Perhaps it was inevitable that some tech “disruptor” would want to bring online dating into the workplace, the last waking hours remaining where people were actively discouraged from searching for partners. “What’s next?” Weigel asks. “A Fitbit integration? Or a sleep-app integration, where you can be dating while you sleep?” Maybe it would ping people if they showed up in your dreams.
In her 2003 paper “The Sanitized Workplace,” Vicki Schultz, a professor of law and social sciences at Yale University, sides with Trifonov, saying that the repression of intimate relationships at work is detrimental. “The larger question is whether we as a society can value the workplace as a realm alive with personal intimacy, sexual energy, and ‘humanness’ more broadly,” she writes.
Lisa Mainiero, a professor of management at Fairfield University who has been studying office romance for more than 30 years, says that in the past couple decades, the taboo against it has lessened as companies have figured out how to walk the line of policing sexual harassment while leaving room for consensual relationships. According to a survey done by the Society for Human Resource Mangement, fewer HR managers now think workplace romances are unprofessional—29 percent said they were in 2013, compared to 58 percent in 2005.
An increased openness to office romance may be partially attributable to the fact that there are structures in place to deal with sexual harassment, and it may also come from the loosier-goosier nature of many young people’s work lives these days. Working remotely is more common and accepted, and many workers expect to bounce from job to job rather than sticking with a single company for their entire career. Mainiero suspects that’s making them more open to dating co-workers.
But all that is a far cry from a company’s Slack administrator actively installing a bot that encourages employee hookups. The Feeld Slack bot is interesting not because it’s likely to be widely adopted—“This would be a very disruptive technology in the office. I can’t imagine any company accepting this,” Mainiero says—but because it is the intersection between two aspects of life that technology is making increasingly inescapable: work and dating. The ship of online dating and the ship of always-on work culture have finally passed in the night—the night being the dark night of our souls.
“Nobody’s done matchmaking on Slack before—which means if there’s a market for this, we’re the absolute first to market,” Trifonov said in Feeld’s press release. Because of course that’s what it’s really about, scooting the already near-limitless pool of dating prospects closer to the asymptote of infinity.
There’s already a sense in the culture that “you should be both working and dating at all times,” Weigel says. The presence of a Slack app on your phone creates the awareness that you could be called on to work at any moment, and the presence of dating apps on your phone creates the awareness that you could find your soulmate at any moment. Combining the two would only exacerbate “that perpetual sense of possibility, but also the possibility of disappointment,” in Weigel’s words—dating apps’ stock-in-trade.