Screenshot via Carrot Dating
In the convoluted hellscape that novelty dating sites live in, it takes a really unique feature to stand out. Take Carrot Dating. It's an app that incorporates a surface-level, quid-pro-quo-dating model, and might just be ridiculous enough to work. I instantly downloaded the app to find out.
In a piece published by Al Jazeera America yesterday, MIT entrepreneur and app creator Brandon Wade explains the concept of letting users (who may lack confidence, or sociability, or physical attractiveness)
bribe incentivize potential dates that are supposedly hot with a wide range of lures. Bribes include:
- Spa Day
- Shopping Spree
- Sky-Diving Trip
- Bouquet of Flowers
- Box of Chocolates
- Tank of Gas
- Piece of Jewelry
- Plastic Surgery Treatment
- Night Club
- Sporting Event
The Internet erupted, calling Wade's app "thinly veiled prostitution," and shaming him and his carrot-stick concept before ever actually trying it. I think it's fair to say that, even if the app were requiring reciprocity in kind, a coffee isn't going to get me laid. My favorite bribe from this list is a tank of gas, but call me a sucker for indie movie romance.
But the Carrot Dating app does make a great point about transactional relationships. We live in a world in which expensive gifts and outlandish dinners are sometimes par for the course for attracting a mate. Whether that's bad or not depends on your own opinion, but is it any worse if the arrangement is laid out in an app?
Of course, Wade couldn't be happier with the explosion of press he's receiving. He tells me that Carrot Dating, which is available on both iOS and Android, has pulled down 30,000 new downloads over the last 24 hours alone.
It's not too much of a leap from the orthodoxy of some other paid dating sites, where a certain allotment of credits allows you to buy digital gifts for people you're interested in. But in this case, it's not digital. And really, why would a potential cougar suddenly warm up to me because I used money-turned-into-fake-credits to buy her a .jpeg of a teddy bear? What Carrot Dating does is actually hold you accountable for those gifts. Is that so bad?
We'll just have to see if the app has its success. (Which, under a CEO who has expertise in economically-driven dating and an arsenal of other sugar daddying websites, we can only expect.) But perhaps it'll it just end up a failed joke, like Bang with Friends.
Perhaps the announcer's over-the-top British accent in the ad above is an indication of how seriously Carrot Dating is prepared to take itself. If anything, I think it's a great metaphor about the non-committal state of online dating where, generally speaking, users evading rejection tend to state up front in a bio how they don't take this thing very seriously.
But a platform where
bribery incentive is the threshold between dorks and dimensionless babes is anything but un-serious. Right?
Screenshot taken in Carrot Dating app by author
So far, I've bribed four different girls with tattoos, because I figure it's the highest possible return on investment. That is, if I just get them temporary tattoos. I felt like coffee is already my go-to first offering on most dates that I arrange through other sites and apps, and a soy latte doesn't feel like much.
The app required confirmation of my solemnity in the click of a button each time I created a bribe. It's too bad this girl will have to buy herself airfare from Australia before she's able to get that tattoo.
The app isn't very popular yet, which means most women I've attempted to bribe will have to travel over 200 miles to redeem my offer in New York City. (That's right, I didn't see anyone in New York City using the app yet.) I considered bribing a girl from Al Jazeera to join the app so I could bribe her in the app, and then we could show the world how good—or bad—Carrot Dating actually is. But we mutually arrived at the decision that it wouldn't be organic—or ethical journalism, for that matter.
But let's face it, most dates have some form or another of unbalanced reciprocity. Perhaps that's all that Carrot Dating is trying to highlight. Whether or not you've met "the one," you're likely making some sort of compromise. And likely, if you think about it, you're able to assess some type of value to whatever that compromise is. For instance, plastic people can be an unworthy investment of patience. And coffee can range from Dunkin' to artisanal pour-overs. My motto in online dating? It is what you put into it.
So we'll see. For now, I'll just be standing by for a few good dates, from hundreds and thousands of miles away, to come collect on some temporary tats.