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How do you remove the trolls from online dating?

Many apps have tried to come up with solutions, but no major breakthroughs yet

online harassment

One of the disadvantages of online dating, for women in particular, is that people can go off on profanity-laden tirades at your expense with virtually no consequences, since you usually don’t have any real life connections with those people.

Dating apps such as Hinge have tried to put a stop to that downside by only showing users potential matches who are Facebook friends of their Facebook friends, hoping that more personal connections will lead to an increased sense of accountability. The People app, to be released in November, has taken online accountability to an extreme by allowing users to post reviews of anyone they want, from ex-boyfriends/girlfriends to their mailmen.

Another app, called The Grade, has implemented a grading system. It’s like Tinder except you receive grades based on feedback from other users on your profile and messaging.

“[Creator Cliff Lerner said] The Grade is … about booting the people who do things like send unsolicited pictures of their manhood to other users, or stand up someone they were supposed to meet on a date,” according to Business Insider.

After using The Grade for a little while myself, I don’t know how well it serves that purpose. It’s basically a Tinder copycat. The grades aren’t really that prominent of an aspect of other users’ profiles, and, if you like someone’s profile, how deterred would you be from contacting that person if they had bad grades? You never know how they got those bad grades, or what specific or unusual circumstances led to bad interactions with other users that led to poor ratings.

Wouldn’t you want to see what that person is about for yourself? Isn’t dating all about sifting through the people you’re completely incompatible with, or not quite compatible with, to find the ones you can build relationships with? So if a user on The Grade doesn’t have the best grades, it might not have any bearing on the rating you would give that person. Maybe you’d be perfect for each other.

Even if a guy is a serial dick pic sender, an unsuspecting woman would have no way of knowing, since users can’t actually write their own feedback. All you get to do is answer yes or no to the question “is [user’s name] a quality person?” And then there are a few followup questions where you provide vague reinforcement for your answer in the form of multiple choice questions.

Although, if you maintain bad grades on The Grade they kick you off the app, so I guess that’s a pretty good way to weed out the users who rightfully receive poor feedback regularly. But if you do get banned, you can just go back to Tinder. So I don’t think the threat of being removed from a marginally popular dating app is the incentive that will make certain people behave more civilly in their messaging.

The one way The Grade is genuinely unique is through the statistics it provides. It shows the percentage of responses your opening messages generate and the percentage of right swipes that your profile picture generates, which is valuable feedback that the more popular dating apps don’t give.

“Lerner thinks that reviews, in some form, are the logical next step of dating apps,” according to Business Insider. “Someone has to deal with the fact that dating apps often devolve into an intensely hostile place for women, he says. He just doesn’t know yet whether The Grade will be the app to crack the code.”

I don’t think reviews are the answer. I think Hinge is on the right track by trying to make it so that everyone you’re messaging is a friend of a mutual friend. But their particular model has its drawbacks, since many people have Facebook friends that they don’t know particularly well in real life. So the app that cracks the code will probably be the one that ensures a personal connection really does exist with the matches you meet on dating apps.

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About Luke Harold Luke Harold is a journalist who has written for publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Orange County Register.

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