I Tried Virtual Speed Dating For Stoners, And This Is What Happened
A reporter goes undercover to explore what video-based dating looks like during a global pandemic.
I'll admit I am not into online dating apps. I prefer cheesy pickup lines in a bar, chivalrous in-person etiquette, and if all goes well, the goodnight kiss that lingers on your lips long after the date has ended.
But a new product called Filter Off is a dating app constructed with an eye towards more traditional rituals—not to mention the current stay-at-home pandemic. Unlike Tinder and Bumble, which are entirely photo-based and can promote superficiality with the ease of swiping right and left, Filter Off allows users to go on actual first dates—albeit virtually and rapidly.
The perks of video dating
Filter Off users are matched together for 90-second video speed dates. The app also brings together people with similar interests for special themed nights. Recently, Filter Off hosted an event called #StonerLove, "hosted for single creatives who love to get stoned.” Touted as the first-ever cannabis speed dating event, the night was sponsored by Kulture Hub and Cloudious9.
As a cannabis consumer and self-professed curious person, I dove deep into the world of virtual dating to explore what the landscape looks like for cannabis-loving’ singles looking for love.
I downloaded Filter Off for free in the app store. Then I created an account for myself with a bio, photos, three fun facts about myself, and gender preference.
Next, I registered for the #StonerLove event and waited. Approximately 10 minutes before the event began, I received a series of rapid-fire notifications:
“Your date with Evan will be at 7:02 pm. Get ready!”
“Your date with Daniel begins at 7:04 pm. Hope you are excited to find love!”
“Your date with Ryan starts at 7:06 pm!”
In total, the app set me up on four dates in under 10 minutes — efficient! According to Michelle Miller, Filter Off's Director, the app’s algorithm determines your matches for these interest-based events in accordance with your preferred age range and gender proclivity. Before the dates, I was given minimal information about my soon-to-be-suitors. This was refreshing. Unlike some dating apps where pre-date messaging can drag on for weeks without any next steps or even in-person meetings, Filter Off throws you directly into the fire.
I got “ready” (clarification: global pandemic ready, meaning only from the neck up), set myself up at my desk (a previously unlikely location for a date), and, at 7:02 on the dot, I received a notification that Evan was on and I had 1 minute to join. I clicked the notification, and viola, I was video-chatting with a stranger!
I wasn’t sure if the cannabis focus implied that we should consume on the date or simply that we shared a common interest, but my first date, Evan, made his understanding clear by kicking off the date by lighting a joint.
My second date treated the ordeal very casually—emphasis on casual. He rocked back and forth on a hammock the entire 90 seconds, which was both dizzying and comedic.
My third date shared that he smoked on his prior date (mere seconds ago), and he apologized if he seemed “too stoned” to carry on a conversation. I really had to take the wheel on that one, but I appreciated that if either of us had something particularly scintillating to share, we could fall back on the one obvious topic of our mutual interest—weed.
Unsurprisingly, none of my conversations got much deeper in the brief 90 seconds of chatter than the usual small talk one would expect. And Filter Off is not kidding about the 90 second time limit. Once your time is up, the app terminates the date, leaving you to respond with a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you mutually “thumbs up” each other, you are both entered into a match, allowing you to text, message, or host further longer video dates. Despite the date’s brevity, I was able to get a feel for the person in that length of time and form an impression—more so than just seeing a picture of Chad touting a large trophy trout.
Miller explains that the app was designed to “facilitate authentic connection providing an efficient dating process.” After trying out Filter Off, I think it accomplishes both of these goals. The refreshing video format does away with the assumed shallowness of so many of the other dating apps in the space.
But I believe 90 seconds is a bit too limited for a proper date. Considering the necessary initial introductions, you are not left with much time to discuss anything further. Organizers hoped the #StonerLove event would bring together people who share a mutual interest in cannabis. I would have liked the opportunity to discuss this and other shared interests. Five minutes would be ideal.
I also couldn't tell if there was anything necessarily different about this stoner-targeted event from other interest-based events Filter Off puts on. I think it would be helpful if they created an option to send a note to your date prior to the meet-up about how and why you have registered for this specific event—something along the lines of, “I eat an edible every night before bed and watch a nature documentary.” This information might encourage the conversation in a way that would have relevance to the event’s theme.
Although I have not yet succeeded in finding true love on this site, I have hope for other users. Even if you harbor similar sentiments about traditional dating like me, Filter Off allows you to experience “going on a date” with someone to a much greater degree than if you were asked to swipe right or left. And who knows, you still might be able to get in the cheesy pickup line and proper etiquette—although that lingering kiss may have to wait until post-pandemic.