Give any social network enough time and eventually it will become a dating app. When people have a platform to communicate with others, they can’t help but eventually start saying how they really feel. There are plenty of apps designed specifically for dating, but who among us hasn’t been thirsty enough to slide into a DM on LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, or, yes, Facebook. Facebook Dating tries to split the difference. It’s explicitly a dating app, but one that takes full advantage of the social features its social media parent company has to offer. Plus, it’s totally free. However, if you want to find love without the threat of Zuckerberg looking over your shoulder, we recommend paying for one of our Editors’ Choice picks, Match or Tinder.
Getting Started With Facebook Dating
Many dating apps give you the option of setting up an account through Facebook. Facebook Dating is already Facebook. You don’t download it as a standalone app. Instead, it’s a part of the existing Facebook Android and iOS mobile app that you have to opt into to start using. I tested on an iPhone 11. Currently, there’s no desktop version.
Turning your Facebook profile into your dating profile immediately sets off privacy alarm bells. The European Union forced Facebook to delay the launch of the service so regulators could take a look at security measures. Who can blame them considering Facebook’s history of privacy failures, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to settling lawsuits with civil rights groups about microtargeted ads.
However, Facebook claims that your Facebook Dating data is kept separate from the rest of Facebook. I braced myself for the embarrassment of stumbling across a close friend looking for love, of accidentally revealing my (test) relationship status to family. Thankfully, every profile I encountered was a total stranger. Awkwardness avoided.
Besides, Facebook Dating doesn’t need your data, it just needs your body. To survive, Dating apps require a large thriving community of singles and love seekers. Facebook already has an unfathomable number of users—a huge strength Facebook Dating wants to leverage. If even a fraction of the Facebook audience converts, then Facebook Dating won’t ever need to worry about running out of potential matches.
Because Facebook Dating is already Facebook, building your profile with your existing Facebook information and Instagram photos is a breeze. The app might already know basic details such as where you live, where you went to school, and where you work. You can change these answers after the fact. Don’t worry about it altering your regular Facebook information. Still, it’s nice to be able to skip a few steps. The downside is, unlike in other dating apps, here it’s basically impossible to be anonymous. Your name is taken from your Facebook profile and can’t be changed just for dating. That might be inconvenient for some and downright unsafe for others.
Facebook Dating might also already know what genders you’re interested in whether it’s men, women, or everyone. However, when setting up your profile, you enter more detailed preferences such as age range, children or no children, distance, education level, height, language spoken, and religion. The only other dating-specific data to plug are answers to personality questions such as “The best thing I can cook is…” or “The song that always gets me on the dance floor is…”
Interface and Profiles
Facebook Dating’s interface looks like Facebook. Again, it’s just one part of the same Facebook mobile app. You get to the Facebook Dating section by tapping the heart-shaped button on the overflow menu at the bottom-right corner of the screen, which also takes you to other parts of Facebook inside the app. Everything blurs together a little too much, and it’s too easy to accidentally wind up on your newsfeed when you thought you were swiping on promising dates.
Larger Facebook interface issues aside, actually using Facebook Dating feels like using any other high-quality modern dating app. Profile photos dominate the screen, and you can say yes or no, Tinder-style, by tapping the big X or the big heart. With Second Look, you can go back to profiles you’ve passed on.
Tap on a profile to see a more in-depth portrait of your object of affection. The level of detail may remind you of Match. Scroll down to see more pictures, a summary of their profile, their answers to personality questions, and even a selection from their Instagram feed. Then you can make a more informed choice of whether to swipe left or right. There actually is no swiping, just tapping buttons, but the idiom is what it is.
For a different browsing experience, you can scroll through an integrated feed of Facebook Stories on the home screen. Tap them to look at curated collections of photos and videos from potential matches.
Once you’ve made a match, you can start sending messages to each other. Facebook Dating’s messaging functionality is purposefully more limited than regular Messenger. You can’t send links, money, photos, or videos. This is for security and helps Facebook Dating feel like it really is safely kept away from the nastier internet at large. Besides, text and GIFs are all you need for cute communication. The one, justified exception is that you can use Messenger to send details about your upcoming date to a protective friend.
Some dating apps, like eharmony, are expensive and not really worth it for free users. Others, like OkCupid, are totally fine if you don’t spend money, even if they do give you the option. However, unless you count your personal data as currency, Facebook Dating is completely free.
Fortunately, Facebook Dating doesn’t use its lack of a price tag to justify a lack of features. Beyond the robust profiles, the app gives you more ways to search that only Facebook can. See folks who are in the same Facebook groups as you or who went to the same Facebook events as you. Granted, this introduces the biggest risk of encountering people you already know. I didn’t see friends but I did see dangerously close friends of friends. Still, this is a great way to directly connect with someone you already have something in common with.
Besides, maybe you do want to date your friends. Maybe you’ve just been looking for the right excuse. Facebook Dating’s Secret Crush feature is that excuse. Here you can mark nine Facebook friends or Instagram followers as folks you’re romantically interested in. No one will know you’ve done this. If your unrequited love joins Facebook Dating and adds you as their Secret Crush, you’ll both be notified and you can start chatting about how great it is to finally share your true feelings out in the open. If you’re feeling especially bold, you can use the app to let your friends know about Facebook Dating and hope they take the bait.
Social Distancing With Facebook Dating
As the world continues to shelter in place to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, virtual dating features have been quite important to dating apps. Facebook Dating doesn’t have any virtual dating features, per se. There’s no way to video chat directly in the app and your matches are limited to those around you, even though you can expand that limit to an extremely generous 240-mile radius. Other dating apps are connecting people far apart as quarantine pen-pals.
Anyone you meet on Facebook Dating is, by definition, also on Facebook proper, however. If things are going well enough, you and your match can easily expand your communication options by manually moving over to Messenger, which does offer video chat, if you both want to. Facebook even launched a new experimental app called Tuned specifically for couples in quarantine.
Other dating apps offer their virtual dating features within the app itself. Bumble, eharmony, Match, and Plenty of Fish all have some form of video chat. Hinge users must use a separate service for video calls, but at least they can mutually express interest in seeing each other face-to-face.
A dating app’s value arguably comes more from subjective social factors than from anything technical. As a piece of software, Facebook Dating leaves us with few complaints. By taking advantage of other Facebook features, it offers rich profiles and premium browsing for free.
On the other hand, Facebook culture has developed a reputation for everything from objectifying college students to sharing racist conspiracy memes. So even if your own feed is perfectly curated, if your reaction to dating through a platform like that is decidedly negative, we can’t blame you. Privacy concerns aside, sometimes it’s just better for peace of mind to not have the different parts of your online life all orbit the same thing. Even if you do believe Facebook Dating when it says your data isn’t shared (and that’s a big if) the whole experience still feels somewhat incestuous.
If you want to digitally hang out with friends and family on the most popular social network, by all means keep using Facebook; it’s an effective service. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, though, we still recommend hopping over to Match or Tinder, our Editors’ Choice dating apps.
Facebook Dating Specs
|Free Account Offered||Yes|