New app Nattr offers to crowdsource your flirty texts, but it’s a step too far, laments Lucy Vine.
I joined a dating website recently and my first message came from a 44-year-old called Dave. It was long and rambling, full of inappropriate details about his family and segueing casually from his ex-wife’s health problems to an invitation to join him on a helicopter ride.
Worse, he’d clearly copied and pasted the whole thing, addressing it, ‘Dear Xxxxx’, then resending the entire message again – this time remembering my name. Sending that first communication can be daunting. You need to be funny but not alienating, clever but not show-offy, attention-grabbing, never nutty. It’s tough. And that’s where new app Nattr comes in. It invites users to upload screen grabs of profiles or texts so other users – along with Nattr’s own panel of writers – can come up with a witty message for you to send back. ‘What’s better than a second opinion?’ the app cheerily asks. ‘A dozen.’ A dozen strangers running your love life, composing your personality. Taking not just the diffi culty but also, surely, the fun out of exchanges with a person you might fall in love with. And isn’t it all about the quick-witted repartee?
Indeed, what happens when you’re sparkling and eloquent in messages – thanks to Nattr – and then you meet? Do you spend the whole time in the loo, asking the ‘experts’ how you should reply to, ‘Can I get you a drink?’ I understand that internet dating is a fact of life now. One in fi ve relationships begin online. Match.com claims responsibility for 100,000 marriages and more than a million babies. The industry is worth £1.17bn a year, so I get that apps like Nattr have a place. But the thing is, we do need to learn to be ourselves again. We’re too far removed from the reality of two people meeting in real life and having natural chemistry. Online dating has made us cold. We forget that the person behind the‘here’s me with a tiger’ picture is real.
We’re getting disconnected, issuing our height and weight edicts and dismissing people on the basis of a dodgy snap. I’m as bad as anyone – blocking perfectly nice men because of a missed vowel (I would not date Nattr). But apps turn us into characters in a video game: Tinder invites us to ‘keep playing’ after matching. Happn lets you track other people’s movements. Newer dating apps like Coffee Meets Bagel even use a points and rewards system to let you contact each other. Is it any wonder we need an app to help us connect, when we’re reducing love to a game of Candy Crush? At least Dave came up with that terrible opener on his own.