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At the beginning of January, I was laying out my 2021 plan in my mind. Carmelia Ray, a fellow dating expert, and I would be launching our new company, The Matchmaking Academy, and lots of singles were trying to find love after the pandemic, so business was doing well.
I’d had a couple of auditions for some new dating/matchmaking shows that were in the works, so I was cautiously optimistic for the new year. Then along came Clubhouse, and everything changed.
I’m now the co-founder of TheArabCupid.com in Jordan, and I’m looking to open more branches across the Middle East and North Africa. I’ve made friends with top casting directors and producers who convinced me not to wait for shows to come to me, but to create my own. I’ve got a Thursday night drinking game room. I’ve exchanged air fryer and rice cooker recipes with people in Ghana and India, respectively. And I’ve made a shit-ton of new friends. All thanks to Clubhouse.
Here’s what you need to know about this new platform and how it has affected so many lives, including from a romantic perspective.
First off, nothing that I say here hasn’t already been said by my wonderful colleague Francesca Hogi Forbes. But that was three months ago, and in Clubhouse time, that was the Stone Age. So much has happened since then that we really need to look at it again.
For those of you who don’t know Clubhouse, it is an audio-only app that allows anyone to host or listen to podcast/radio-like shows on anything they want. I’ve been in rooms discussing what fork you like best, and I’ve been in a five-day long room called “Meet Palestinians and Israelis.”
If you have something to add, you can raise your hand and be brought to the stage to ask a question or add a comment. You can pop in for 5 minutes to say hello or host a three-hour room, like I’ve done.
While there are endless topics to talk about, the one that has really changed everything is the dating and matchmaking world. In the early days of Clubhouse in January and February 2021, there were not a lot of clubs or rooms to go to and listen. When matchmakers Bonnie Winston and Carmelia Ray started the “Ask a Celebrity Matchmaker” room, it went on fire. I’m talking, 800+ people for more than hours. I was in a couple of those rooms and remember one woman named Shahad in Jordan saying she waited four hours to simply ask a question.
Everyone across the globe had been shut in and isolated for the last year, and suddenly there was a way to meet and talk to people from everywhere about anything. People went a little nuts. I know I personally stayed in rooms after 4 a.m., and I know many people who went all night long and into the next day on Clubhouse. I also know one woman named Lauren Bilotta who ran a dating room for 12 straight days and had people in different time zones take over for her when she needed to sleep.
The main reason people are flocking to a non-dating app to date is because of weak ties. By weak ties, I mean people like the barista, the bus driver, the receptionist, coworkers, and fellow commuters you see every day. Weak ties are people who are not in your inner circle. Heck, they’re not even in your wider circle. They are the people you exchange a few pleasantries with, give a passing nod to, and meet at the water cooler.
For a long time, people didn’t think these weak ties added anything to their well-being or emotional regulation. Turns out, weak ties mean a lot. I think we’ve become more aware of that after this year.
But to quantify weak ties in terms of studies, there are two that I want to focus on. The first one is called “Find, Remind, and Bind: The Functions of Gratitude in Everyday Relationships.” The key sentence is “the positive emotion of gratitude serves the evolutionary function of strengthening a relationship with a responsive interaction partner.”
Without getting too much into the science, the main finding of the study is that, if we show gratitude to the everyday people with whom we interact (thanking them, appreciating them, and praising them), it nourishes meaningful connections with people. These connections create personal attachments that maintain the most important relationships in our lives. Simply put: If you’re nice to people, they like you more, which in turn, makes you happier.
I know this seems super obvious, but we didn’t have the opportunity to have as many of these interactions this past year, and without people outside our homes to be nice to, it affected our happiness.
The second study, called “Minimal Social Interactions With Strangers Predict Greater Subjective Well-Being,” reinforces this: If you’re nice to your weak ties, it makes you happier.
If you smile at people, it makes them happy, which makes them smile back at you, which in turn makes you happy. Tying this all together with Clubhouse and the post-pandemic phase we’re in, we’ve now got tons of weak ties back in our life to help with our emotional regulation. Everybody was so starved for human connection that we’ve bent over backward being supportive and kind to each other on Clubhouse. And the nicer we are to others, the better about ourselves we feel.
If most singles went straight from lockdown into the wild world of dating, the headspace may not be there. But now we’ve all stretched our social muscles again and are in the perfect mindset to date because of Clubhouse.
In the beginning, as people got familiar with the types of rooms on Clubhouse and found discussions that they enjoyed, new tribes were formed.
We couldn’t go to the stadium to hang with our sports bros. We couldn’t get together with our book clubs. We couldn’t walk into a new, strange bar. Now suddenly, we can walk into hundreds or thousands of different rooms with different tribes, or bounce around from room to room just listening to other people and experts talk.
One of the issues I have with dating sites and apps — and even singles events — is that the energy can be really weird. Like, everybody knows what everyone is there for, and everyone is looking around and judging and weighing.
But if you were at a, say, street fair, you’d just be smiling and interacting with people. And these totally normal interactions are when we are our better selves. Especially if we’re doing or talking about something we love. We’re excited and energetic, and we laugh and engage with each other and joke. It’s natural, human energy.
And then, when we allow ourselves to chat about, say, traveling, we share stories, compare notes, talk in an aspirational way, and just have a conversation without it having to be all about DATING. And this is where the magic happens!
We are forming bonds with each other, looking forward to hearing each other again, joining Instagram or Twitter to be able to DM each other — all the great foundations for chemistry to find you.
Aside from being able to form bonds while talking about shared interests on Clubhouse, there are tons of dating and relationship rooms. I mean, look at the last year if you have any doubts as to why. There’s “Ask a Celebrity Matchmaker,” “Thirst-T’s Thursdays: The Art of How to Flirt,” “Shoot Your Shot,” “90 Day Relationship,” “Guys vs. Girls: afterDARK,” and a myriad of others.
You can learn how to date, actively date, slide into each other’s DMs, join discussions, ask for help, find experts, and hire experts. Basically, Clubhouse has become an open source to some of the most amazing information out there.
I was once in a room with Carmelia, Whitney Houston’s songwriter SKRAPP, Dr. Justin Garcia, the head of the Kinsey Institute of Sexuality, and a couple hundred of our best friends, and we were a little tipsy and started talking about squirting. Oh, my god, we were howling with laughter.
But when else would you get this totally diverse group of people sharing all of their knowledge and stories together? And all the while, the audience is learning and enjoying and, hopefully, becoming better daters.
Speaking from my own experience, I felt wound up with ideas and thoughts to bounce off people this past year, but there was no one to talk with. It’s like a compressed spring. There’s no movement, but there’s a ton of potential energy stored in that spring.
When Clubhouse emerged, all of our potential energy could be converted into kinetic energy and movement. The spring could be sprung. Everyone was rushing to start rooms and clubs, have parties (I randomly went to Dane Cook’s 50-person birthday), and connect, and there was just this jovial chaos of happy people.
Clubhouse has helped us meet emotional needs that had been dormant during the pandemic. This new platform has helped us find new tribes and given us the tools (from information to opportunities) to pursue whatever type of dating we like. Come find me friends!