Inner Circle: Delving into the world of exclusive online dating
By Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Contributor
Online dating apps have surely upgraded the modern dating scene. But many of us have grown tired of the endless swiping that more or less just leads to horrible catfishing, dangerous scams and messy hook-ups. But one app has found a way to weed out sketchy dates by putting you in an exclusive, elite group of singles.
David Vermeulen told Business Matters UK magazine that after going through “awkward, random, anonymous, untrustworthy” dating apps, he sparked an idea with his event management skills to intertwine the magic of online and physical dating and turn it into a dating experience that emphasizes quality over quantity.
In 2012, the Inner Circle, a dating app that claims to gather vibrant like-minded singles, through rigorous screening of profiles, was born. With the app now active in more than 30 cities around the world, it amassed to over 1.4 million users and more than half a million on their waiting list.
How the app works
One of the hallmarks of the app is its meticulous screening process done by a designated team in the company. Vermeulen told the Daily Express that their ideal members are people aged 25-45, who are well educated and are from ‘inspiring and ambitious’ professions. They also place a high-value on the social connections that you have. So if you have more friends already in the app, you will more likely get an invite and be accepted.
Upon registration, the app asks a series of personality questions that builds the dating profile. This registration then qualifies as an application, and the user will be automatically put to the waiting list.
It also has the familiar dating app features such as swipes, likes and winks. The user can post about the recent bars and restaurants they visited. They can also see members who recently joined, members who are abroad and members who are visiting the city. The “Events” feature is where it gets a little bit more exciting as with the purchase of a ticket, the members have the chance to meet offline with other singles in the Inner Circle-handled exclusive parties in their own cities. They have hosted more than 300 events worldwide with more than 40,000 users attending.
Interior designer Tally Higgins, 32, told The Guardian that using the app has meant fewer wasted nights out with dates with whom she had nothing in common. “I tried a few dating apps, but the good thing about the Inner Circle is that you know what you are going to get. You are going to get somebody like-minded, with a similar background,” she says.
Beneath the Circle
The app had received numerous awards such as the 2014 Newcomer Website of the Year, 2015 Best Dating Events Brand and 2016 Online Dating Brand of the Year at the UK Dating Awards and others. But like any other app out there, it’s not without flaws.
Eligibility is not only dependent on jobs and social status but also, subjectively, appearance. As Vermeulen had said in his interview with The Daily Express, “Equally if you are over 45, say 46 or 47, and you are good looking and connected with a great career, we won’t turn you away just because you missed the age cut-off by a little.”
The high value placed on social connections can be a bit problematic as well and can be borderline elitist. The Daily Express asked Vermeulen how this encourages people to stick in their small social sphere and just date people like themselves. But, he counters this by saying that rather than encouraging snobbery, it is offering people a greater chance at love.
“If you really want to meet and date someone in the same level as you are and build connections within your field, then it’s a good app. But dating isn’t just about social status,” says a 20-year-old business student from Mount Royal University who would like to be addressed as Ann.
Safety through verification might be one of the things the app can offer. But as their app discloses in their Terms and Conditions, they do not conduct criminal background checks in relation to their members. So there is still a risk of meeting someone with an agenda other than dating. It doesn’t mean that when someone is in the upper social class, they are not dangerous.
“I think if they have to go through all these steps to verify someone, I think it should be open for everyone and not just invitation only,” shares a 27 year-old Toronto-based engineer, who would like to be called Oliver. He too has had his fair share of using dating apps as he met his girlfriend of six years online, through Bumble.
The app could be successful in plucking out scams and frauds. But what it also unconsciously does is reinforcing the dated toxic concept that only people from the same social class can be together, and that people from the lower class are not worthy of quality people.
It’s important to note that having similar traits doesn’t always immediately mean love. Solely relying on people within the same social sphere limits our worldview. There are far more important qualities than the ones set by this app that can build a better relationship.
As William J. Doherty, a marriage and family therapy program director from the University of Minnesota, had said, “Compatibility is overrated. The similarities or personality traits that attract people to each other may not hold up over time… Values about money and children run very deep and are important. The surface ones don’t matter.”