People are outsourcing dating and romance, but what if it works?
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People are outsourcing dating and romance, but what if it works?

In what might seem borderline dystopian, or at least, terribly unromantic, there now exists a job description of "closer" – someone who takes over management of other people's online dating apps.

In an article for Quartz last year, Chloe Rose Stuart-Ulin wrote about once being one for a variety of online dating websites and apps. That is, she was a professional online dater for people who are too busy to send their own eggplant emojis.

Outsourcing your online dating might be niche, but it works for some.

Outsourcing your online dating might be niche, but it works for some. Credit:Shutterstock

In addition to optimising clients’ profiles and ranking their photos according to attractiveness, for an extra cost Stuart-Ulin replied to matches on apps like Tinder and Bumble. It’s not a particularly new concept, the company Stuart-Ulin worked for launched in 2009, but it seems especially apt in a time when according to YouGov, more than a third of Australians will meet online, nobody answers their phone anymore and robots are probably going to takeover the world.

Meanwhile, one in four of us feel lonely, while being busy has become a status symbol.

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Sydney woman Holly Bartter was inspired to start her own online dating outsourcing business, Matchsmith, after she found herself constantly helping friends to brush up their profiles and make better matches online. That parlayed into a business that she made official last year. Her clients tend to be busy people aged 35-plus. The majority (70 per cent) of her clients are women.

Bartter, who met her own partner on Bumble (yes, she wrote her own profile) says she helps people who are either too busy or too overwhelmed to be better at online dating.

She sees her job as making the “initial contact” with potential dates with the goal of facilitating real-life phone calls and dates.

“It’s about making the initial conversations, not flirting … and [looking] for people who respond and seeing whether they match to what my client is looking for,” she says, adding that her role is to present her client with potential matches for them to take further if they wish.

Too often, she says, people spend too much time being “pen pals” on the internet with real life meetings fizzling out.

It’s a frustration shared by Jenny, a 35 year-old freelance editor and journalist who has been using dating apps on and off for a few years.

I really don't think you should be dating full stop if you're too busy to send a few messages to someone ahead of arranging a date.

“I think the most stressful part is engaging in conversations that don't lead anywhere. Maybe outsourcing could shield you from that frustration? But it's probably more helpful to just learn the best way to handle that yourself. My rule is that within three days of chatting a date should have been arranged,” she says.

Jenny is firmly on the not-outsourcing-dating side of the fence.

“I really don't think you should be dating full stop if you're too busy to send a few messages to someone ahead of arranging a date,” she says.

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“Aside from the fact it's very deceitful, I also think that there are benefits to chatting to people yourself ahead of a date. You get to gauge their sense of humour and whether they show any chatting red flags (bad spelling/grammar is a buzzkill for me).

"Also, no-one knows your bullshit detector better than you,” she says.

Bartter is sympathetic to the idea that people might find it a bit weird to discover a potential paramour had outsourced their dating, saying she offers a “niche” service. But it’s one she says has had at least a 60 per cent hit rate in getting people to take it offline.

Outsourcing dating and prescriptive romance (and rehearsed chat-up lines) might sound the antithesis of any decent rom-com plot, but Josh DeNutte, the founder of Spark Dates, a Sydney start-up that sends couples on a monthly date night as part of a monthly subscription, believes technology has a place in relationships – new, and especially established ones, where things can get a bit stale.

“We speak with every one of our couples and while they understand the importance of date night, it often falls to the bottom of their priority list. This is where we come in, acting as a personal date night concierge,” he says.

So is there a link between being too busy to do your own swiping and too busy to go out for date night? Possibly. Perhaps the key take-out is that relationships and the pursuit of them is always worth your time, even if it’s filling out the timesheet for your own personal closer.

Annie Brown is a lifestyle writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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