FaceTime, however, where you only see a tiny preview of yourself in the corner of the screen. On Face to Face, the screen is split evenly between both cameras. Senior Product Designer Evelina Rodriguez explains that this format is meant to reinforce the idea that a conversation is a two-way street between two equals — but there were other reasons for doing it this way as well.
"We wanted to get to give people the opportunity to make the best first impression possible," she says. "So part of that is seeing yourself as the same size that the other person sees you. And also, we think that if people know that they're not going to be the size of a person's entire phone, then maybe it's less daunting to get on a video chat."
Proving once again that safety is top of mind, Tinder also provides a quick survey after each and every video chat. Users are asked: "Would you go Face to Face again?" If you need to report your match for any reason, you can also do that from this feedback screen after the call ends.
Change your mind? Don't feel up to video chatting today? No worries. You can always disable the feature at any point by simply switching the toggle off. Remember: both you and your match need to have Face To Face enabled, so if you ever switch it off, they won't be able to video call you.
Obviously, social distancing guidelines have been a major reason why singles are turning to video chat. But many dating app users are embracing this technology merely because it gives them a way to connect with their matches on a deeper level without the risks that come with meeting up in person. In fact, Tinder tells Elite Daily that a recent survey conducted by the company found that 40% of Gen Z users want to continue using video as a way to get to know their matches even after the pandemic ends.
"It allows people to have a video call without having to give out their personal information if they're not ready yet," Morgan explains. "We needed our members to continue to be able to meet new people and form relationships, but do it in a way that was safe and at a distance."
Beyond that, Rodriguez notes that a video call serves as an excellent "chemistry check." There's only so much you can gather from messages or texts — interacting with someone face to face allows you to gauge your compatibility on a whole other level.
"I think what we hear a lot from users — and especially in our Gen Z focus groups during quarantine — is that often when they meet up with someone in real life, they immediately know whether they have chemistry or not," explains Rodriguez. "So we think that video chat is as close to that experience without actually having to meet up."
Starting today, Tinder has begun rolling out Face to Face in select parts of the U.S., Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. After that testing phase is complete, the company will roll out the feature worldwide, and it'll be free for all users.
Dating in 2020 (and beyond) has posed some real head-scratchers — like, how can you tell if you're compatible with someone if you can't meet up in person? Face to Face may very well be the solution that helps you to focus on what really matters: getting to know someone better so you can see if there's any potential there. Now, the only question remaining is: Are PJs appropriate attire for a virtual first date? I'll leave that up to you and your match to decide.