I might not be the hottest get on Tinder, but I think I get a respectable amount of right swipes-which is why I was kind of bummed by the fairly chilly reception on Bristlr
Bristlr was founded just a handful of weeks ago by English developer John Kershaw as a complete joke, while he was bored at work one day. “I thought up the idea of a website which networks people who have beards with people who like to stroke beards,” he told me. (I wanted to get some context before I took the plunge.) “My friends thought it was funny, and I ended up making a fake sign-up page for people to register their interest in the then non-existent Bristlr. I was expecting to get a few laughs, and then see it fade away. Instead, a whole bunch of people signed up!”
Remember when we laughed at the idea of Tinder marriages?
Indeed-upon first investigation, I saw that there were users aplenty (male and female) from all over the U.S. (“A well kept beard is a lovely thing, and a very inviting thing,” advised Kershaw when I asked him why he thinks facial hair brings people together.) When I asked him what he would guess is the percentage of users on the site seeking love instead of laughs, he said he wasn’t so sure. “There’s definitely a scale from fun to serious, but in the middle it seems really vague,” he said. “[But] I’ve heard from a lot of people that they really like the more relaxed and fun vibe the site has. “
The overall gist of Bristlr doesn’t stray too far from the Tinders and OkCupids and Hinges of the world: I am presented with a feed of profiles that I can filter by location (though not by gender or sexual preference); I can click a little heart to show that I like a guy (or his beard); there’s a page to “rate beards.” As for the important question of who the hell is on this thing, it’s actually a pretty typical mix of decent-looking guys and weird blurry selfies. All in all, it’s a foolproof site, though one thing annoys me: I can’t see the people who like me back unless I refer the site to friends or “buy us a cup of coffee” for $3.80. I opt for the latter. But after about two weeks of poking around the site, I only have a little more than a couple dozen likes (which, for the uninitiated, is a relatively low number of hits in the social dating world.)
After liking a fair amount of dudes and their beards-even messaging several-I only got a few responses. (And though this was hardly a situation in which I could afford to be choosy, I only hit it off with one guy, and even those sparks were kind of forced.)
After we had messaged back and forth a bit, I bluntly asked one guy I had “matched” with why he was actually on here. “I think I saw this on Facebook as some sort of headline,” he admitted. “Thought it was funny, signed up just to be ironic and tell my friends I was on a bearded dating site. That probably makes me an asshole doesn’t it? [Editor’s note: No.] In any case, it’s pretty boring and I’ve ceased to check it unless alerted by my email that a very pretty woman has messaged me.”[Editor’s note: No.] But then he also vaguely said “I should have known” and less than 24 hours later, the dude had completely vanished from the site. I pictured a cartoon door with a beard-shaped hole dating sites free in it. I’m not sure if my question made him realize that he had no real reason to be on there, if I scared him away, or he saw in my profile that I was a writer and connected the dots that I was snooping around. (Regardless of the reason, dammit-he was cute.)
(This is the image I was met with when I clicked on that guy’s profile from an old email notification. Way harsh, Tai..)
After that (sole) prospect came to a screeching halt, I had to reevaluate: Do Bristlr and I have a future together? If I’m being honest, it’s not looking good. After all, if I’m looking to mingle with a bearded crew, I can always just hightail it to my local Brooklyn dive, or maybe actually start talking to people on my commute. But it’s still a very funny concept, and basically what I love about the Internet. And just because I didn’t meet my Jared Leto, who am I to say someone hasn’t found love on Bristlr?