Facebook Dating goes live in Singapore — here's what you need to know about the feature

PHOTO: Unsplash

Welp, it took some time, but it’s finally here. Shut an eye to Facebook’s ongoing troubles in the realm of privacy, data breaches and other Menlo Park shenanigans; the social media giant is diving further into the love lives of its users.

Facebook’s own dating service — plainly called Facebook Dating — has now rolled out across 14 more countries, including Singapore. Launched last year, the dating platform was first introduced to Facebook users in Colombia, Canada and Thailand, before moving on to Mexico and Argentina earlier this month. Coinciding with Facebook’s F8 conference today, Facebook Dating has now expanded to Southeast Asia and South America, totalling 19 countries where the romance-finding service is available.

It’s probably worth noting that the service isn’t even available in the United States right now, but from what we’ve gathered, it seems like they’re trying to test it out in as many countries as possible before delivering the most polished version of Facebook Dating at home.

How it’s different

Where other popular dating apps like Tinder and Bumble make a game out of looking for dates (you’re basically thumbing through profiles), Facebook Dating’s Technical Program Manager Charmaine Hung stressed that Facebook’s approach is much different. For one, Facebook Dating wants to encourage long-lasting relationships instead of hookups. But as for how successful Facebook Dating has been to stave off one night stands, Hung was coy about it, stating that Facebook doesn’t have the exact information. The social media giant wasn’t willing to disclose how many people are currently using the service either.

Screengrabs provided by Facebook

The dating service isn’t even a standalone app. Facebook Dating is a dedicated feature that lives within the Facebook app itself, but one that builds an independent dating profile separate from your main Facebook account. Activities on Facebook Dating are never shared onto Facebook profiles, and your Facebook friends won’t be able to see what your dating profile says. In fact, your dating profile will only use your first name, and existing Facebook connections won’t appear as potential matches — so no matching with your brothers, sisters, creepy family friends or other unwanted romantic interests.

No swiping at all, too. Facebook ensured that users will have to tap on the profiles of potential matches and actually explore their curated photos and bio. If you like any of the elements on the profile — say, an interesting photo, or an answer to a preset question — you can message the user about it. To prevent harassment and annoyingly needy comments, you can only message each match once, and the conversation can only continue if the match replies. As a safety measure, only text-based messages allowed when chatting, so no images, URLs and videos are allowed.

Finding love in an algorithmic place

Knowing that “inventory” in fresh countries needs to be built before Facebook’s algorithm properly kicks in, Hung advises newly opted-in users that it’ll take a wee bit of time before Facebook Dating can start recommending matches. She assured us that users won’t need to pay extra to access special features a la Tinder Gold, Bumble Boost or anything of that ilk. Facebook has no plans to monetise the service, harvest data for sales or introduce ads...at least for now.

Screengrabs provided by Facebook

What’s interesting here is that these matches are based on user preferences, common interests and things you do on Facebook, on top of finding potential paramours who’re in similar Facebook groups and events. This, Hung says, adds real-life value to the service — you could match with someone who’s also going to a Toro Y Moi show and make a date of it.

Safety in numbers

But what if the date turns out to be a bigoted douchebag who swore off showering, deodorant, and good manners? Facebook seems to be going all out in showcasing why and how it’s the safest way to date online, complete with policies that’ll protect the privacy (and sanity) of its users.

The policies could be regarded as a little harsh, Hung admits, but it’s all done to build a platform that’s as safe as possible. Facebook users with past community violations won’t even be able to access Facebook Dating, while the stringent one-strike policy permanently prevents blocked users from accessing the dating platform. On top of having the ability to include or omit mutual friends in the pool of suggested matches, users can also report or block someone at any point should they feel uncomfortable. Hung also brought up the matter of educating Facebook’s Community Operations Team about certain words or phrases that are deemed questionable enough to get alerts about.

After user feedback that women want to feel safe on dates (duh doy), Facebook Dating also has a feature that lets users share their locations live with friends and family — basically the ability to share their exact plans and whereabouts during dates to ensure utmost safety at all times. Future developments include blocking people ahead of time and a potential integration with Instagram, which should be a nice addition.

Beyond the friend zone

One thing that Facebook had been highly excited about is the introduction of a new Facebook Dating feature called “Secret Crush”, which we prefer to call Thirsting Your Friends. It would enable users to explore potential romantic relationships within their own friends list, and how it works is that they can select up to nine of their personal Facebook connections to express interest in.

This is where the Tinder-esque mechanics kick in — if the person you’re crushin’ on also adds you to their Secret Crush list, it’ll match you lovebirds up and get you into a chatroom to… profess your love, if you want. We can only imagine the initial awkwardness.

Screengrabs provided by Facebook

Thankfully, Secret Crush hinges on being anonymous, so no one — Facebook Dating users or not — will know that you’ve selected them to be a Secret Crush. In an uncharacteristically user-sensitive move, Facebook is ensuring that you face no fear of rejection.

But whether users in Singapore will come to embrace Facebook Dating is a whole other question, especially as the three big names in the business (Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid) have maintained dominance for years. Then there’s the issue of presenting Facebook with even more of your personal data, but Mark Zuckerberg himself has assured that his company’s take on dating was designed with “privacy and safety in mind from the beginning”. The man seems serious too, if we’re taking his promise about prioritising privacy seriously in Facebook’s upcoming overhaul.

 

ilyas@asiaone.com

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