Whatever happened to giving that geeky bloke you met in your maths class a second chance, asks Huggle co-founder Stina Sanders.
Humans need a second chance to connect with someone, not a second look. I’m talking not just about love but in all of our relationships – whether that’s friendship or business.
And that’s why it baffles me that apps that match people by appearance still exist in a world that’s trying to eradicate racism, physical and cultural differences. How can it ever be OK to encourage people to judge each other by their looks alone?
I also don’t understand how anyone can enter a relationship based purely on appearance. To have a deep connection with someone you need to share the same interests, morals, values or at least lifestyle. I can often be heard saying, “He’s not my type, but I like him”. That’s because I date people who I get along with, not just those I am initially attracted to.
My friend Valerie Stark and I co-founded our social app Huggle because we had become infuriated with apps that promoted connections based on appearance. We wanted a platonic app that could connect us to like-minded people who go to the same places as us.
The places you go to say so much more about you than the way you look. Moreover, many people are happy being single and are more likely to want to expand their social circle than go on a date. Especially with someone they just swiped left for.
Connecting people who share the same lifestyle and interests gives users common ground up front. If you discover someone who goes to your gym, eats at your favourite restaurant and also went to the same gig that you went to last week, this breaks the ice and gives you a reason to start chatting. Which is, of course, very different to the majority of social apps, that let you swipe away at faces, not giving anyone a chance to pitch themselves or their interests to you. Ultimately there is no icebreaker other than the fact both users like the look of each other.
And then there are the penises. Oh, the penises. Every week I get, on average, five phallic images sent to me. Some come with poetry and others, just a plain image of an erect penis. I’m certainly not alone. Social apps aren’t doing enough to protect users, except for allowing you to block and delete people after the harassment has taken place. Prevention needs to be in place before the abuse happens.
Val and I made it our mission to create a safe environment on Huggle. The app does this with its photo verification and hyper-local technology, which stops fake profiles and check-ins.
But our most powerful safety feature is the fact that Huggle only lets users message each other when they have a place in common. We truly believe this stops Hugglers from sending abusive messages, because of the likelihood of bumping into someone offline is very high. And just imagine how awkward that would be.
Of course socialising online can open you up to a lot of people but we think the verification helps eradicate dangerous users. Users can only message people when they already have a place in common with them. This, therefore, means that your list of ‘places’ are not shared unless the other user goes to those places. Users also have the choice as to which locations they want in their list of places, so they can ensure it’s somewhere they feel safe. But, like all check-ins, you need to think about the places you share online.
Rejection sucks and as a society we shouldn’t be allowing people to define us because of the way we look. That’s digital body shaming. You wouldn’t only talk to people offline who you found physically attractive, so why do it online?
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Stina Sanders is a London-based writer and co-founder with Valerie Stark of Huggle.