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Love, Connection, and Chronic Illness: A Dating App Designed for Us

COPD Basics

May 15, 2024

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Photography by Yurii Shevchenko/Stocksy Images

Photography by Yurii Shevchenko/Stocksy Images

by Monica Haro

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by Monica Haro

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Dating with chronic illness can involve navigating bias and having uncomfortable conversations. This new app can help make it easier. Here’s one user’s experience.

Since becoming single, I’ve had so much fun using dating apps. I’ve made some short-term connections and long-term friendships.

Any dating app user will tell you it can be a lot of parsing through some weirdness, though. In truth, I’ve sometimes wondered if maybe I’m the weirdo to others because I’ve had cancer.

When I first entered the dating world following a breast cancer diagnosis that resulted in a double mastectomy, I was hesitant. How do I explain my cancer history, surgery, and reconstructed chest?

On Valentine’s Day (ironically!), I was asked if I’d like to try out the Dateability app and share my experience. Single and curious, I accepted.

What would it be like to put myself out there to others who are also putting themselves out there with whatever condition they identify with? Would it be easier to have conversations about my cancer history and a changed chest than with other dating apps I use?

Here’s my take on this unique app.

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What is the Dateability app?

Dateability was created in 2022 as “a safe and accepting space to create meaningful connections for people with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities.”

The app was founded by two sisters, one disabled due to chronic illness. Their mission is to “change the social experiences of a population that has been overlooked.”

It’s available on iOS, Android, and a web application. The site notes, “People with physical, intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities and chronic illnesses are welcome to join, as well as nondisabled allies.”

They also call out their support and welcome for the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Getting started with Dateability

Downloading the app and creating my profile was easy and similar to other dating apps.

I filled in my required basics from option menus, like gender identity and occupation. Then, I specified what I was seeking, with options like friendship, casual, monogamy, polyamory, or open relationship.

I had to make some additional selections to create my profile, like pronouns, religion, political preferences, and education levels.

Here’s what was different

In the “Dateability Deets” section, there’s a long list of condition-related terms to choose from.

These include:

Those are just a few, and there is an option to fill in the blank.

I jumped in with my bio as able-bodied and my condition status as “other — breast cancer survivor.” I wrote a short paragraph stating I was a breast cancer survivor and listing some interests.

Then, I got to liking and swiping.

What’s the dating pool like?

I didn’t know what to expect from other users.

I saw some people who selected “able-bodied” without a condition listed, as well as several people with speech impediments, people with varying ranges of hearing and vision impairment, and a lot of people who were neurodiverse.

Other conditions listed included:

I saw only one person who had a cancer background, like me, but they belonged to an age group too young for my preference.

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Dateability pros and cons

Here’s what I found once I explored the app a bit.

Pros

  • free and easy to use
  • inclusive for LGBTQIA+
  • required questions provide a decent snapshot of a person’s basic info
  • option in the profile to provide your Instagram ID
  • extra, optional “verify profile” step requiring the user to submit selfies to prove they’re who they say they are
  • answering vaccination status is a required field

I appreciated that the “verify profile” step offered support for those who couldn’t submit a selfie due to their condition.

I also felt the vaccination status was important, as this could be a much bigger dating consideration for people who are immunocompromised. I noticed that some people on the app wanted to be vaccinated but couldn’t due to their condition.

Cons

  • I couldn’t direct message (DM) anyone a message until I “liked” them and they “liked” me back or vice versa.
  • There’s no way to “filter” some preferences, like language or pet ownership.
  • The dating pool is small.

It’s a newer app, and I don’t think a lot of people know about it. I live in a major metropolitan area and only saw a couple of profiles for people who lived somewhat near me. Of those very few people, I could see we were not matches right away based on age, religion, politics, or other preferences.

When telling my friends about the app, my friend with terrible dog allergies said she’d have to filter out people with service dogs. My other friend, who is fluent in sign language, asked if she would be able to connect with a deaf person if desired.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t a way to filter like this.

DMing was limited, too.

Once both parties like each other, then you can DM each other. This is common on dating apps but cuts down on making connections. It took away some of the fun of putting myself out there and chatting with people.

I figured out a workaround by checking out the person’s Instagram ID (if provided) and DMing them there.

All in all, I think it would be helpful if people shared a little more about their condition with those who don’t have that condition. It would help raise awareness and give people a better sense of compatibility.

What turned me off

In Dateability, I was swiping left on the same things I would swipe left on in other apps.

These included:

  • suspected troll accounts (i.e., The offshore oil rig workers who will be back on land in a month or two are everywhere!)
  • people who DM and only say, “Hi sexy” or “What are you looking for?”
  • no photos with a smile
  • profile pics that are selfies taken in a public restroom — or any bathroom for that matter (why is that a thing?)
  • profiles that make no effort to fill out at least a few sentences introducing themselves beyond what’s required
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What’s my verdict?

I do like what this app is trying to cultivate and what it could grow to be, but I wasn’t able to find anyone in my major metropolitan area to meet up with after 3 weeks of use.

It’s also possible there were more people in my area, but I just never knew because they swiped left on me because I wasn’t a match for them. I did make several connections and had good chats with cool people, but they live in other states.

In our chatting, it never really came up to talk much about the condition we had noted in our profiles. I video-chatted a few times with one connection in particular, and I feel like if we were ever to be in each other’s state, we would both reach out to meet up.

If I was able to meet in person with the few people I connected with, I think we’d talk more about conditions.

Takeaway

I love the idea of people having a space that feels inclusive, whatever visible or invisible condition they identify with.

After thinking about it more, maybe all dating apps should be actively working to make their spaces safer in general and more inclusive for people with any condition.

Checking out Dateability made me realize that other apps should be putting in way more effort to accommodate those with conditions and to normalize that all people with any condition are dateable.

Fact checked on May 15, 2024

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About the author

Monica Haro

Monica was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is raising her son. She loves staying connected to the breast cancer community through her work as the community guide for Bezzy BC, and as production assistant with Wildfire Magazine. After her cancer diagnosis, she has a passion for volunteering, and serves on the board of directors with her local support group, Bay Area Young Survivors. Monica loves creative expression through writing and art. She has shown her breast cancer advocacy exhibit “Reconstructed: A Breast Cancer Documentation Project” with El Comalito Collective in Vallejo, California several times over the years. You can connect with her on Instagram.

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