In a world where dating online is the new normal, it seems like every day a new concept for a dating service emerges. Of course, there are the classics like Tinder, which has become known more as a hook–up app than a dating app. Then, there are specified apps tailored for the preferences of certain groups of people like JSwipe, Christian Mingle, and even Farmers Only. And then there are the apps that try to shift power dynamics to let women have more say, like Bumble.
But the newest phenomenon in online dating, especially on a campus like Penn, is The League. The League is a members–only dating application aimed at professionals. To become a member of the app, you must get an invite from a friend. If you don’t, you have to go on the waitlist, where your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles will be analyzed to see if you make the cut. Potential members are scanned for alma maters, degrees, professions, social influence, neighborhood, and age.
If it seems selective, that’s because it is. The site claims to only accept 10% to 20% of all applicants, making it about as challenging as being accepted into Penn. The service currently has about 300,000 members and a 500,000 person waitlist.
The main audience for the app appear to be young, middle to upper class, college–educated, straight, and white. 99% of users have a college degree and 95% identify as straight.
The founder of The League fits this demographic. Amanda Bradford created the app in 2014 after she became frustrated by the lack of "quality" on traditional dating sites. As a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and Stanford Business School, Bradford was obviously used to a different pool than what exists in the outside world.
Immediately upon visiting The League’s website, its message becomes clear. Displayed in bold letters is the statement: “Are you told your standards are too high? Keep them that way.” That’s because pretty much every preference is accounted for in the app. You can filter matches by height, degree, attractiveness, and, yeah, race. Then, you are matched with five potential dates a day that best meet your standards, meaning that you won't be wasting your time swiping through hundreds of people.
Much of the controversy the app has caused has been due to the race filter, with which someone can specify what ethnicities they’re interested in. The League seems to be one of the only apps that offers this feature. The company says that this is to help, not hurt, minorities in finding matches, especially when they can’t date outside their culture.
Another common critique of the model is that it is elitist, and could even promote income inequality.
It seems like what the users of The League share most in common is their drive. They were driven to succeed in school, get high paying jobs, and live in bustling cities. And they are now driven to find someone who fits their ideal of the perfect partner, even if it causes them to lose some authenticity in the process.