I tried video speed dating on my phone—here's what happened
In an era of swiping and liking, sending emojis and GIFs instead of actual sentences, and curating our online profiles more than our résumés, dating has lost its authenticity. Today, liking a square-sized photo has replaced catching a stranger’s eye, messaging “what’s up? :)” has replaced introducing ourselves with a real-life smile, and creeping on social media has replaced asking someone questions to get to know them on a first date.
Without question, face-to-face contact is missing in our tech-savvy world of online dating. Posed photos, three-word blurbs meant to encompass an entire person’s personality, and witty texts can create a false image of your new love interest before you even meet them. The truth is, there’s no better way to gauge a connection with someone than simply talking to them face-to-face. And in an age where Snapchat and FaceTime override good old-fashioned phone calls, we’re used to communicating through videos on our phones.
Enter: video speed dating, or as The League calls it, League Live.
The League is a dating app that launched in select cities in 2015. It’s pretty similar to most dating apps out there, but its newest feature offers something no other apps do: face-to-face introductions. Every Sunday, The League offers its live dating feature, League Live, where singles participate in six minutes of speed dating on the app (that’s three dates, two minutes each).
Here’s how it works: Once you click the video icon, you’ll join the waitlist for that week’s event. I was number 7,832 on the waitlist by the time I got in line on Sunday afternoon, but as soon as the clock struck 9 p.m., I was in.
If you don’t feel like getting all dressed up on a Sunday night, you’re not alone. I chose to wear no makeup, my glasses, and my coziest sweater that reads “WEEKEND.” Clearly, I was feeling lazy—it was the Sunday after Christmas, after all. The good news: League Live’s video feature isn’t set up like FaceTime where your image fills the entire phone screen.
Instead, your screen will show your date’s profile, with a small square video of them in the left-hand corner, and a small square video of you in the right-hand corner.
This means you can swipe through their profile while you chat to give you talking points like where they’re from, what they do, or you can even have a topic sparked from looking at one of their photos, just as if you were messaging them in-app. (One of my dates opened by saying, “I’m looking at a picture of you with a water ski and a dog on a boat,” to which I replied, “What could be better?” Obviously.)
So, once the countdown to 9 p.m. is over and you’re anxiously awaiting your first League Live date, profiles will start flashing on your screen. The League randomly selects a date for you, which could be someone you’ve already matched with or a completely new suitor/suitress. The selected person’s profile will appear on your screen, giving you about five seconds to give it a quick scan. The app will then give you the option to skip the suggested date, with “skip” and “chat” buttons appear on the screen. You can make this decision based on your potential date’s profile (just like how you’d normally “X” someone you didn’t want to match within the app). So, if you have certain deal-breakers like location or age, you can easily move on to a different date.
Something to note: Location doesn’t matter during League Live, so you could potentially be matched with someone who lives across the country from you.
This came as a surprise to me since when I had used the app’s main feature prior to trying League Live, I only saw matches who lived within 50 miles of me in New York or New Jersey. So, I was shocked when Rob* showed up on my screen (shirtless, no less) and told me he lives in Nashville. Rob and I had a nice chat (despite the weird amount of skin showing on his end), but I don’t have any interest in starting a long-distance relationship with someone I’ve never met. This informed the rest of my “skips” from then on. (Alas, another location-related mishap ensued: I matched with James*, whose location read Little Italy, a neighborhood in Manhattan. I had no idea there’s also a neighborhood called Little Italy in Chicago. Sorry, James*, but we have no future. I’ll treasure those two minutes forever.)
As you chat with your potential matches, a clock ticks in the corner, starting at two minutes, and quickly (or during some not-so-exciting conversations, at a snail’s pace) dwindling down to zero. This was intimidating at first—how can I charm this person in just two minutes?—but after the first go-around, it became kind of like a game—how charming can I be in two minutes? Conversations flowed more naturally than I expected them to, and the fast-paced vibe of getting to know someone was exciting.
It turns out, you can learn a lot about someone during two minutes of face-to-face conversation—a lot more than I’ve learned about matches I’ve messaged with for two weeks.
You have the option to match with your dates during your chats, or afterward when they show up in your next batch of suitors/suitresses in The League app. I didn’t find a solid connection during my first League Live experience (RIP James*), but the genuine human interaction was super refreshing. I’ll take a real laugh over “lol” any day.