Can Hinge help solve the Gen Z loneliness epidemic? The company’s CMO says a new initiative could help

A vast majority of Gen Z—79%—feel emotionally, mentally, or physically exhausted from using dating apps, according to a survey from Forbes Health this year. ‘Dating app fatigue’ is a vicious cycle: Hopeful romantics rely on their phones to help them find love, but they’re also burned out by the experience.

The loneliness epidemic—which technology helped fuel and is also trying to solve—is at the top of Hinge CMO Jackie Jantos’s mind. She recognizes that her core Gen Z audience lacks authentic connections but knows they define community as engaging in person with people with similar interests and values. She is focusing the marketing effort on pushing users toward connection and investing in solving the loneliness epidemic through social impact outside of the app itself. 

“We know that you can’t date well if you’re not feeling well, so we started digging into what was happening there,” she says. 

Fortune virtually sat down with Jantos to learn more about Hinge’s “One More Hour” initiative and the app’s role in addressing the loneliness epidemic. 

The interview has been edited for clarity when necessary. 

Fortune: What is your research and data showing us about dating, loneliness, and Gen Z today?   

Jackie Jantos: Our research found that over 80% of Gen Z feel lonely. There are a variety of places they turn when they’re feeling this way, from social media to online entertainment. And in reality, they are spending 1,000 fewer hours in person. 

For us, the focus is on how we bring people together and encourage them to return to in-person connections. What are the ways that we can support the social groups and organizations that are trying to do that work? And how do we combat some of the barriers that are holding people back from in-person gatherings?

Fortune: And how are you doing this? 

Jantos: Our organization and app are very focused on getting people off the app and into real dates. We actually measure great dates, and it’s the core metric that we look at. Getting people to connect in person is really critical to building relationships and to the work that we’re always trying to do. 

Fortune: With Gen Z as your core audience, how do you ensure Hinge is not contributing to their loneliness—or serving as another barrier to in-person connection? 

Jantos: Hinge as an app is very different from others. It’s much more focused on slow onboarding and helping you really articulate what you’re looking for at a pace that is more comfortable for you. If you look at some of the recent product work that we’ve put out there, we’ve put out things like ‘your term limits,’ which is a feature we were testing and launched a couple of weeks ago. The goal is to encourage people to focus on a few great conversations versus sitting on many interactions on the app at any given time. 

Most of what we’re doing is trying to help people navigate this experience. We do this by articulating what they’re looking for really clearly, connecting them with relevant matches, and helping them focus on higher-quality conversations with those matches. All that is in service of getting them off the app and into great dates faster. 

If we don’t encourage people to meet in person, they’ll continue to spend more time online than in person. It is not about how often you engage on the app but how seamlessly you get off the app. 

Fortune: How has your role as CMO changed throughout your time at Hinge? 

Jantos: When I think about brand marketing, it has historically been about expressing the values of your organization and your brand to the world to encourage people to feel connected to it. Particularly when engaging with the Gen Z audience, the tangible activities of the brand and the business more tangibly connect to their understanding of your brand’s values. 

Our social impact work right now is focused not just on romantic relationships but also on helping Gen Z more easily connect in person with each other. We’re really focusing on that social impact activity to bring more energy and conversation around this topic to life. 

Fortune: What is Hinge’s One More Hour initiative? 

Jantos: One More Hour is a program that we launched in December, and we launched it with a million-dollar fund that was essentially a call to action, a call to individuals or groups organizing social clubs where people can come together in person and engage in some sort of activity. Affordability is a big part of what we were looking for as well. And this month, we had just over 200 applications for the One More Hour grant. We have awarded an inaugural cohort of 40 social clubs, and so the response has really been overwhelming. We’ve been working with Gen Z organizations and our own Gen Z advisory council to advise us along the way.

Fortune: What have you noticed about the evolving nature of dating apps and how people engage with Hinge?

Jantos: In the past couple of years, we’ve been growing at an incredible pace with Gen Z. This is an audience that does not mince words when they talk about how they feel about brands, and they’re looking for services that meet their needs. What’s unique about this audience is they are looking for meaningful connections. They’re looking for ways to find that. They’re just at the beginning of being able to recognize the value of connecting in person, and that is the crux of the conversation.

We’re coming of age in a period when the development of identity and how you connect with one another are critical aspects of growing and understanding what sort of relationships you want to be in and how you want to show up in a relationship. 

There are many ways that brands, particularly brands serving Gen Z, can donate their money, resources, and talent to great causes with organizations that are also trying to serve Gen Z. So, for me, social impact is really critical to growing a sustainable, long-term business and to supporting the audience you’re aiming to serve.

Fortune: What do you see as the future of Hinge’s role in the larger loneliness epidemic? 

Jantos: We know that you can’t date well if you’re not feeling well, so we started digging into what was happening there. A year or so later, the U.S. Surgeon General announced the advisory on the loneliness epidemic, which came as no surprise to us. 

I think it’s important to know that people, particularly younger generations, have access to so much information, very openly share their views, and read the views of others.

It’s not surprising to us when we then influence the development of the product itself and launch features like hidden words, which went out quite recently, where you can essentially block words from incoming likes to have a more curated experience on Hinge. Term limits help tighten the quality of matches and conversations happening on hinge. 

Fortune: Are there any features on the horizon we should look out for? 

Jantos: We have a lot in the hopper right now that will come out in the second half of this year. So, there is more to come that I can’t speak to right now. But absolutely. Product features in development right now are in accordance with the organization’s values and how we hope to serve this group of young adults better.

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