Any college student who said “I will never resort to online dating,” is probably building their online profile right this minute. Thanks to the mandated social distancing due to COVID-19, our IRL dating lives seem to be over. No more approaching the girl you like after class to ask her out, congratulating your crush after his game or “studying” in the library.
Boredom overcomes us and we’re drowning in our loneliness. So, what’s left for singles to make these significant love connections? Well, in response to this pandemic, two Yale college students give you OKZoomer.
OKZoomer mimics dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, but it’s created a new kind of dynamic to online dating. From more than 200 schools, OKZoomer connects college students on Zoom (a video-conference app) for their virtual blind dates.
This new dating website was inspired by Ileana Valdez who always knew this was the kind of thing she wanted to create. OKZoomer first began as a joke on the Ivy League Meme Consortium page. When Valdez’s friend, Patrycja Gorska, sent her the meme about finding love over Zoom, the idea sparked. Now more than ever, self-isolation gave Valdez a real purpose for OKZoomer.
Valdez and Gorska created a Google forum for college students to fill out that would match up students for either a blind date or just to make a friend. Valdez then enlisted her brother, Jorge Valdez, a Southern Methodist University graduate with a computer science degree, to create the algorithm that would connect the students based on the information from their forms. The forms are turned in by Friday, and the following weekend, college students are emailed a link connecting them to their blind date.
“When you’re on campus you’re keeping up with schoolwork and not saying, ‘Hey, I really like you, let’s take time to talk for six hours and build up a bond,’” said Ileana Valdez in a Rolling Stone article. “Now we’re gonna have three to four months to sit together and have deep conversations.”
Throughout college, we should be creating memories that last a lifetime and searching for new, exhilarating experiences, but instead, we’re living through a manic time of people hoarding toiletries and reminiscing about the past. Our Instagrams are flooded with throwbacks of vacations, parties and even of our simplest days when we could have lunch dates or visit family.
OKZoomer lends college students a chance to move forward in at least one aspect of their life: their dating life. They can continue to build real connections, and hopefully find relationships that they can foresee continuing in the future. While we’re currently lost in our thoughts and realizing the magnitude of what having a social life meant to us, OKZoomer just might be able to pull us out of our funk.
Like Jorge Valdez said in Rolling Stone, “A lot of kids are losing the biggest social experiences of their lives, especially seniors, who are losing the rest of their semesters. It’s really hard to lose out on something like that.”
OKZoomer has attracted over 12,000 college student sign-ups. The dating site continues to grow from posts on popular meme pages and by word-of-mouth. So far, over 13,000 matches have been requested whether it be to find a new friend or to find a date. Because female users currently outweigh the number of male users, generating gender-appropriate matchups has proven to be a bit challenging.
But that doesn’t deny you the chance to still find a friend, and in a time like this, we all need one. This site is only in its beginning stages, so as the word continues to spread, we can expect an active growth in users. And have you ever heard of a dating site with zero reports about harassing behavior or dick pics? Me neither. But so far, OKZoomer can proudly say they’ve had absolutely none.
The OKZoomer dating site is different from apps like Bumble and Tinder in other ways as well. This dating site does not base who they match their users with on location, so students can match with each other across the country. However, there is a “match me with someone from my school” option. Though LDR’s may turn some of you off, we’re social distancing. So, even if you matched with the boy next door, you shouldn’t be hanging with him anyway. Shoot your shot on OKZoomer because your deeper connection might just be strong enough for the long-distance relationship you never thought you’d have.
Did I mention a picture of yourself is not a part of signing up? Yep. It is simply a questionnaire. OKZoomer bases nothing on an individual’s appearance meaning there’s zero superficial analyzing in the selection. Kind of like in Netflix’s original series “Love Is Blind,” where people build an emotional connection through conversation without first impressions being based on looks. On OKZoomer, the form asks questions like “What’s your favorite quarantine activity?” or to “Describe your style.”
None of us expected our current reality: To be locked indoors, our social circles minimized to a party of one. There’s no concerts, no road trips with friends, no gatherings of any kind. But these three college students gave us back a bit of our social life with OKZoomer. Boys will finally have a reason to shower and girls will have an excuse to look cute.
PSA: With OKZoomer, you are having a blind date in your home. Be mindful of listening ears — aka your parents.