If you weren't feeling the love this Valentine's Day, you're not the only one. And since apparently misery loves company, one new dating app is cornering the market.
Launched on Feb. 8, Hater, a new dating app is playing cantankerous Cupid by matching people based on their shared hatred of a variety of topics, from slow walkers to paying extra for guacamole.
If this app sounds like a joke, that's because it was. Brendan Alper, the app's founder and banker-turned-comedian, originally came up with Hater as the premise for a comedy sketch. Now, he's laughing all the way to the top of the App Store charts.
"Obviously a dating app that matches people based on what they hate has some comedic appeal," he told A Plus. "But after I did some research on it, I found a few studies showing that people who hated and disliked the same things actually formed closer bonds than people who liked the same things."
In 2006, a study titled "Interpersonal Chemistry Through Negativity: Bonding by Sharing Negative Attitudes About Others" was published in the journal of Personal Relationships. After three separate studies, the lead author Jennifer Bosson, a social psychologist at the University of South Florida, told The New York Times, "Overall, people [specifically strangers] expressed stronger beliefs that they could be friends if they thought they shared their negative evaluation."
They could even be ... more than friends.
The evidence was as compelling to Alper as the current selection of dating apps was not. Looking at the competition, he saw a clear divide between "the older generation of dating apps like Ok Cupid and Match.com" which enabled users to showcase their personalities, but often came with a stigma and the new wave started by Tinder, which was "easier to use and shed a lot of the [negative] stigma." In losing that stigma, however, "it also lost a lot of the personality as well," as Alper saw it.
"You really had to judge people based off of a picture and maybe like a two-sentence bio or something that, and so I wanted to try to figure out a way to figure out how could we make something that's just as fun and easy to use as Tinder, but still retains some of the personality ... of the older sites," he explained. "Luckily, Hater was an idea that, I think, people immediately understood.
After a person signs up for Hater, they are immediately greeted with "cards" that run the gamut of "lighter" and "more humorous" topics. The user weighs in on the topic by swiping down for "Hate," up for "Love," left for "Dislike" and right for "Like," each option conveyed through an emoji. Because Alper acknowledges that "hate is a loaded word," he ensures every topic is aligned with the app's "zero tolerance policy for any sort of bigotry or discrimination."
On the contrary, Hater doesn't promote hate, but, Alper believes, empathy. "If you hate the same things — like you hate slow walkers or you hate the weather — it's really about empathy and being able to relate to someone's situation," he said. "And I think that, looking at it from that perspective, obviously you would relate empathy to love and intimacy, so actually it makes a lot of sense."
The app's also been making a lot of positive connections.
Since Hater's official launch a week ago, people have already begun to find love in a hateful place. "The response has been great, people really love it ... We just hit on some nerve that has some sort of international appeal, and people are going on dates, even in just one week," Alper said. "We've got stories of people going on first dates, second dates ... no marriage proposals yet. I'm sure they'll come eventually."
When Alper and his team sent an email to users asking for feedback, one user wrote that they and a match hated so many of the same things and clicked so well in person, they're "already planning on seeing each other again soon." Another spent an evening hating on things and eating food under the stars. Even cheesier, a disdainful duo bonded over their shared hatred of the Superbowl and love of queso. "He told me he was making some queso for the Superbowl watching party," the anonymous user emailed to Alper. "And I said, 'I hope you bring queso on our first date.' Fast forward to the first date, he showed up on the date with some amazing homemade queso, and we proceeded to hate on the Superbowl together."
So, does misery actually love company? Well, 200,000 people can't be wrong — to try, anyway.
That's roughly how many people have downloaded Hater in the space of a week since its official release. Alper definitely wasn't expecting the international reach of the app, though he's been pleasantly surprised to learn Hater has snagged top spots in foreign countries' App Stores, even despite the app only being available on iOS and in English. To keep up with the overwhelming love for Hater, Alper and his team plan to roll out an Android version of the app this spring and recruit translators from its current user base to make the app available for everybody.
And, yes, that includes couples, too. According to Alper, the response to swiping on topics has been so positive, people in relationships want to get in on all that hateful fun, too. (Can't we singletons just have one pure thing?) "We're gonna try to expand our feature set to be more about having social connections, not just looking for someone romantically," he said.
Alper sees the future of dating apps moving toward "a social exercise," holding up a virtual mirror to bars, concerts, and social events where both single and committed people can find common ground. "If you go to Tinder, everybody's single; everybody's looking for the same thing. It's a very artificial experience ..." he said. "If you go to a bar ... people just want to come and have a good time. There's a lot less pressure on everyone, and that's the experience we want to create."
Only time (and countless swipes) will tell if it's possible to find love — not just romantic, but platonic love — through hate. Alper's hunt has only just begun. "We're going for the number one spot. We're gonna try to take on Tinder," he said. "It's a lofty goal, we know, but we think we can do it … We got some fun stuff in store."