Sparkology: Elite or Ingenious Dating Site?
"I don't care to belong to any club that would have me as a member"--Groucho Marx
We've gone back and forth in our reaction to Sparkology, the online dating site catering to "an exclusive, invitation-only community of young professionals" serving mainly New York and Washington D.C.
Sparkology, launched in 2011 by founder Alex Furmansky, has an odd, rather archaic double standard for their member base: only male applicants who are verified graduates from prestigious universities and colleges are accepted as members, while females need only to have graduated, regardless of the college's status or ranking.
The general premise of Sparkology? Highly educated, cultured young women have long complained about how difficult it is to weed through the barrage of messages from Neanderthals and hookup-hopefuls to find a suitable guy of similar status to connect with. Furmansky, himself a UPenn grad with a degree in finance, recalls his own frustrations with mainstream dating sites, where he felt the burden of proof fell to him to prove that he was who he purported to be, and that he wasn't simply looking for a booty call.
In response to frustrations from both male and female perspectives, Sparkology was created to offer like-minded educated and successful singles a verified member base. The hope was that that this would offer the opportunity for more meaningful interaction and a higher response rate for both sexes.
How it Works
Ready for the archaic part of this otherwise kind of understandable elite dating website?
Men are required to be referred in by an already existing member, or need to apply for membership through submission of their LinkedIn (preferably) or Facebook profiles. These profiles are then " curated" by Sparkology staff.
(Tip: set your Facebook profile to "public" to enable staff to, "dig around and decide whether you would add to the community").
Language like curated and add to the community suggest a level of subjective selectivity which make most people very uncomfortable, and bring to mind clench-jawed junior leaguers named Muffy, or ambitious Young Republicans named Colby. Naturally, if you aspire to belong to an elite crew, this might sound very attractive.
Here's where it gets even more interesting: woman initially join for free, and are later charged about $25.00 monthly for unlimited use of the site. Men have no membership costs, pay $3.00 for each message they send, and are limited in the amount of messages they can send. The idea here is that women will pay for pre-screened quality men, and the quality men will be thoughtful and intentional about the messages they do send.
Other features include Sparkology's concierge service: dating experts who provide services for the privileged but clueless: profile re-writing, photo and message critique, dating advice, and actual itinerary planning.
Innovative Dating Site or Elitist Dating Site?
Well, maybe a little of both. Your reaction may vary depending on your own position on the educational or socio-economic ladder. The puzzling piece is why limit the educational standard to the men? Is the assumption here that women's sexual market value, coupled with a basic college degree inherently makes them as valuable a man with an Ivy League degree? And Sparkology certainly isn't making any apologies for itself. There are several references on the site that state that they are less concerned with being politically correct than they are with providing a quality product for their target population. Furmansky maintains that Sparkology is just giving woman what they've asked for: a higher standard for online dating members.
Does being highly educated guarantee dating success?
Any woman who has been on the dating circuit for a while can tell you that a degree from a quality school has no bearing on a man's social intelligence or mental stability. In fact, some of the brightest and most financially successful men we know can't get past the first or second date.
And then there's the pesky business of chemistry. Not even being a Rhodes Scholar from Brown, a journalist at The New York Times, or a venture capitalist from Accel guarantees a scintillating or romantic dating partner. A contributing writer featured on Refinery 29 discovered this as she chronicled her own experience with Sparkology. What Sparkology can, and apparently does offer, is the valuable opportunity to at least eliminate the dregs who don't bother to read profiles, or who pretend they are someone they are not. And for men who are tired of competing with the slew of messages from hipsters, guys living in their parent's basements, or pick-up artists, Sparkology's pre-screening can offer them relief from the pressure of proving who they aren't.
And if you need any more justification from a more personal source, remember what your mother always said.
"It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor man".
- Gets rid of the losers who plague 90% of the female online dating population with spammy come-on's. Offers women a pool of college graduates (who are actually employed!) and who are seeking more than a hook-up.
- Concierge features (personal coaching, profile rewrites, or date planning for an extra fee) for both men and women.
- Fee structure for women comparable to other fee based online dating sites. Women on Sparkology pay $25.00 monthly x 6 mos. Match.com members pay $23.99 monthly x 6 mos.
- Requirement of graduation from a prestigious or top college only applies to men, likely assuming that women's sexual market value make up for this gap.
- Elitist membership policies.
Dating Gurus Grade: B