As a dating app determined to change the way people think about online dating, we were immediately intrigued when Hello Velocity—a creative team with experience making subversive viral marketing content—approached Siren with a unique idea for a campaign to get people talking about objectification in popular dating apps.
The idea? Turn Tinder into a literal meat market in order to draw attention to how the swipe-based interface forces us to reduce ourselves to an image.
We love this concept because it combines absurd visual humor with the potential to hold conversations about objectification using the very platform that has perfected the swipe-based model to a T(bone).
The result of this collaboration is the #MoreThanMeat campaign, and the premise is simple: anyone can visit the website MeatFace.me to have their dating app profile picture embellished by one of four juicy steaks.
Since the #MoreThanMeat campaign was launched in late June, over 1200 MeatFace avatars have been downloaded and counting. Here are some lessons we've learned from this experiment so far:
Lesson #1: People are actually putting MeatFaces on Tinder
This is what we hoped would happen, and it's happening! In certain markets, especially New York City and Seattle (where Hello Velocity and Siren are based, respectively) MeatFace density is high enough that Tinder users are encountering multiple MeatFaces in succession.
That kind of visibility really gets people wondering what's going on.
Lesson #2: MeatFaces are USDA Prime Choice Conversation Starters
If you're worried about compromising your dating app game by obscuring your lovely face with a slab of beef, worry no more. Not only are MeatFaces excellent ice-breakers, they have also resulted in an impressively high number of Super Likes.
Lesson #3: Meat jokes are unavoidable
As an ice-breaker, MeatFaces really draw out the meat-based humor. Fortunately, most of these jokes trend pretty inoffensively culinary.
Lesson #4: What’s that? Tinder users having self-aware conversations?!?
This one blew our minds a little. But seeing how the dating-app-as-meat-market-metaphor isn't exactly subtle, a lot of matches got the meat commentary immediately, and many sent thoughtful, considered messages. In fact, this kind of conversation represents about 60% of all the MeatFace activity we've seen so far, which is a pretty striking signal-to-noise ratio based on our own experiences with Tinder.
The overall tone of these messages is remarkable. Someone on Tinder actually said "I think the issue of objectification is deeply rooted in a lack of empathy and holistic thinking." Do you see why our minds are blown?!
One thing that's conspicuously absent: Overt comments on physical appearance. Given the nature of MeatFace it’s tempting to say “duh,” but given the nature of Tinder that’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Lesson #5: Some people will still find a way to be gross
Although the overwhelming majority of the MeatFace conversations we've seen have been funny, self-aware, and receptive to the critique of online dating, this is still Tinder, after all. What is most concerning, perhaps, are those people who acknowledged their part in an objectifying system, and then followed through with their basest impulses anyway.
Does this indicate a complete incapacity for self reflection? Or is the socialization of the meat market so thorough that some of us just can't help ourselves? Maybe a little of column A, little of column B?
Why does MeatFace prompt such a relatively high percentage of good conversation? Because it uses humor to call out the objectification built into the swipe-based interface. Once you've called attention to it, the Tinder dynamic is softened, leaving you with significantly more genuine human interaction. MeatFace effectively levels a skewed playing field, giving people a tool to "hack" Tinder to make it more conducive to real conversations, sans objectification.
Of course ultimately, we believe that what we're looking at is an argument for a different kind of dating interface altogether, one where people can connect over personality and humor in the first place instead of just mindlessly swiping through photos of potential matches.
What we have dared to do with Siren is create a dating app where the discovery model is predicated on conversation, not objectification. By responding to our Question of the Day, Siren members discover each other through the stories we tell about ourselves, not just our ability to take a hot photo.
Swiping is not dating. Swipe-based interfaces are inherently objectifying. And there are other options available.