WHEN the online dating app Tinder was launched in 2012, it was not long before anguished commentaries materialised. The magazine Vanity Fair announced a “dating apocalypse”.
One technology entrepreneur, Paul Rider, however, believes that the model could provide a solution to the dating woes of his fellow Christians.
“In the secular viewpoint, the stigma [adhering to online dating] has almost disappeared,” he said on Tuesday. “In the Christian world, I feel we have lagged slightly behind. . . There’s a bit of a disconnect between what people want and what is available.”
The free dating app SALT, which will launch next month, enables users to identify other Christians registered in their area. Like Tinder, and Bumble, users download the app on to their phone, fill out a profile, upload some photos, state preferences about who they would like to meet, and can then look through the profiles of other users. There must be a “match” — both users having “liked” each other — to send a message.
Mr Rider came up with the idea after coming to the conclusion that existing Christian dating sites were “expensive” and “old-fashioned”. He believes that the market is “crying out” for the app. “It can be hard for Christians to meet other Christians who aren’t in their immediate circle of friends or at their church,” he said.
He also points to “pressure and expectations around Christian dating”, amplified by a gender imbalance whereby more women than men attend churches. It is estimated that there is a 60:40 ratio of single men to single women in UK churches.
“Guys feel very pressured by the fish-bowl effect in the church environment,” he said. “If they ask someone out, everyone knows about it. . . It’s always difficult to pluck up the courage; so when it’s done in an environment that is smaller, that leads to pressure.”
He hopes that SALT will encourage more people to feel comfortable arranging and going on dates, “balanced with a godly respect in how we date, and view everyone else as brothers and sisters in Christ”.
A survey of churchgoers, Not Enough Men, at a large UK church, published by Eido Research this year, highlighted the frustrations of single women, most of whom had not been asked out by anyone at the church.
Mr Rider believes that by joining the app, the opportunity to meet a Christian man will be “radically increased”. Users are also encouraged to recommend the app to a friend of the opposite sex.
In response to the concern that the “swipe mechanism” (whereby users can remove from their screen someone they are not interested in) is too superficial, he pointed to the five sections of each profile, which includes space for people to write about their interests, and faith.
There is no set definition of who can join the app, although it is marketed as Christian, and sample profiles suggest that people will mention Jesus, alongside favourite foods.
“We felt that people want to be able to articulate their faith using their own words,” Mr Rider said. “It’s incumbent on the person to upload their definition: what they are passionate about, and what faith means to them.”
Users will also be able to block and report others, and the staff at SALT will be undertaking “manual reviewing”.
Mr Rider encourages users to “attach the same level of wisdom and decision-making as they would do on any online or offline platform.”
Having met his wife through Christian Connections, he is keen to describe it as a “great website”, but believes that God would approve of this new direction. “If the app is helping Christians build relationships, then I’m confident he delights in the technology being used.”
A SALT Instagram account, @be_salt, has already attracted 21,000 followers. People can pre-register now, before a launch late next month.