2021 is not just about embracing a hot vax summer and finding love again. It’s about doing so efficiently. Enter the era of niche dating apps. From meme and music-based dating to summoning your adrenaline rushes only on Thursdays, the concept has undoubtedly become the new norm of the industry. Adding onto the list is ateam, a new dating app dedicated to those who want to share their daily goals, reps and morning alarms with each other.
Based in New York, ateam is the first ever members-only dating and social networking app for health, wellness and fitness enthusiasts. Brainchild of Dan Ilani, a former entertainment lawyer and producer, and Megan Baldwin, a writer and creative director, the name ‘ateam’ stems from the belief that the best relationships in life function as “a team”—be it romantic, platonic or professional.
“Connecting with like-minded people has become harder than ever,” Illani said in an interview with Forbes. “And yet, we know people live longer and healthier lives when they’re part of a community, part of a team.” Surrounded by positive vibes, inspirational instructors and motivating classmates at his fitness classes, Illani started exploring the concept of meeting more people within the fitness community. “We’ve all felt that spark of connection in a studio class or at a starting line, now ateam wants to take that feeling one step further,” the founder added.
Driven by the vision of fitness being a mindset instead of a body shape, look or size, ateam is committed to inclusivity—by welcoming all genders, races, sexualities and identities. The only prerequisite here is a commitment to health, be it personal, social or global. “If you’re motivated to be the best version of yourself, you should be working out your mind, body, and soul with people who share your values,” both Baldwin and Ilani shared with Forbes.
Apart from its exclusive focus on the health and fitness community, ateam is also different from most dating apps in terms of its working model and interface. For starters, ateam requires members to pay $14 per month as a subscription fee to access the platform—in contrast to the paywall users usually hit while accessing premium features on other dating apps. Keep in mind that the $14 here is an all-inclusive fee, with no extra in-app purchases necessary for additional time or likes.
Secondly, ateam eliminates the traditional swipe-to-match feature from the dating industry altogether. The app is instead designed to move away from the “gamified deck-of-cards experience” because Ilani says he “doesn’t believe that finding a soulmate or a new friend should feel like a video game.” “Dating through apps has become so fatiguing because you constantly meet the people who are totally wrong for you,” the founder explained to Shape Magazine. “By curating a community of people who truly value wellness and fitness, you are much more likely to feel compatible with the people you meet.”
ateam practices what it preaches by partnering with wellness enthusiasts, fitness instructors and studio founders across the US. According to Forbes, the company has partnered with 30 boutique fitness studios and counting, most of which are regional leaders in their categories with multiple outlets. Clients of the partner studios, ranging from Y7 Studio to Box + Flow and MNDFL Meditation, are also put on the fast track for acceptance.
This intense network of studios and referral partners ensures a more holistic approach to fitness, thereby bringing health “beyond routine and ritual, into relationships.” This ‘relationship’, however, is also not just restricted to dating as I mentioned earlier. According to Illani, ateam has a separate dating area so that “those coming for ‘Friends Only’ feel comfortable and that there’s clarity around everyone’s intentions.”
So, if you are someone looking for a life or a hiking partner, here’s how you can join ateam. First head to the App Store (currently only available on iOS) and download the app onto your phone. You would then have to submit an application, which will be reviewed by a committee of health and wellness leaders. This is a measure to cross-check your identity and your interests in health and fitness. A profile can then be created by uploading photos and filling in data about your fitness routines (for example, your favourite activity and time of the day to workout). A list of questions about your favourite books, podcasts, songs and movies will follow. These are regarded as “cultural items,” which essentially help spark conversations on the platform.
In terms of its interface, Shape Magazine highlights the app’s similarities with that of Facebook and Instagram—where you can view other profiles and send direct messages. A full-fledged connection with another member, however, can only be initiated after having a mutual conversation and thereby “matching” on the app.
From July 2021, ateam members will be granted access to invite-only events held in collaboration with ateam’s fitness studio partners. Every week, they will be invited to events that will include group fitness classes and social hours, free of cost. These events can either be virtual or in-person. ateam also plans to roll out a series called “Reinvent the Date,” where members can join their potential partners on dates to various studio locations and receive 2-for-1 classes.
Dubbed as the “Raya for wellness enthusiasts,” ateam hopes to redefine both dating and socialising by engaging users in a whole different activity than just another night at the bar. ‘Flex and curl’ might just be the new ‘Netflix and chill’. After all, like ateam preaches: “We are only as healthy as our relationships.”
Picture this. You go on a date. It’s lukewarm—the company, not the wine. The date is nice enough that you head home feeling somewhat hopeful. Then you never hear back from them. You’re confused so you look over the past messages, which took up both of your time, and ask yourself, “have I just been ghosted?”
If you’re not down with the kids, the term ‘ghosting’ is the practice of suddenly ending a personal relationship with someone without any explanation and withdrawing all communication. Sound familiar?
We all know dating in the past five years has changed dramatically. From meeting people online, whether that’s on Tinder or sliding into someone’s ‘dms’, to arguably having more stages of ‘pre-dating’ such as ‘seeing someone’ or becoming ‘exclusive’ before becoming a couple. Sigh, dating feels much more complicated and exhausting than in our parent’s generation.
Though admitting you swipe right for love (or a good night) may not sound cool, dating online is not something to roll your eyes at. In a report from TSB, lovers sought out dating services worth £14.5 billion in the U.K. last year while the dating app industry alone made £11.7 billion. Online dating is not slowing down either as Facebook is attempting to take over the dating market by currently beta testing its own dating app while LinkedIn, the go-to networking site for professionals has also launched InLove, using already made LinkedIn profiles. Who doesn’t want to work where their future spouse was interning in 2011? And have I mentioned, Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move is valued around $1 billion, thus making its 29-year-old founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, a $230 million fortune?
The options for many dating apps are rather basic and require just a thumb to swipe through someone’s selfies. Other apps, such as Hinge,offer a more curated and elaborate selection interface and information display. However, when it comes to any dating app, or dating in general, ghosting remains a common and prevalent fact phenomenon. It is unclear, though, whether dating apps encourage ghosting or whether it’s simply a byproduct of the digital dating revolution?
Founder of dating website My Friend Charlie, Charlie Spokes explains that the phenomenon of ghosting is not entirely new, however it has increased in the digital-first communication that has enabled us to exit a conversation incredibly easily. “I think the fact that we are swamped with almost unlimited choices of potential dates, with a need for immediate satisfaction, has contributed to the regularity of ‘ghosting’, there’s the feeling that the grass is always greener!”.
Though it seems to be a common thing to do, ghosting doesn’t arise out of the blue, says Dr Sheri Jacobson, founder of the therapy platform Harley Therapy. “It comes from the fear of honest communication and intimacy, or an inability to understand social mores and respect other people’s feelings.” Dr Jacobson further adds that ghosting can also be a personality trait of impulsivity, and derive from a difficult childhood or a past trauma and even be a part of a personality disorder. To put it simply, regardless of how nuanced situations around ghosting are, as every conversation and meeting varies from person to person, it’s safe to say that just like the saying ‘hurt people hurt people’, those who are emotionally secure tend not to ghost others.
But for those who are wondering how do you end something that hasn’t started, dating app founder Charlie Spokes advises to be clear as ambiguity is not helpful to either party. If it’s one brief conversation that has fizzled out naturally, you can leave that situation guilt free, but if you aren’t interested anymore, “On a dating app then it takes very little to be polite, so be honest about your disinterest”.
For many, this simple gesture of being genuine sounds easier said than done, yet with the way dating apps are constructed, it is still easier to delete a conversation and move on therefore arguably, this dating trend of ghosting would slow down if it was thought about during the construction of the app or during software updates.
Spokes agrees that this should be contemplated, and by the looks of it, the issue is coming up more in the environments where these apps are created, as not finding results means a lack of faith from users. However, Spokes also speaks to Screen Shot about why dating apps arranging more activities offline is becoming popular. Bumble hold events for women for their ‘Bumble BFF’, ‘Bumble Bizz’, and panels on the dating scene, while the essence of My Friend Charlie is that you choose an event instead of a profile, and thus end up meeting someone —a friend or a romantic possibility—in a group setting. “You’ve already got something in common having picked the same event and it takes the pressure off any boring small talk. We create an environment where a genuine connection can form first. It’s much harder to ghost someone you’ve spent a bit of time getting to know.”
Though it may seem like scepticism against online dating to go back to doing things offline, it actually may be the answer to merge the two realms for relationships to succeed. 2018 has seen a wave of encouragement to get off our screens via books like How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price or Unsubscribe by Jocelyn K. Glei, and a flood of wellness classes and events asking everyone to be more present in their lives. So surprisingly, maybe the future of dating online may have to do with having more fewer but better options than a flurry of many subpar dates found due to your location. A way to exit the cycle of ghosting may mean for apps to slow down and create spaces for a safe conversation to happen where everyone can seek some old fashioned connection that has nothing to do with their wifi.