Aussie woman’s genius dating idea
HOLLY Bartter has probably received more unsolicited penis pictures on dating apps than anyone else in Australia.
That's because at any one time she has up to eight different profiles on each popular service, from Tinder to Bumble, pouring over hundreds of matches and countless messages.
Last year, the 28-year-old launched her business Matchsmith, allowing hopeful singles to outsource their digital dating efforts.
"I take the account details of my clients and manage their apps," Ms Bartter explained.
"From there, I match and message on their behalf. It's not quite impersonating them - I get the match to the stage where numbers are exchanged and then report back to the client."
Her unique business idea started out as a bit of fun. She would hijack friends' phones and tweak their bios and trawl through dodgy matches to find the diamonds in the rough.
Word of mouth saw her approached by people willing to pay for her help and after two years, she launched Matchsmith last year.
"At the moment, my clients are a mix of people between the ages of 29 and 52, with about 60 to 70 per cent being female," Ms Bartter said.
"Some are people jumping back into the dating pool for the first time in a long time who might be unsure about how to go about it. Others are singles who haven't had much luck.
"It appeals to a lot of corporate people who don't have much spare time and are used to outsourcing things and having people manage their lives."
Research conducted by YouGov in late 2017 found at least 35 per cent of Aussies have used internet and app dating services.
Among Millennials, that figure rises to more than half, with younger people more at ease with socially geared communications technology.
However, the research found most people have a negative perception of online and app dating, perceiving most services as sleazy.
YouGov found that 53 per cent of Millennials and a quarter of Baby Boomers would be embarrassed to admit they had met their partner digitally.
"I think with women especially, they enjoy dating and have usually had some successes but they're a bit unsure of what they're doing on the apps and they are nervous about how it all works," Ms Bartter said.
"I do a full face-to-face interview and build a profile for them. I understand their age preferences, looks, deal-breakers and that sort of thing.
"I also understand why they want to date, be it meeting some nice new people, building their confidence up or to find someone for a long-term relationship."
Doing the heavy lifting on clients' behalf means she digs through the dirt, screening potential partners before passing on the best matches.
And she has seen more than her fair share of dick pics from particularly forward dudes.
"There are always going to be some unsolicited explicit and graphic messages, especially for women. For me it's really simple - I'm not operating it with concerns or insecurities so I'm happy to quickly block those people.
"But it's also a great way to meet someone who you might not encounter ordinarily. There are lots of positive experiences."
There are a stack of dating apps and websites on offer for singles, but consumer advocacy group Choice advised that not all are created equal.
Some could come with hefty membership fees that automatically roll over or tricky terms and conditions that lock you in for features you don't need.
"Set reminders in your phone or diary to cancel your subscription to avoid inadvertently rolling over for a further term," Choice expert Zoya Sheftalovich suggested.
"Read the terms and conditions so you know what you're signing up to and how much it will cost."
But for a growing number of people, it works.
Jason Ingram and Mimi Venker said they knew they'd found someone special the moment they swiped right on each other.
"Straight away I think we realised that we had something deeper, that this wasn't just going to be a hook-up. It just grew from there,'' Ms Venker told the Herald Sun.
The pair became engaged while on a trip to New York in 2017 and tied the knot in Melbourne early last year.
A boom in online dating popularity has seen a number of side businesses pop up. Melanie Schilling, who is one of the experts in Channel 9's series Married At First Sight, is a dating coach who tutors singles via Skype.
The UK website Bidvine last year launched a Tinder coach service, charging $55 an hour to "help the people out there struggling to find love master the world's most popular dating app".
There's a darker side to online dating though, with criminal gangs using them to scam hopeful singles out of their savings.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received 3700 complaints in 2017 from people who've been swindled by fraudsters.
In 2017, the amount Aussies lost to scammers is estimated to have topped $42 million, with women twice as likely to fall victim than men and people aged over 45 most at risk.
"Scammers go to great lengths to gain your trust, spending months and even years building a relationship with you," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
"Once your defences are lowered, they spin an elaborate tale about how they need your financial help with a crisis, such as being ill or stranded, and ask for money."
Ms Sheftalovich said daters should never share personal information in profiles and treat any requests for banking or other details with suspicion.
"Do a reverse Google image search on photos of profiles of people you're interested in to check for authenticity," she said.