Bantr, the Dating App from Ted Lasso, Isn’t Real. Should It Be?

If you haven’t been watching the Apple+ TV series Ted Lasso, let us be the first (or the most recent) to say— you really should be. It’s a heartwarming, upbeat, but still emotionally resonant story about people living, working, and loving in close proximity to each other and learning along the way.

In recent episodes, one of the most viral elements of the series has been the introduction of a (fictional) dating app called Bantr. The app’s killer feature? No photos. Users of the app chat, flirt, and interact with each other all without seeing what the other looks like.

In the context of the show, this is an attempt to move beyond the ‘superficial’ aspect of dating— who’s hot, who’s not, etc. Instead, Bantr users are encouraged to use their brains, social skills, and sense of humor to flirt.

It’s a nice sentiment, but should an app like Bantr exist in the real world?

Well, it depends on who would use it.

One of the problems with an image-free dating app is security. Sean Rad, former CEO of Tinder, saw this coming when he launched a few projects at Tinder that have now become go-to features in the app. In Rad’s cringeworthy interview with Evening Standard, he confused sodomy with sapiosexuality when discussing attraction and intelligence. Sounds like the former CEO could benefit from a silent retreat or meditation workshop to better practice his communication skills.

Those that worked with Rad claimed that when he stepped down as CEO, it was a good thing. They had accused him of a “haphazard” management style, which left employees frustrated and goals unfulfilled. He also alienated fellow founders and claimed that he and Justin Mateen alone had started the company, even though Mateen joined long after the company had begun.

These include updates such as anti-catfishing and fraud features designed to verify real users as opposed to fakes, bots, and potentially dangerous people seeking to mislead matches. Rad believes that features like these are essential in maintaining the integrity and trust of dating apps of all kinds, not just Tinder.

While it’s easy to criticize the appearance-based judgements people make when speaking negatively about dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble, the truth is that for many people, physical attraction is an important aspect of romantic partnerships. Should it be the only factor? Of course not. But feeling physical attraction can go a long way in helping a relationship last beyond its initial phase.

Still, for some people who are more attracted to the minds and personalities of their potential partners than their faces and bodies, an app like Bantr may be on the horizon. After all, the success of Tinder, Bumble, and others has led to a large number of startup dating apps entering the scene. Could a real-world version of Bantr be next?

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