Dating - A collage portraying of men and women on their phones with their backs to us anddating app match messages popping up around them. In the orange tinted background there is a calendar with love hearts in, plus pie charts and a graph.
Collage: Cath Virginia | Photos: via Getty

Welcome to the Era of Optimisation Dating

Hustle-culture has finally hit dating. From love surveys to co-working coffee dates, we're screening potential lovers with streamlined efficiency.

Alongside a sliding scale for dick size (between six to nine inches) and a height scale that starts at 5 ft. 10, these are some of the questions from Christine Gwaze’s “Don’t Waste My Time Application” which she sent out to prospective dating candidates in 2020:

Are you capable of communicating honestly and openly? – Yes – No 

You are called for your first dick appointment; how’s it going down? 

How would you describe your sense of humour?


“I think I got more than 60 responses overall,” she tells VICE. “The amount actually exceeded the free limit from my SurveyMonkey account.” Gwaze asked her dating app matches to fill out this survey after they’d been speaking for a short while. In its introduction, Gwaze was explicit about what she required from applicants. 

“Seeking an attractive male for frequent consensual relations,” she opens with. “The chosen candidate must be non-discriminatory regarding race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class etc.” The most desirable candidates are those that “drive and/or have their own place”, and those who don’t fit the category and apply anyway will receive a fine for wasting her time. She confesses that the survey does seem “a bit unhinged” but stresses she made it clear that filling it out was always optional. After two months of receiving candidates, she found her partner (now ex) and shut down the operation completely. 

This is a level of dedication and organisation regarding dating that I can only dream of having – it all feels foreign to me. After swiping on apps for 15 minutes, I immediately lose the will to live, but it seems this is dating in 2023. Gwaze is part of a generation of daters who are no longer in the business of dilly-dallying around to find love


Surveys like Gwaze’s are one of many ways people are sifting through potential lovers with ultimate efficiency. There’s the people who screen potential partners with voice notes; the cost-effective “daylight savings trend” that uses oddly timed happy hours and skiving off while working from home to squeeze in dates; the ten minute microdaters; some people are taking it as far as turning dates into co-working coffees to prevent time-wasting.

This might all seem inexplicably unromantic, but are they actually onto something? Research from eHarmony finds that the average dating app user spends 55 minutes a day on the apps, managing six conversations at a time – those diligently dedicated to the search have over 15 conversations on the go at once. Perhaps it really is time to cut-out all the endless small talk and get straight to the point – time is a finite resource, after all. 

Maybe there’s some merit in dating devoid of the randomness of romance? We’re taught to work hard for everything we want in life, but love is always the exception: It’s supposed to just show up when we “least expect it”, no effort required. If anything, trying is viewed as “too desperate” and offputting, which encourages people to do nothing about their love life. Surely it can’t be a good idea to be subject to the whims of fate in this one area of life?


“I wasn’t looking for pen pals.” —Morgan

Morgan, 26, agrees. Like others in this piece, she’s turned dating into an organisational system that management accountants would foam at the mouth for – and has asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. After spending three and half years single up north, Morgan moved to London and had 12 dates in ten days, the sign of a true optimised-dating champion. 

“On the last day, I had an afternoon date at the Tate and another one by the canal for drinks that evening,” she says. It was this whimsical Thames water date that sealed it for Morgan – the date ended up lasting three days and they’ve been together for six months. So really, all it took was 18 days, a thorough filtering system and extreme time management skills to find the man of her dreams. 

Her approach was simple: She signed up for Hinge, Tinder, and Bumble and always aimed to have dates arranged within a week – “I wasn’t looking for pen pals,” continues Morgan. She also axed anyone that was overtly sexual too soon, anyone with “weird vibes” and, most importantly, anyone that spoke in riddles. 

 “Online dating becomes a paradox of choice,” viral psychotherapist and author Tasha Bailey tells VICE, when asked why can be bothered for such extremes. “We look for an action plan to navigate it by trying to gain some control. This plan can give us some calm and clarity over the chaos of the dating world and just how fatiguing it is to navigate.” Bailey describes this as “dating paralysis". It’s common to feel like there’s an endless supply of people to date, but so few to build and nurture a proper relationship with. Perhaps this is down to the mere illusion of choice – half of the single Brits on apps are actually on there for an ego boost or casual fling, according to eHarmony. Filtering and optimising dating becomes paramount in the search for genuine love, but Bailey also believes it touches on something else deeper – the overwhelming threat of getting burned. 


“By taking on a management role in our romantic lives, we distance ourselves from the emotional involvement and intimacy needed to find a partner,” Bailey continues. “This might be our way of protecting ourselves from being rejected, ghosted or heartbroken by treating every potential new suitor like a business meeting.” 

It’s a feeling I know too well. Heartbreak is timely and costly; I deal with heartbreak by overindulging in expensive clothes and trips, distracting myself from my emotions, and as a consequence, the other important things in my life. My approach to dating has now become devoid of romance, and rather than going down the “unhinged” survey route, everyone is at arm's length and “it’s not that serious” is my new mantra.

Bailey thinks this sense of order and urgency for others has been powered by the pandemic. “Following years of lockdown, we’ve ‘lost’ two years of regular life, and this has led some of us to feel the urgency of dating in fear of wasting more time,” she tells VICE. This idea came up in most of the conversations I had with daters: Time is scarce, and nothing made that feel more real than Covid-19 did. 

Plus, if Gwaze and Morgan found partners with this process, it can’t be as bad as it sounds – even Bailey admits optimising dating can have its positives. “Dating in a scheduled way can give us a sense of autonomy in our dating lives. As much as we can’t control what chemistry we develop with someone, we can have some autonomy over how much of our time we give them,” she adds. “It also helps us to practise boundaries – rather than getting completely swept up in our dating lives, dating efficiency helps us not to lose sight of all our needs and achievements.” 


I wonder what this means for the long-term, though, if we treat all potential lovers like prospective hires rather than people: Will it harm our ability to foster organic healthy relationships

Bailey speculates it can be just as fickle as swiping on apps all day with an ever-growing list of icks that make it impossible for anyone to make the cut. “When we streamline dating in this way, we leave out all the opportunities for self-learning and for a courtship to grow,” she says. “We end up leaving at the slightest inconvenience by moving onto our next option for the sake of efficiency, which means we then never have to take accountability for our part in things.” We also don’t always get to bring our true selves, warns Baily, meaning the people we’re dating won’t get a full experience of our vulnerability and our capacity for emotional intimacy.

It’s official, cutting corners in dating to maximise efficiency could turn you into an emotionless robot – or you could find the love of your life, who knows? The intentions of dating optimisation make sense, but it also speaks to collective dating fatigue, where we’re all exhausted and eagerly yearning for love but too burned to find it in healthier ways. If this sounds like you, Bailey recommends taking a break from hustle-culture dating and investing that time with your social groups and yourself, until you feel ready to brazen the cold streets once again. If you’re more than ready for love, though, why not stop skipping over those workflow ads on YouTube and start project managing your love life? It might turn out being the most enjoyable job you’ve ever had.