Dating Apps Attempt to Embrace the New Age
Riding the crest of the spirituality craze, dating app RLOVE wants to put the soul back in your swipe
We’re tired of swiping, and the apps know it.
From Facebook Dating’s mission to connect people based on the wealth of personal information they’ve been feeding the social media giant for the past 15 years to Tinder’s new in-app interactive apocalyptic drama series designed to match users based on mutual choose your own adventure decisions, the biggest players in the dating app space are going to increasingly bizarre lengths to combat mounting swipe fatigue.
As apps scramble to put some soul back into swiping (or at least the illusion of it), newcomer RLOVE is going straight to the source, attempting to make a name for itself in a simultaneously saturated and fatigued space as the first ever “spiritual-based dating app.” Based on a variety of “spiritual, physical and lifestyle dimensions,” the app claims to connect users by identifying their unique “soul signatures.”
While such talk of “lifestyle dimensions” and “soul signatures” may call to mind a certain white-washed, Goopy brand of westernized spirituality currently popular among aspiring Instagram influencers hawking healing crystals, RLOVE’s creators maintain that the app isn’t just trying to cash in on the rising spirituality trend — and it’s got the backstory to prove it.
“It’s not like we got tons of funding and we’re just riding this trend,” RLOVE creative partner and lead designer Steffen Hoffman tells InsideHook. “It’s totally free right now and it’s a service being offered because Gerry felt called to connect these people.”
“Gerry,” AKA Gerard Powell, is the app’s founder and CEO. He’s also the founder and CEO of Rythmia Life Advancement Center, a spirituality-focused wellness resort in Costa Rica offering a variety of spiritual ceremonies and wellness practices, including ayahuasca, yoga and life-coaching. According to RLOVE’s circulated PR lore, Powell developed the app after noticing guests at his center often felt unable to connect romantically with current or prospective partners who didn’t share their spiritual experience — the spirituality version of breaking up with your college girlfriend who just doesn’t get you anymore after your life-changing semester abroad.
“Rythmia’s doing such great work of transforming lives,” says Hoffman. “You see people liberating themselves, moving on with their lives, and it’s beautiful.” The problem, he explains, is that when these people leave, they often find that their old lives — and old partners — no longer suit them.
It feels inclusive enough that even though it’s niche, it’s almost subconsciously or surreptitiously spiritual
RLOVE hopes to rectify this by connecting the spiritually inclined with those of a similar persuasion, but it’s not just for those with the spiritual (or financial) depth to embark on a Costa Rican new age wellness retreat. “It feels inclusive enough that even though it’s niche, it’s almost subconsciously or surreptitiously spiritual,” says Hoffman. The app welcomes the spiritual and spiritually curious alike, creating each user’s “soul signature” based on their answers to a variety of questions pertaining to spiritual interests and practices, such as plant medicine and meditation, as well more standard lifestyle questions like family planning goals, dietary preferences, body type and physical fitness levels.
Naturally, those latter questions have sparked some criticism from those who argue a spirituality-based app shouldn’t concern itself with matters of physical appearance. According to Hoffman, however, RLOVE isn’t interested in championing an ultimately unattainable version of spirituality in which the spiritual is entirely divorced from the physical.
“We feel that for your soul signature, it’s a more full-spectrum view of the person,” says Hoffman. “We’ve found that height matters to some people, even if they are spiritual, or body type or income range. It matters to some people, even if they’re walking this path.” It’s this blend of the spiritual and the ordinary that makes RLOVE accessible to users who want to bring spirituality out of the secluded wellness retreat bubble and into their everyday lives and relationships. “You don’t have to be deeply on this path where you totally dissolve your ego to find people,” he says. “That’s not what we’re trying to get at.”
In fact, one of the app’s most groundbreaking features may actually have more to do with the physical than the spiritual. When setting up a new profile, RLOVE asks users whether they prefer to be matched only with STI-free individuals or whether they’re “open-minded and willing to listen.”
It’s an unapologetically leading question, driven home by an accompanying reminder that “50 – 80% of the population has oral herpes,” complete with a link to corresponding CDC research. Unsurprisingly, it’s been one of the app’s more divisive features. “It is one of those polarizing things,” says Hoffman. “When people get to it they definitely have an opinion on it.” And while, as Hoffman notes, that opinion has been mixed, RLOVE’s frank approach to sexual health may be what actually sets the app apart from its myriad competitors in the dating app space.
Regardless of your experience and feelings about either dating apps or new age spirituality, it’s easy enough to roll your eyes at a spirituality dating app. While some may write RLOVE off as yet another testament to an increasingly commodified brand of appropriated spirituality, the more cynical among us may be tempted to mock the app for embracing spirituality at all, while still other weary swipers may question the purpose of any new platform in the saturated dating app space.
Either way, it’s important to remember that no dating app is grasping at more bizarre straws than Tinder, which, in case you missed it the first time, literally launched an in-app choose your own adventure apocalyptic drama series that is somehow supposed to influence your matches. If Tinder can pull that, there’s no reason you shouldn’t let another app design your soul signature and maybe take a good hard look at your attitudes toward sexual health while you’re there. There are far weirder, more pointless things you could be swiping on. Namaste.