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Christine LenahanOctober 12, 2023
Photo courtesy of LBBOnline/Humanaut

As I entered the subway station Monday morning, a sign caught my eye: “Find your Goalmate.” 

“Strange,” I muttered to myself as I boarded the D train heading downtown. An intramural sports team, perhaps?

And another: “Be a Goaldigger” printed across the turnstiles. A new motivational phrase, maybe?

But seeing “Find someone with a five-year plan that makes you ovulate” and “It’s okay to marry someone just for their goals” dispelled my earlier suspicions.

I realized: These are ads for a dating app.

Its name is The League. It calls itself the Harvard of dating apps, and it first launched in 2015, but its new advertising campaign has been popping up around the New York City transit system and the Los Angeles International Airport since September 2023. The League is “a highly selective dating app devoted to creating power couples from its ambitious and goal-oriented members,” according to its website.

Essentially, it is a dating app for the elite.

Unlike other popular dating apps, The League focuses as much on achievement as it does on love—maybe more. It is specifically designed to build the ever-enigmatic power couple by having members select specific goals to be featured alongside their profile. Users can select up to 10 goals from a list of more than 100, including: 

   Climb Kilimanjaro
   Become less terrible at surfing
   Get a Ph.D. in something I know nothing about
   Write the next great American novel

In the preferences category, users have the option to select a range of ages, genders and heights for their future matches. Most notably, users can choose preferences about academic achievement in their potential partners ranging from “no preference” to “highly selective.” The League prioritizes exclusivity, making members go through a vetting process that places them on a waitlist while The League “concierge team” reviews their application. With an acceptance rate between 20 to 30 percent, applying to The League seems eerily similar to the college application process. Even with eye-catching photos of your best self, approval from the team may take weeks.

The League focuses as much on achievement as it does on love—maybe more. It is specifically designed to build the ever-enigmatic power couple.

What else goes into an application for The League? Well, users are required to connect their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles to their dating profile. While users are allowed to hide their profile from their coworkers, the goal is to connect you with other users with similar interests (and résumés). While this feature may help avoid awkward encounters at the office water cooler, it also highlights the app’s biggest flaw: If you date someone solely based on how they present on paper, you ignore the intangible elements that make relationships meaningful.

Of course, ambition is a great quality to look for in a partner. As The League’s chief executive officer, Amanda Bradford, said in her recent interview with Forbes, “Shared goals are the biggest predictor of long-term success.” And matching users with similar goals rather than mindlessly swiping through “hot or not” pictures on dating profiles is a worthwhile endeavor. But looks are not the only aspect of a person we might be tempted to idolize. The resume, too, is a false idol. When we fail to recognize and celebrate the "nonfungible" qualities that make a potential partner admirable and attractive, we equate who that person is as a human being with all they have accomplished on their résumé. 

Take a look at the journals I’ve collected over the years, and you will find pages filled with forgotten New Year’s resolutions, unaccomplished goals for the school year and incomplete tasks for the week. If I dated someone based on how many of those goals I’ve completed, well.... I’ll let you imagine how my profile might look.

If you date someone solely based on how they present on paper, you ignore the intangible elements that make relationships meaningful.

Narrowing the pool of dating app matches based on similar, dazzling résumés leaves no room for the unsung narratives of our lives that are essential for building meaningful connections. Other dating apps have options for quirky questions that can lead to thoughtful conversation: Tell me about the greatest concert you’ve ever been to. What was your favorite Christmas gift when you were growing up? Questions like these can lead to glimpses into the inner terrain of your potential mate, letting users engage with each other on what defines their unique identity.

On The League, you are picking someone based on their app-approved future goals, most of which are incredibly expensive endeavors (climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro) or goals that require a certain level of higher education (getting a Ph.D.). And the costs for the app itself are seemingly endless. A user may sign up for a free account, but the most benefits come with the highest membership tier, which costs $1,600 per month. 

Yes, that’s correct. $1,600 per month.

This is a shocking and unattainable price for many. But the biggest issue is not that the app is too expensive. If your wallet can support your online dating endeavors, then kudos to you. The issue is that The League creates an economically elite dating pool that ranks other human beings based on their ability to spend money on elite goals. It rewards those who are willing to “shop” for partners at higher prices. 

When we fail to recognize and celebrate the "nonfungible" qualities that make a potential partner admirable and attractive, we equate who that person is as a human being with all they have accomplished on their résumé. 

Even the name of the app is not-so-subtly elitist. It is a play on the expression “he/she is out of your league;” it channels the prestige of the Ivy League and the major leagues. But no matter what inspired the name, its message is clear: this app is for professional daters, not amateurs on free dating apps like OkCupid or Bumble.

Bradford sold her company for 30 million dollars to Match Group in July 2022. Match Group is the company behind many popular dating apps, including Tinder and Hinge, and more recently, Match has acquired demographic-specific dating apps such as Chipsa, the dating app for single Latinx millennials, or BLK, the app for Black singles. Will The League become a dating app of a new partner-specific genre: the one for rich people? Only time will tell. But for now, The League is mentioned in The New York Times wedding announcements section more than any other dating app. There is no doubt that their users have been successful—at least at getting the Times’s attention. 

The League has implemented a system that operates on exclusivity and ambition, both on the app and off.

With the growing number of long-term partners meeting on dating apps, online dating has certainly become the new norm. But with a profile biography of only 190 characters and the in-app grading system known as “The League Score”—which rates users’ “flakiness” by their subscriptions, how frequently they update their profiles and check their matches—The League has implemented a system that operates on exclusivity and ambition, both on the app and off.

Maybe this kind of exclusivity is for you. Maybe you are looking for a small arena of driven individuals with common goals to match, or increase, your own ambition.

But then, if the ultimate goal of online dating is to find love and cultivate care and respect for another person, a high net worth, swarms of social media followers or a fancy résumé is no guarantee of achieving that goal. In fact, it may deter a user from it. If you cannot have an authentic conversation with someone about the seemingly mundane yet simply beautiful things in everyday things of life, not just about their income or education, then your match is probably not your “true love.”

So if you feel the current world of online dating seems only to be growing more confusing by the minute, I’m sure striking up a conversation with someone in a coffee shop will give you a whole lot more valuable information than their college résumé.

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