Who do you think you're talking to? I log into the Tinder account of a year-old man from Texas—a client. Men and women though mostly men from all over the world pay this company to outsource the labor and tedium of online dating. But as e-romance hits an all-time high, our daily dose of rejection, harassment, and heartbreak creeps upward, too.
But where does the digital social assistant end and the con artist begin? The online seduction manual When I tell people that I work as an online-dating assistant, their initial reaction is of morbid curiosity. I received a callback three days later. Was I dating anyone currently? I learned that there are two main types of writers at the company: Despite hiring writers to do this work, virtually none of what the company does requires creativity of any kind. If a client has a dog jackpot!
As an animal lover, I want to find out your opinion… dressing up your dog: At first, my trainer encouraged me to get creative with my replies, but by the third week, I was still getting back extensive rewrites. My most frequent mistake was asking career-oriented questions, which were deemed too difficult for some women to answer.
The manuals have titles like Women On Demand and The Automatic Date Transition, and are loaded with his personal insights into the primal female brain. We are to treat them as dating-assistant gospel.
So if you want to have a chance at meeting your most intriguing matches, you need to have the best possible profile, photos, and messages. A suitcase full of cash. And a dashing co-pilot. For example, does Client X like to travel? When a client pairs up, they leave the service. His idea for a digital-dating-assistant service started in , when he was frustrated with the amount of time it took to search for matches online. I asked my coworkers how they handle the moral flexibility that the work demands.
There are required monthly team meetings, in which Closers help workshop opening messages and pitch new ideas. While the list of company-approved opening lines is constantly evolving, the formula is almost always the same: I sit on my couch and wait for messages to arrive in their inbox. I was three weeks into my contract when I encountered a client whose age was listed as Written beside his photos was a casual disclaimer: So big lies about important facts undermine that goal.
We make sure our clients understand that. Every client must answer 50 or so questions about themselves when they first sign up and go through a minute interview, supplying Profile Writers and Closers with nuggets of mundane information. After working as a Closer for two years, Doug had asked to switch to Profile Writing. But the Closer is no longer allowed to reply, so he ghosts her. It was easier for him that way.
These clients tend to be younger men in high-powered finance jobs. Valdez said that the typical client profile tends to be somebody between the ages of about 28 and 52, with most being in their 30s. He also claims that one third of their clients are female. From there, it divides into two camps: We get a lot of them. Valdez referenced a recent survey that shows online love seekers are spending 10 hours a week on dating sites and apps. So the need a company like ViDA fills is allowing them to delegate this particular aspect of their lives to an expert, just as many have financial planners, landscapers, personal trainers, and mechanics on speed dial.
These are the types of clients Doug and Valdez always refer to when justifying the service, as our work helps them navigate unfamiliar territory. After all, internet culture does not come naturally to some, and many of our clients are widowed or divorced retirees. I asked one of my trainers if the company takes on any married clients. Matchmakers will select their best photos, Profile Writers will make them sound appealing, and Closers will do all the flirting for them.
My trainer was quick to reassure me that they refuse those prospective clients. But legality aside, these cut-and-paste flirtations perpetuate negative gender stereotypes, and they reinforce an oversimplified and destructive view of romantic expectations.
Men and women on online-dating platforms therefore learn to emulate personalities that yield quantifiable results. As dating platforms become flooded with calculated, flirtatious spam, men and women on these sites learn to emulate personalities that yield quantifiable results.
This means playing down unique traits and unorthodox views to the point where a total stranger—like me—could literally do it in their place. By trying to appeal to dozens, if not hundreds, of strangers at the same time, we forfeit our ability to take risks and experiment with social norms; only placing safe bets robs us of new and genuine experiences. I wrote out an apology for her loss and sent it to my instructor for approval.
He crossed out my response and wrote underneath: I expected to never hear back from her, but three exchanges later, she was sending me her phone number. It was my first commission: Or was she learning—just as I was—that reaching out for a unique connection online would lead only to awkwardness and rejection?
As the disillusioned masses learn to offer less and expect nothing, companies like these can take advantage of this extraordinarily low barrier to entry. As a result, businesses such as these are an economic inevitability. Women seeking out our services require a very different approach.
Does the match want children? Are they looking for something serious? Are they dating anyone else right now? None of the men fit her description of what she wanted, so by the end of the first week, I had not pursued any phone numbers. I decided to make my exit soon after. My initial curiosity about these dating assistants had morphed steadily into deep disgust: The sight of my first paycheck sent me crawling back to bed in a guilt-ridden panic.
I grew suspicious of my own dating accounts—not just of the men I matched with, but of my own ability to present a likable version of myself online. Every new conversation felt like a minefield, filling me with equal parts boredom and dread. To my dismay, I started to want my own virtual dating assistant.
This all begs the question: Have you unknowingly flirted with a professional Closer? As we grow accustomed to foisting more and more complicated emotional tasks onto digital butlers, we lose our ability to tolerate inelegance or find value in social failure. Moments of awkwardness and heartbreak are an inevitable part of the dating experience, and they are essential in our evolution into mature adults.
By outsourcing our courtship to robots and robot-like humans we might save ourselves some pain in the short term, but it degrades us, simplifies us, and fails to provide for our ultimate goal of finding someone accepting of our flaws. Follow Chloe on Twitter. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas qz. This piece was updated with a more recent opening line currently in rotation that is sent by Matchmakers.