We ask our friends for advice on which movies to see and restaurants to try, so why not ask them to pick our future spouse? Enter SparkStarter, a new dating app that gives your buddies the power to meddle in your love life.
Building off the success of Hinge, the dating app that connects you with friends of Facebook friends, SparkStarter relies on your friends to recommend potential dates from their Facebook friend circle, based on their real-life knowledge of the people involved. It also lets your friends give a thumbs up or thumbs down to matches.
"This is a way people can Tinder for their friends," Sparkstarter CEO Tony Kramer told Fusion. "It allows people to jump right in and cut to the chase with who would or would not work for their friend."
Much like the traditional matchmakers of yore, friends are often better able to make objective judgments about love interests than we are ourselves—or at least that's Kramer's philosophy. “They can be honest and open without hurting feelings,” he said.
Professionals agree. "We never see ourselves as we really are, or the way others do," said Jessie Kay a Los Angeles-based matchmaker. "I'm always surprised that people are happy to point out other peoples' faults, but never their own."
She often tries to match her clients with partners they may have previously written off after a snap judgment. "I will put someone in front of you that you may of walked right past," said Kay.
Okay, so let's say our friends do know us better than we know ourselves—what do they get out of taking a proactive role in our love lives? Unlike Jesse and other pros, they're not getting paid to intervene.
Aside from getting a glimpse at our secret crushes, studies have shown that acting as a matchmaker within social groups makes people happier. Kramer hopes this sentiment translates to his dating tool. “We believe people generally want to play matchmaker for a couple reasons,” he said. “They take pride in being a matchmaker, they really do want to help their friends, and they enjoy seeing their friend happy.”
Perhaps he’s right. Earlier this month, Facebook’s research team released a trove of data revealing the role of modern-day "matchmakers" in facilitating romance. After surveying 1,500 users, they found that, indeed, many couples were meeting through friends. Facebook was able to see this trend digitally as well, identifying users who had two shared friends from two different social circles, who at some point met and later start dating (yes, Facebook can track that).
Based on data, the company says the best matchmakers exist outside your super-close friend group and are "social butterflies" with many friends in many different circles. For example, that friendly coworker who moonlights as a DJ could be a great potential matchmaker, since he or she straddles different social worlds.
Kramer believes these not-entirely-random matches are key to the future of digital matchmaking. “Our hope is that matchmaking provides opportunities to connect two people that maybe they wouldn't have thought of before,” he said. “It's a safe connection from a mutual friend.”
The success of Hinge seems testament to this concept. Launched in 2013, the app grew 500 percent last year and raised an additional $12 million to expand. The non-random factor seems to have struck a chord with daters.
If SparkStarter takes off, we may find ourselves in an era in which dating once again becomes a community effort, not just a solo act—kind of like the way marriage started out in the first place. Yente would be proud.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.