Filter Off: The speed-dating video app proving popular during the pandemic
"Online dating will be permanently changed by Covid-19."
Zach Schleien was sick of online dating. Tired of swiping and fatigued by messaging, he was finding it difficult to make any notable connections using typical dating apps.
So, he decided to create his own instead.
"This happened a year and a half ago, pre-Covid," he tells Her. "I've always been really into online dating, the idea of connecting romantically through the internet and meeting somebody you'd never normally meet, it's fascinating."
Pre-pandemic, Zach was faced with the ever perpetual headaches of online dating: swiping, messaging back and forth, and eventually agreeing to meet up, only to discover that a) there was little to no chemistry and b) they didn't really look like their photographs.
Eventually Zach started asked his matches if they'd like to video chat before meeting up, to save them both the hassle of going on a date that was bound to be a flop.
Most women were, unsurprisingly, not game.
"I was, like, it'll be so much more efficient," he says. "I'll see if I like them, they'll see if they like me, it helps both of us. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, most women said no.
"They were uncomfortable jumping on video with a total stranger."
Zach quickly realised what was missing from the online dating market: an app that put video first and focused on personality and chemistry, rather than just photos.
Filter Off first launched a year and a half ago, and relaunched again just one month before the Covid-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, Zach noticed that users were a lot less wary of video dates than they would have been before.
"The cultural acceptance of video chatting has increased suddenly," he says. "Otherwise, it may have taken five years to get to where we are now.
"One apprehension that people have is that they're nervous, they get first date jitters before going on the app.
"But you're going to be nervous anyway if you're going on a date in real life. It's a similar feeling to what people were experiencing pre-pandemic. We wanted to imitate this intersection between offline and online dating."
Filter Off is like Tinder in that it generates matches. But Filter Off is unlike Tinder in that there's no swiping, no visible profile photos (until after you match), and maybe most notably, there's actual dates.
The app will generate three video speed-dates per user per night. Each date will last 90 seconds allowing users to give dates a taste of their personality, vibe, and sense of humour - all of those fairly crucial aspects of a person that are bound to make or break a potential relationship.
Users are then given the option to match with their dates, opening them up to the prospect of more video chats or - when it's safe to do so - real life dates.
"It's not like Chat Roulette, where it's all just random people," says Zach, just as I was about to compare the app to the Chat Roulette, where it's all just random people.
"The photos are blurred but you can see the profile, so you can see who they are, you just can't see their photos.
"You know what you're getting. When you're swiping it's all based off looks and that's unfortunate, but when you're on video you can show who you are, your personality. It's a more authentic way of dating."
Filter Off's paradigm, says Zach, is to cut the swiping. He doesn't see the point in it.
And while he recognises that that most people tend to have multiple dating apps installed on their phone, he believes that Filter Off is giving users something they didn't have access to before - at least not online.
"When you're just swiping, you could be on the toilet," he says.
"Most people have more than one dating app. You've got your swiping app for when you're bored and then you've got Filter Off if you wanted to go on a date, something you can actually show up for.
"I do feel like online dating will be permanently changed by Covid-19. Is there always going to be room for swiping? Of course, video won't be for everyone.
"[But] people are feeling really disconnected at the moment. People are living alone, living with family, they're not socialising and they're seeking that real connection."
You can find out more about, or download Filter Off, here.