The thing that's wrong with dating apps is the same thing that's wrong with the rest of the internet: People. Or at least that's the gamble of First, a new activity-based dating app where you'll know next to nothing about who you're meeting until you meet them.
Does that appeal to anyone out there? I'm out of the dating game and not really into "doing things" to begin with, but what I remember best about Tinder was go-nowhere attempts at conversation with strangers (and irritating messages from porny spam bots), which First is built to avoid. Instead, the focus is on listing your ideal date activities and allowing someone with similar interests to join in. Whether connecting with sexual partners through a shared love of shovelling carbonara in your gobs fares any better than traditional dating apps, however, remains to be seen.
Eating isn't the only date option. There are categories for all sorts of people-activities, such as snowboarding, going to a museum, or seeing a concert. Eating is just one of the only ones I enjoy doing.
Of course, meeting a total stranger does have some risks. First's guidelines seem to grasp this by asking users to meet "in a public, well-populated place that is familiar to you [and] never at your home or apartment" and to "inform a friend or family member of your plans and when and where you're going". Solid advice all around, and it's laudable that First is aware of these issues. But a quick browse through the app didn't reveal any meaningful safety features to keep an seriously ugly situation from happening.
To deal with the opposite end of disastrous date spectrum, First reserves the right to boot users who stand up their matches. Good looking out, but I can't help but think a messaging system -- even one that only becomes available once a date is set -- would help mitigate potential cancellations.
The option to split the bill on events is also baked into the app to avoid scammers, although First isn't tied to a payment service so there's no guarantee your date won't step out midway and leave the tab in your sad, dateless hands. Put another way by a coworker of mine: "If I ever quit my job I'm gonna use that app to feast like a king."
Currently, First is only available on iOS and in the US, and only works if linked to a Facebook account, importing age and sexual preference (among other things) from Mark Zuckerberg's treasure trove of user data. It isn't clear what the company's relationship to Facebook is, or why its listed headquarters are a "virtual office" in Beverly Hills shared by something called "Psychedelic Cosmetics LLC".
Although its unclear if anyone is actually using either of them, we wish First and Psychedelic Cosmetics success in their endeavours.