During a nationwide quarantine, a six-foot social distancing policy, and an airborne pandemic virus, it’s not easy to find love. For college students, moving back home can be a difficult transition, especially with the sudden lack of social life. Students are unable to mingle, flirt, or find their special someone . . . in person at least.
Two Boston College students, Tom Riley (MCAS ‘20) and James Stevenson (MCAS ‘20), are pioneering a Zoom-based dating service to help secluded college students find love from a distance. Zoom, the video communication platform where all academic classes now take place, is transformed from a learning space into a hotbed for romance using Riley and Stevenson’s dating website.
“We wanted to build a platform,” Stevenson says, “that would unite and bring joy to college students in a fun and engaging way.” In a time of perpetual tumult, uncertainty, and isolation, their website offers a space for low-stakes fun and social interaction.
Riley and Stevenson’s site is called Zoomers Match, and it utilizes a proprietary algorithm along with a witty survey to connect college students across the country. The students are then invited to reach out to their matches via email and set up virtual Zoom dates. The website connects eager bachelors and bachelorettes, and offers a new survey with subsequent matches every week. Despite the light-hearted nature of the website, Stevenson and Riley’s roles as matchmakers have been arduous.
“The first week of matching was manual,” Stevenson explains. “We did 1,200 matches manually.” The duo meticulously rifled through surveys to match participants based on compatibility. The process was a long one.
“In total, over 60 collective hours were spent matching,” Stevenson reports. “I got canker sores in my mouth from all the coffee,” Riley adds. For this matchmaking duo, playing cupid came at a cost. Riley and Stevenson are hoping not to repeat this herculean effort for the second round of matches. Stevenson is pioneering a “NodeX matching algorithm” which promises to expedite the process.
A combination of grueling hours, weary eyes, and a deep wellspring of coffee has allowed for love to blossom on the website. Users of the site are already connecting. Billy Conlan, CSOM ’20, said that it was “Nice to get to know someone new in a time where there’s not a lot of social interaction.” When asked whether he thought there would be a second date with his first match, Conlan said, “Probably. I’ve got nothing else to do.” Quarantine is forcing students across the country into lugubrious boredom; a short Zoom date offers a reprieve from the ennui.
With the rise of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, college students are familiar with the online dating scene. These apps have normalized online relationships; online friends can quickly turn into real life companions, and many people even get married to their virtual sweethearts. Zoomers Match has over 100 participating colleges, and doesn’t match based on proximity. This gives Zoomers Match an advantage over conventional dating apps, which provide matches within a limited radius. With over 7,000 active users, there is no shortage of new people to meet on the site.
“Dating has always been a sore subject for me,” says Stevenson. “My high school crush ended up getting involved with my best friend, so I sort of got out of the dating game for a while. Through online dating apps I was able to make connections I wasn’t confident enough to make in person. I hope Zoomers Match can do the same for others.” Relationships are hard, and it’s not easy to continue the search for love and compatibility after disappointment.
Zoomers Match isn’t the only Zoom-based dating service to be born out of this apocalyptic dating scene. OKZoomer was first out of the starting block. Despite sharing similar goals, to set up Zoom dates and hangouts, these two sites have their differences. Riley hones in on one key distinction—the Zoomers Match survey.
“We focus on having a fun, light-hearted, multiple-choice survey that is released each week,” Riley says. “The survey consists of roughly 20 questions and it is typically completed in less than 10 minutes.”
With a new and engaging survey distributed each week, new matches guarantee dynamic connections with a wide array of common interests. OKZoomer takes a more simplistic approach, asking three open-ended questions and delivering matches based on those responses.
Interestingly, both sites have a common problem as well—a disproportionate ratio of men to women. Both platforms have an overwhelmingly female participation rate, in stark contrast to male-dominated mainstream dating apps. “It’s a unique situation,” Stevenson says. He and Riley plan on focusing their marketing to appeal to more men in order to get them interested in Zoomers Match.
College is a common place to build romantic relationships, perhaps the place, and love can be encountered in a wide variety of collegiate locations. From dining halls to university classrooms, love may be lurking around every corner. If students can find their future life partner in the Maloney elevator (a claustrophobic BC staple), maybe they can find love online. Stevenson and Riley are arbiters of online love, and their efforts are facilitating new connections between college students across the country.
At Boston College, tour guides and orientation leaders alike often advertise, perhaps facetiously, that nearly 70% of Boston College graduates marry a former classmate. If this statistic has even a hint of truth to it, then there is no time to waste. College is the time to make the most powerful and lifelong romantic connections. A virtual Zoom meeting could be one’s first encounter with a future spouse. Zoomers Match has the tools and infrastructure to arrange that first date, and it’s just one click away.