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In ‘Searchers’, searching for love on dating apps is an eye-opening journey

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Apps have taken over dating. No more stigma attached to using a service like or OKCupid to find a partner – nowadays, find someone via Tinder, Bumble or Hinge is the norm. Mindlessly sweeping potential lovers is so common that we do it now, whether we’re alone or with friends, or even on another date.

If you’ve ever sat down with a friend and asked to pass by people on a dating app, Researchers is a movie for you. If you are one of the lucky people who have never had to use a dating app and are curious about the experience, Researchers is for you. If you’re interested in how people make dating decisions, how they judge potential matches, or even just how people think, Researchers is for you.

The documentary, which premiered January 30 at Sundance 2021, is an 81-minute preview of New Yorkers from all walks of life looking for love during the pandemic. Director Pacho Velez calls the subjects of his film seekers (hence the name, duh) and he’s drawn from over 75 “encounters” with city app users for a candid and intimate study of the modern dating experience.


There is a lot to dissect Researchers and plenty of fodder for further thought. Perhaps you identify with the 27-year-old who said all the guys she met in person from the app ended up ghosting her. Or maybe you know someone like the 29 year old man who made a spreadsheet for all of his dates and why they ended (one of the reasons is “English not strong enough”) . Even though their feelings are not new, some of us will find comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our frustrating experiences.

But by bringing together the stories of so many people of different ages, genders, sexual orientations, racial and socioeconomic groups, Researchers also offers insight into what it is for someone other than you. Take the 88-year-old woman who doesn’t want to date anyone over 60, for example, or the 20-year-old woman looking for a sugar daddy on Seeking Arrangement. These aren’t stories that we might encounter every day, but they present a different take on what it means to find a romantic relationship.

All along Researchers, you’ll watch people’s faces as they set up their dating profiles, swipe on contestants, and message matches. You can sort of see what they’re looking at thanks to a clever translucent overlay on the screen, but the focus is on their expressions.

Sundance 2021 documentary film dating app researchers still


Velez described this setup as a “gallery of desire seen through the mirror,” saying he believed his film “captures many of the challenges underlying online dating apps, including the irony of people disappearing. in their devices looking for an IRL partner. “

This is because even if these users don’t realize it, the way they decide what to do on a dating app reflects their deepest thoughts. They explain to the viewer why they slipped on a person, why they chose a particular word for a post, and even how they choose partners. But these decisions reveal their innate biases and fears, as well as how dating apps have shaped the way we think about love.

Ultimately, Researchers is a movie about the psychology behind every decision on a dating app. As you watch a woman suffer from the first message to send to someone, you will realize that it is a difficult process for everyone. When you see the 70 year old complaining that ‘being on Match is a job’ you will remember that there are other challenges like age, time and expectations that you might not have. not be considered.

Dating App Documentary Film Researchers Still Sundance 2021


At one point Researchers you might even start to wonder if using dating apps is worth it. Velez himself is a subject in the film and in the second half he goes through an app with his mother, who suggests he try a matchmaker instead.

“So you think this is the right way to seek love?” Vélez asked his mother. She does not answer.

We all want love and we all want to be loved. When we don’t have it, we’ll look for it – whether through apps or matchmakers or asking our friends to install us. But is Is there a right way to seek love? Researchers does not answer that question, but Velez said in his manager’s statement that he was optimistic “a meaningful connection is at hand.”

The film doesn’t care about the long-debated questions of whether apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr or Hinge ruined dating. This barely hints at the idea that there are methods other than looking up profiles on your phone or laptop to find someone. But that touches on the central question of the process, whether you are using an app, a matchmaker, or going to a bar: what are you looking for? And perhaps more importantly, viewers may be forced to ask, “Do I know what I’m looking for and why?” This introspection can lead to a better understanding of oneself which could be a crucial step in truly finding lasting love.


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