© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Some Users Wary Of Facebook's Newest Venture In Online Dating


Mark Zuckerberg made a big announcement this week. Facebook is soon going to launch a new dating service. And he emphasized, it is for meaningful relationships but that is a hard standard to meet on a site that's full of people with very different intentions from love, to adultery, to annoying come-ons. NPR's Aarti Shahani, reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Fifteen years ago, Joe Miller of Oak Ridge, Tenn., met a nice lady at his book club.

JOE MILLER: She was there with her husband.

SHAHANI: Then, years passed. Facebook came along, and Miller spotted her name in a comment. Turns out, she was divorced. He reached out, they started chatting, eventually made dinner plans.

MILLER: It was unclear if we old friends getting together for dinner or if this was a date.

SHAHANI: He wanted it to be a date so he said so. And today, a year and a half later, they're a couple.

MILLER: I've never got a real interest in anybody else. She's intelligent, very kind, and sweet person. She's pretty much I think anything a person could want to run into.

SHAHANI: That is a Facebook love story. Then there's the experience of Tiffany Keith in Houston, Texas. She says she gets friend requests from men who claim to be in the military. This one guy said he was a four-star general and a medical doctor, but his pictures were odd.

TIFFANY KEITH: One particular one he's wearing scrubs and he's standing in front of a door and the door has lettering, which is a dentist's office.

SHAHANI: A dental office with a name that was not his.

KEITH: I'm like, my friend, you are a dental hygienist. You are not a four-star general.

SHAHANI: Keith is not a fan of Facebook's latest foray. She doesn't want her dating profile to be linked to her Facebook identity. She worries that'll make it too easy for potential matches to peer into the intimate details of her life.

KEITH: I don't want someone that I might want to date seeing pictures of my kid and my family.

SHAHANI: In recent weeks, Mark Zuckerberg has admitted he can be too optimistic. That's in part how 87 million Facebook user profiles fell into the hands of a political operative. This week, the 33-year-old CEO's optimism was on display once more.


MARK ZUCKERBERG: So today, we are announcing a new set of features, coming soon, around dating.

SHAHANI: He was on stage at a Facebook conference.


ZUCKERBERG: Now this is going to be - going to be for building real long-term relationships, not just hookups.

SHAHANI: Not just hookups.


ZUCKERBERG: We want Facebook to be somewhere where you can start meaningful relationships.

SHAHANI: There are two issues with this. First, casual dating is now a big part of many people's lives. And second...

MISIEK PISKORSKI: Unfortunately, there is no really a way to prescribe this. People will really appropriate this service in any way they like.

SHAHANI: Misiek Piskorski, a professor at IMD Business School, has studied social networks for 15 years. And with past platforms, he observed the practice of married men pretending to be single.

PISKORSKI: This is not something that I sort of dreamed up or I said, oh, this is sort of like possibilities. You actually see this in the data.

SHAHANI: Arum Kang is co-CEO of a popular dating app on Facebook. It's called Coffee Meets Bagel. Her app matches users with friends of friends. Now Facebook, a longtime partner, will become a competitor. But Kang has a prediction that Facebook's dating app will suffer from being too easy to use.

ARUM KANG: A product that's probably more of a low commitment, easy for the, you know, the majority of the users to access. I think naturally it will be more of a casual interaction than anything else.

SHAHANI: That said, Kang expects Facebook to take advantage of the depth of its user data to give its own dating product a leg up against others. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.
Up North Updates
* indicates required