“Maybe you’ll find a nice Jewish boy!” said every mother of every young Jewish person ever when they make their first foray into the world of dating in 2016. Some millennials find a mate through a friend, coworkers, or in college these days. If they don’t — there are the murky waters of dating apps.
We might consider dating apps such as Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel the superficial little siblings of those old standbys, dating websites (remember Match.com?). In Jewish life, the now 19-year-old JDate has some hefty competition from JSwipe. For those of you who’ve never used the app (or already have found mates and have no need for it — lucky you), JSwipe, as the name suggests, allows users to swipe through a roster of Jewish singles in their area.
But even a digital lexicon of “nice young Jewish boys and girls” is not exempt from the downsides of dating apps. Anonymity, not surprisingly, gives people the liberty to be jerks. I don’t use JSwipe, but plenty of my friends do. I’ve heard all the horror stories: creepy first lines; girls demanding guys pay on the first through third dates; guys “ghosting” on girls they lose interest in after a few weeks.
Some young Jewish people may feel that dating apps like JSwipe are the only options around for finding a mate. I asked Lori Salkin, a professional matchmaker with SawYouAtSinai.com and YUConnects.com, about Jewish dating in the age of swiping.
Matchmaking might sound old-fashioned, but it’s still en vogue in the Jewish community, especially in more religious circles, she said.
One benefit to using a matchmaker is that it avoids the possibility of a partner “ghosting” on you. According to Lori, most people who use a matchmaker aren’t interested in casual sex. “It’s for people who are looking for a serious relationship that will hopefully end in marriage, though not necessarily tomorrow,” she said.
I wanted to know how Lori’s service differs from the matchmaker my great great-grandparents used in Poland. As it turns out, modern matchmaking uses social media almost as much as JSwipe does. Matchmaking in 2016 is a hybrid of social media-based dating and the old-fashioned wisdom of a neutral third party. “What’s changed is instead of meeting the butcher’s son through your grandmother, you’ll find him through a tech-savvy matchmaker who uses Facebook, Google searches and private databases like SawYouAtSinai to find you your perfect match,” Lori said.
Matchmakers even created an app of their own. It’s called JBolt. The app gives users the fun of swiping left and right on potential matches. When a match has been made, actual matchmakers step in to verify that the pairing is a compatible one, not merely based on physical attraction, and to offer their professional guidance. “We created JBolt to simultaneously bring the human touch to the dating app world, and bring the efficiency of the smartphone to the matchmaking world,” Marc Goldmann, JBolt’s founder, said.
Not counting JBolt, social media may be changing the dating game for the worse, in Lori’s expert opinion. “There’s some element of deceit in 2016,” she said. “People are photoshopping their pictures. They want to paint a perfect life so they’re posting pictures that make them look perfect.”
On the other hand, some things never change. One trend she’s seen in young couples looking for love is the classic gender double standard. “When girls call me to discuss a match, the first thing they ask is ‘What does he do?’ I have a very short list of girls who will date teachers or social workers.” So what are the men looking for? “Guys ask ‘Is she hot?’ or say, ‘I just looked her up on Facebook. She’s not my type.’ They don’t want to know about the woman’s career.”
Yikes. Both sides have it hard, according to Lori. She feels bad for the young men she works with, who often feel pressure to impress women with a high-profile job. At the same time, even 50 years after the second wave of feminism, men are intimidated by women with successful careers. “I know many extremely successful women, doctors and lawyers, who struggle to get dates because men are intimidated by them,” she said.
Then there is the competition among women. “21 year-old girls are photoshopping themselves to look older, while 29 year-old girls with successful careers don’t care about those things,” Lori said. Who gets the guy in the end? “The guys in their thirties always choose the 21-year-olds. “The guy will always rely on the photo.”
If young people are so obsessed with photos, how is matchmaking any different from JSwipe? Here lies the real advantage of using an actual human being to make your love match rather than an algorithm. Lori doesn’t allow her clients to see pictures of potential mates first thing.
“I want to bring the person to life for the client while we’re on the phone first,” she said. “Who is he, first. I want to hear the guy respond before he sees the picture. Attraction is very important, but looks eventually fade. If you have a great connection, you’ll always see that person how they looked when you first met.”
Matchmaking, especially as it’s modernized alongside 21st century technology, may be a great option for young Jewish people who are tired of the superficiality of dating apps. ““Singles always tell me that having a matchmaker is an advantage in dating,” Lori said. “I’ve held hands with some singles all the way to the chuppah. Everyone should try it. And nobody should give up on finding love. It’s a frustrating, long road, but I often get calls about clients getting engaged a year after I set them up.”
Aw. It’s almost enough to make any jaded millennial believe in love again.