Over the last several years, much of the stigma surrounding online dating has drifted away. As schedules get busier and screen time increases, swiping has become common practice when it comes to meeting new people -- so much so, a recent report found that a majority of married couples today met their spouse through online dating. But unfortunately, with the good comes the bad: As digital dating has skyrocketed so have instances of sexual assault.
In 2016, the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) reported that online dating-related sexual assault had increased a staggering 450 percent in the past six years. In 2018, police in Denver, CO, reported 53 crimes in which the victim and suspect met on a dating app, with rape accounting for 34 percent of the offenses.
It's clear that dating app users, particularly women, need to be taking precautions to protect themselves, but a brand new app recognizes the responsibility doesn't belong only to the user. Filter Off is committed to reducing sketchy situations by allowing potential dates to get to know each other better -- before they even match.
The app has eliminated swiping and messaging altogether; the only way to get acquainted with potential dates is in a 60 second FaceTime-style chat, which allows users to really see and speak to the person behind the profile. Afterwards, if both users want to continue, they are entered into a match and can continue video chatting or exchanging video messages.
Okay, let's state the obvious: Video messaging offers plenty of opportunity for lewd behavior, however, this isn't something the company has overlooked. If either party becomes uncomfortable during a chat, they can immediately "X" out of the conversation and/or flag the other user for inappropriate content.
This system allows matches to get a more genuine read on each other, cutting down on uncomfortable or potentially dangerous first dates, explains Zach Schleien, founder of the app.
In addition to those concerned with safety, Schleien wants Filter Off to be a destination for people dedicated to the idea of actually dating -- which makes sense, considering those who aren't as serious will be less inclined to hop on a video chat.
"I've always been frustrated with how time consuming dating apps can be," Schleien tells GLAM. "According to one study, the average user spends 10 hours a week swiping. I don't have that type of time, and I don't think most people do either." As a solution, he started asking his matches to jump on a video chat before meeting up. These chats helped both Schleien and his dates cut to the chase, avoiding hours of fruitless swiping or messaging.
At the end of the day, the goal of Filter Off is to eliminate blind messaging so that users can go on dates with people they have previously established some sort of connection and comfort level with. Of course, there are other steps that should always be taken to protect yourself when online dating, such as always meeting in a public place, making sure a friend knows where you are, and driving yourself home. But most importantly, you should always trust your gut. If someone is giving you a bad vibe, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.