Online daters looking for more than endless swiping

LOUISE DIXON
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Relationships Digital Dating

In this undated photo provided by Hinge is a page from the dating app. Justin McLeod, who launched Hinge in 2011, thinks that dating apps should be focused on getting people offline. Hinge's tag line is "the app that's designed to be deleted." (Hinge via AP)

LONDON (AP) — While taboos surrounding online dating are long gone, some of today’s app users are sick of the endless swiping and virtual pen-paling that leads nowhere when it comes to long-term relationships, according to industry leaders who are responding with new ways to get users off their phones and out meeting people in the real world.

David Vermeulen is one such leader. His Inner Circle, launched in 2012, is more closely curating users looking for meaningful connections, and he's hosting offline events in cities around the globe to help make that happen among his more than 2 million members. He said he saw a big shift in online dating attitudes toward the end of the decade as some people have become “Tinder tired.”

“They really now are looking for something more serious, something more genuine,” Vermeulen said.

Justin McLeod, who launched Hinge in 2011, shares Vermeulen’s view that dating apps should be focused on getting people offline. Hinge’s tag line is the app that's "designed to be deleted.”

In 2016, Hinge intentionally removed the swipe option to encourage more interaction. When they were told that people felt overwhelmed by their number of choices, they created a “most compatible” function. That, he said, "really helps people focus and get out on dates faster.”

The Inner Circle plans to add a “Let’s Meet" button to speed up the pathway from app to real-life date.

“If you both click it, you can within the chat select days and venues that we propose and then you can go on a date really quickly. And I mean going out for a coffee. I mean, that's the first step. But for a lot of people, it's quite a big step and we tried to make that much more easy," Vermeulen said.

His app also plans to add an automated response to anyone who just messages “Hi” as an introduction, which he said is often a dead-end to dating.

“We're gonna say, OK, this is not the best start for a conversation. You have to do better," Vermeulen said.

It's not just the newer generation of apps that are adapting to changing dating attitudes. OkCupid is one of the original dating sites, started by two Harvard math graduates in 2004. Beginning life as a desktop website, it developed into an app with the advent of smartphones. Today, OkCupid boasts that it sets up 50,000 dates per week.

The site enforces certain restrictions to try and weed out those not interested in getting to that date. The company insists that users post more than one photo and puts them through a list of localized timely questions before a profile can be set up. So if you thought you should avoid talking politics or religion on a first date, it seems the tides are turning. Users can filter based on their views from climate change to Brexit.

“In the U.S., we may ask you, how do you feel the upcoming election? We may say, could you date someone that didn't vote?” said OkCupid’s global chief marketing officer, Melissa Hobley.

According to a Pew Research Center study last year, 3 in 10 Americans have used a dating site or app and 12 percent have married or have been in a committed relationship with someone they met through online dating.

Hobley said one of the most exciting developments as digital dating moves into the 2020s is in emerging markets including India, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, where dating hasn’t always been so easy.

In India, for example, a new generation of women are "going to university, and they're working, and they're saying arranged marriage is not for me, and I want the ability to find my own person, and for my marriage to be a choice that I make,” she said.

Hobley has also seen strides in inclusiveness and support throughout LGBTQ communities, creating a safe space to express gender and sexuality preferences and to meet potential partners.

“An estimated 70 to 80 percent of LGBTQ relationships started on a dating app,” she said.

For Hobley, the love doesn't stop there. She said she gets an average of 5 to 20 wedding emails and invites a week.

“I will crash your wedding,” she jokes, “but we also send a gift.”

___

Associated Press writer Alicia Rancilio in New York contributed to this story.

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    A Zimbabwean entrepreneur in Africa's top tobacco producer has launched the first local brand of hand-rolled cigars, defying coronavirus and economic odds to light up manufacturing. The southern African nation produced more than 252 million kilogrammes of tobacco last year, making it the sixth largest producer in the world. Upon returning last year to his homeland after 15 years working in the United States, Shep Mafundikwa was determined to start a business that would "benefit" Zimbabwe.

  • Virus sours July 4 celebrations in US as Mexico cases soar
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    AFP News

    Virus sours July 4 celebrations in US as Mexico cases soar

    A surge in coronavirus cases sapped the fun out of July 4 celebrations in the United States as the pandemic also accelerated through neighboring Mexico, the rest of Latin America and South Africa. The United States remains by far the world's hardest-hit country, logging a further 43,000 cases Saturday that brought its total number of infections to more than 2.8 million, with nearly 130,000 deaths.

  • Flood death toll hits 20 as Japan warned of more rainfall
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    Reuters

    Flood death toll hits 20 as Japan warned of more rainfall

    The death toll from floods and landslides unleashed by torrential rains on Japan's southern island of Kyushu rose to 20 on Sunday, with 14 people missing, NHK public TV said. More heavy rain is forecast after Saturday's deadly deluge in the Kumamoto prefecture, Japan's worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year left about 90 people dead. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of Japan's disaster response task force to step up the search and rescue operations.

  • New Zealand's Ardern launches election campaign with promises of jobs, financing
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    Reuters

    New Zealand's Ardern launches election campaign with promises of jobs, financing

    Ardern's rise to become New Zealand's most popular prime minister in a century, buoyed by her response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left the country largely unscathed, has boosted her prospects in the Sept. 19 election. Ardern's Labour Party, governing in a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First party, will face the National Party in what is expected to be a pandemic-dominated campaign.

  • Ghana president self-isolates despite negative virus test
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    AFP News

    Ghana president self-isolates despite negative virus test

    Ghana's president has gone into self-isolation for two weeks as a precautionary measure despite testing negative for coronavirus, the government said, after one of his contacts was confirmed to have the illness. President Nana Akufo-Addo began his quarantine on Saturday and will be working from the presidential villa in Accra, capital of the West African country, the information minister said in a statement. "(The president) has, as (of) today, tested negative, but has elected to take this measure out of the abundance of caution."

  • National security law won’t affect overseas students much in Hong Kong’s universities, PolyU deputy president says
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    South China Morning Post

    National security law won’t affect overseas students much in Hong Kong’s universities, PolyU deputy president says

    Hong Kong’s universities are likely to continue attracting international students despite the introduction of a sweeping national security law, according to Polytechnic University’s deputy president and provost Alexander Wai Ping-kong.“Universities in Hong Kong have a good reputation and do well in international rankings. Many students from mainland China and overseas are still interested in studying here,” he said in an interview with the Post on Friday.He also expected the law to have only a limited impact on PolyU’s academic and research activities.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.For the coming academic year, however, the combination of last year’s anti-government protests and the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline in applications from non-local students, particularly from mainland China, for taught postgraduate programmes.Wai, a PolyU veteran of more than two decades, revealed that the university received about 20,000 applications for taught postgraduate programmes this year, a steep 28 per cent decline from last year.The city’s universities have seen challenging times, with several campuses affected by last year’s anti-government protests, and the pandemic causing classes to be suspended for more than four months this year.PolyU was among the hardest hit last November, when radicals occupied the Hung Hom campus for almost a fortnight, engaged in violent clashes with police and left buildings and facilities trashed.More than 1,100 were arrested over the incident, of which only 46 were students of the university.The national security law, which came into effect on June 30, outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism as well as collusion with foreign and external forces, and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the most serious offences.The law, tailor-made for the city by Beijing, also requires schools and universities to promote national security education to raise public awareness, leaving critics worried it could curb freedom of speech and academic freedom.Wai said PolyU had not received any government guidelines on the new law, but its academic council would be meeting soon to discuss the matter.If there are requirements under the new legislation, we would of course have to abide by the lawAlexander Wai, PolyU deputy president“If there are requirements under the new legislation, we would of course have to abide by the law,” he said.He believed, however, that the new law would have only a limited impact on the university’s academic and research activities, which were focused mainly on subjects such as engineering and applied sciences.The United States responded to the law by threatening restrictions on exporting dual-use technology to Hong Kong, but Wai said this would “barely affect” PolyU’s research work as many alternative sources of such technology were available.While some overseas students might have concerns about choosing Hong Kong, Wai felt the impact from those who stayed away would be “marginal” because international students came not only from the US and Europe, but also South Asia and Africa.“I think the new law might even boost the confidence of some parents from mainland China to send their children to Hong Kong for taught and research postgraduate programmes,” he added. Most Hong Kong universities rise in QS global rankings despite disruptionsThis year’s sharp decline in applications for taught postgraduate programmes at PolyU was a stark contrast from last year, when the numbers rose by about 26 per cent from the year before.The drop in mainland Chinese applicants was noticeable, and Wai said it could be because of ongoing political instability in Hong Kong. Last year’s protests had a strong anti-Beijing aspect and some mainland students decided to return home.Most of the damage caused by protesters’ occupation of PolyU last November has been repaired, with strengthened security measures put in place.Wai said there was also a decline in local students applying for taught postgraduate programmes, which could be the result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Scores of Chinese students flee Hong Kong over fears they will be attackedApplications for bachelor’s programmes by non-local students were down nearly 10 per cent by June. But Wai said the numbers could change as mainland Chinese university entrance exams were only taking place this month after being delayed by the pandemic.Several Hong Kong universities announced last week that some online classes might be retained in the new semester starting in September, although they planned to return gradually or partially to face-to-face teaching during the term.At PolyU, Wai said, classes of fewer than 50 would be conducted face-to-face in the new term, with social distancing in place. Larger classes will be taught online.Wai said PolyU would arrange off-campus accommodation for students who need to be quarantined.Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire is a new book of essays that chronicles the political confrontation that has gripped the city since June 2019. Edited by the South China Morning Post's Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam, the book draws on work from the Post's newsrooms across Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington and Singapore, with unmatched insights into all sides of the conflict. Buy directly from SCMP today and get a 15% discount (regular price HKD$198). It is available at major bookshops worldwide or online through Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and eBooks.com.More from South China Morning Post: * Applications to universities outside Hong Kong soar amid concerns over protests, looming national security law * Coronavirus: some Hong Kong universities to still have online learning in place when semester kicks off in September * Hong Kong national security law: how will it affect businesses? Uncertainty over overseas funds, foreign offices * Canada suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid national security law fearsThis article National security law won’t affect overseas students much in Hong Kong’s universities, PolyU deputy president says first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

  • Prostitution in post-lockdown Greece is 'Russian roulette'
    Health
    AFP News

    Prostitution in post-lockdown Greece is 'Russian roulette'

    A central Athens brothel was buzzing with clients on a recent hot July afternoon, and its Venezuelan workers were relieved to have the business. A list of strict hygiene and safety rules were announced by the Greek authorities to protect clients and the workers, who are more exposed to the risk of infection than those in almost any other profession. "They are ridiculous," said Dimitra Kanellopoulou, president of Greece's sex workers' association.