Why are exclusive dating apps usually so disappointing?
BY ANNA IOVINE
In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating.
~ When I first heard of Lox Club, a glossy, exclusive dating app for young Jewish people, I audibly gasped.
Its minimal spun the tale of the real-life Lox Club, a speakeasy turned hangout for Jewish elite during the twentieth century. Now, Lox Club has been given the millennial rebrand complete with a sleek logo and . In 2021, Lox Club is a “private, membership-based dating app for Jews with ridiculously high standards.”
I hurriedly downloaded the app and filled out an application. Days later, I received a notification letting me know I was accepted.
And then the app asked me to pay up.
While I was initially surprised, every “exclusive” dating app I’ve come across costs money. In the case of Lox Club, the cheapest option is $35.99 for three months. A premium subscription goes hand-in-hand with the mission of exclusivity: Not being willing or able to pay for a dating app just whittles down its clientele, making it all more elite.
So, too, does an app’s waitlist. Lox Club’s is currently at 20,000 people according to a spokesperson, though they did not respond to other questions about the app. In 2018, on it. Raya, which didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, is a dating app known mostly for hosting celebrities.
The test is whether you either a) fit whatever criteria those who run the app deem worthy of acceptance and/or b) want to be in the app so badly you stay on the waitlist long enough.
Cost and waitlists are at the crux of the problem with exclusive dating apps: They only attract people who both can and want to be on them, and the result is usually disappointing.
I recall getting into Raya some years ago; I used a, or a referral. I can’t tell you exactly when or what it was like or what C-lister I stumbled upon — because I barely used it. I must’ve sprung for the $8 they were charging for a month back then, however, because I vaguely remember its interface.
I was at once over and underwhelmed. As described in profiles on Raya are slideshows of people’s photos paired with a song of their choice. (screen recordings aren’t mentioned but, presumably, they’re also discouraged), so I couldn’t even share what I was seeing with friends. Perhaps that’s good for — but wouldn’t she want to send screenshots to friends, too?
What most turned me off Raya, however, was its pool of people. It was not only void of celebrities who’d whisk me away and pay off my student loans, but there also seemed to be a “type” pervading the app. People who went to the gym every day and explicitly wanted their partners to as well; people on step-and-repeats in contrived poses; people smizing in Expensive Suits with Big Coffees because they are Important.
What most turned me off Raya, however, was its pool of people.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that on its own — but when that’s the entirety of an app’s user base, it gets old fast. It did, for me, as I gave up on Raya soon after getting in — and , either.
Another popular exclusive app is , meant for college graduates and “professionals” — whatever that means. An anonymous would-be League user told me that in 2018, the app told them they didn’t allow for same-sex connections, and that they were “building that feature out later.” The League hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.
The lack of potential for queer connections speaks to what’s wrong with these apps in the first place: Acceptances are based on the people who work there. If the people who work at The League aren’t queer, they wouldn’t think that being able to queer date on the app is important. It results in a cherry-picked user base that you may enjoy.
Or, if you’re like me, you’ll suck it up and go back to Tinder or Bumble or Hinge or the many other dating apps without a waitlist.
So will these be the downfall of Lox Club? Is the clientele like that of Raya, or are they retrograde like The League? Nope — neither of those things have been true so far. I’ve matched with men as well as other women, and there’s not a step-and-repeat in sight. So what’s the problem?
The problem, as far as I can see it, with Lox Club is its cost. It didn’t deter me from trying it out, but here’s what may keep me from staying: There just aren’t many Lox Club users who live where I do, in New York City. I blew through local profiles weeks ago, and now see people who live in Nashville and Toronto and Los Angeles. I don’t want to find a long-distance love on a dating app, and that concept is even more laughable during a pandemic.
The reality of dating apps is that, to be useful, they have to have a wide array of people who live in relatively close proximity. In the virtual speed dating that is swiping, having access to only one type of person, or only people who live across the country, or not a lot of people to begin with — it doesn’t bode well.
And when you have to pay for the experience on top of it? It’s no wonder that more recent call it “useless,” “obsolete,” even “a joke.” aren’t much better. When app employees and the algorithm they create decide who’s on a dating app, it’s easy to imagine many disappointed customers. The customer has to be one of the Chosen Ones who happen to be attracted to the other Chosen Ones.
For now, however, I want to keep my Lox Club subscription. While writing this story, “Team Lox Club” texted members about partnerships with bars and delis (and, not shockingly, brands):
I’m interested to see where this’ll go, especially as COVID vaccines become more available and maybe, just maybe, in-person dating becomes possible again. I’m interested if more people near me will get off the thousands-deep waitlist, if it will grow enough to use with the same ease as Tinder.
If not, it may go the way of other exclusive apps: disappointing and deleted.
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