The last time I went on an online date, I found myself at Buffalo Wild Wings with a guy named Tony. It was 2010, and I was living on the New Jersey shore at the time. (He was actually the second Tony I’d gone out with, it being the Jersey shore.) I remember feeling…underwhelmed. Missing the spark despite millions of messages exchanged, let down in a way that only deliberate, digitally orchestrated dates can inspire.
Technology has come a long way since then. We have apps now. All it takes is a finger swipe to dismiss someone, should you find their face and/or body parts unappealing.
Unfortunately, our modern approach to romance still fails to convey the visceral magic of a person. No app can capture the soul that animates your face, radiates your brand of warmth or talent, and shines when you immerse yourself in creative work that lights you up.
Or so I thought.
There’s a new app in town, and it’s designed expressly for creative, artsy types. You know, the ones who might classify themselves as more than just a pretty face.
The idea for the Hart App was born after Scott Webb attended a Rolling Stones concert and realized “Mick Jagger couldn’t compete on Tinder if he wasn’t Mick Jagger, but people love him,” says Webb. “It’s almost a form of hypnosis. When someone has created a great artistic revolution, people don’t care what you look like.”
“A headshot can’t capture the depth of a person’s character,” proclaims the website for the Hart App, and so this Tinder-for-creatives eschews your face entirely.
Users create a profile by uploading a photo to their “public canvas” along with a five-word caption. The photo can be anything—doodles, tattoos, the sidewalk, an airplane, whatever image you decide expresses your uniqueness. The caption can be poetic, descriptive or completely unrelated to your image.
The only catch? You can’t post a photo of your face.
Once you’re in the public gallery, you swipe left to dismiss the work that doesn’t move you and swipe right to engage with the spirit that does. Should you like a canvas, you’ll be asked to write a critique. If the person on the other side of the screen likes what you have to say, he’ll allow you to view his profile. Then the conversation can begin.
“If you post to this app, you’re one to two steps ahead of someone on Tinder,” says Hart’s founder, Scott Webb. “You want someone to understand you. That’s really who the app is for: those people who have evolved a notch ahead, who want to bypass all the bullshit of what dating is and just have a conversation about imagination.”
A colon hygienist and former philosophy major, Webb ran with the idea for Hart after recognizing its potential. “It seems very simple and it has a broad appeal nationally, and maybe across the whole planet, this idea that people could connect more via their interests or their passions, talents, versus just what they look like.”
At present, the app has launched in limited markets: first in Nashville, where Webb lives, then Asheville, North Carolina, and now Charlottesville. Brand-new users will find that the public gallery “unlocks” when 25 (or more) locals create and upload profiles.
So far, user profiles run the gamut, from a stylized sun painted on a guitar to a pair of legs on an outcropping overlooking the Blue Ridge to an oil painting of a woman looking out to sea.
But the real breakthrough, Webb says, is the way users take advantage of their caption.
“It’s not enough to just put up a photo,” he says. “It’s the five words that I think is the genius aspect of the app. Because now the post itself becomes a work of creativity.”
(Of the few I saw, my favorite was the image of an aquarium-bound jellyfish, underscored with the caption “don’t be jelly.”)
Helping people harness that artistic charisma—whether they are artists—is exactly what Webb wanted to do in the first place. “I think sometimes creative types, their photos may disqualify them from Tinder-type competition,” he says. “You could have someone highly creative and an introvert that has all this material, and they could thrive if they could put their art forward first.”
The idea for Hart was born after Webb attended a Rolling Stones concert and realized “Mick Jagger couldn’t compete on Tinder if he wasn’t Mick Jagger, but people love him,” says Webb. “It’s almost a form of hypnosis. When someone has created a great artistic revolution, people don’t care what you look like.”
A hypnotherapist himself, Webb explains how limited typical dating thought patterns can be.
“In society, all we’re providing people with is the hypnotic aspects,” says Webb. “It’s looking at a face and saying, ‘Yes, no. Yes, no.’ That encourages a generic, cookie-cutter model for what dating is and for what relationships are. We’ve been trained to focus more on what is. It’s a very linear, hypnotized, cause-and-effect model, whereas genuine love comes through the subconscious.
“What I’m suggesting is, for how the human mind works, we might introduce more imagination and more expression and getting to know each other, and that changes the whole dimension of the relationship.”