At first glance, Slindir is the type of tech invention that inspires knee-jerk guffaws and eye rolls: a Tindr for fit, healthy, “active” people who place a premium on cycling and CrossFit. “Active is our DNA, feeling good is our purpose,” reads the app tagline. It essentially feels like the end culmination of a privileged wellness culture gone too far: proof that toned, beautiful people in their pricey athleisure wear only want to date similarly beautiful people.
Everyone else? You’re basically unlovable.
The problematic name, which is more or less is a play on the word “slender,” hits the point home that this app benefits the svelte. As writer Rosemary Donahue pointed out in a recent Allure op-ed, Slindir “perpetuates the already rampant issue of fatphobia off the bat and is triggering and offensive to plus-size people, folks with body image issues, and people with eating disorders.”
Slindir’s imagery does little to counter this criticism. The app and promo materials feature white models in clingy shorts and T-shirts, while the sample image for each gender is represented by no less than Barbie and Ken dolls. Then there are the “selected activities” that loudly speak to a certain demographic: archery, badminton, car racing, golf, horseback riding, water polo, tennis, fencing, and sailing among them. Let’s just say “hip-hop dancing” is not an option.
In an interview on The Love Doctor Is In podcast, Slindir founder Andrea Miller explained the philosophy behind her company, noting that a common lifestyle was the best marker of a relationship’s success. The more niche a dating app, the better and faster it helps members find what they’re looking for.
“[Being active] affects your vacation, it’s going to affect the restaurants you eat at, it’s going to affect [you],” said Miller, later adding, “It really has nothing to do with how you look, it’s how it makes you feel.”
A quick scroll through potential candidates displays a stream of buff men claiming a love of hiking, paddling, and running. Quite a few boast of a love for intermittent fasting (obviously) or triathlons. Some simply “want someone to go to the dog park with.”
The app repeatedly suggests that its network is best suited for fit folks (“sweaty is sexy” reads a line in a welcome email), but nowhere does it state that it is exclusively for thin or toned individuals There is no fat-bashing or blatant elitism. Slindir promotes a healthy lifestyle, not a weight requirement. There is a difference.
The flaws are in how it markets what a healthy lifestyle looks and feels like. Active is not restricted to running or sailing or Lululemon models; it can mean a lot of different things that aren’t associated with a sports activity or number on a scale. Just ask a single mom who runs after her 2-year-old, or New Yorkers who are forced to walk everywhere. They likely consider themselves “active,” and could just as well find compatibility with a person who participates in Tough Mudder.
But that’s not who Slindir is targeting: The service has instead zeroed in on (predominantly white) fitness enthusiasts, the kind who refer to the gym as “church.” These are affluent millennials who in fact treat working out and hiking Runyon Canyon as if those were almost religious activities, and in that sense, having their own network makes sense. We have dating apps for everyone from Mormons to gun lovers, so why should this be any different?
Slindir holds that “lifestyle is a deal breaker,” while Miller describes fitness as “a lifetime commitment.” This is the kind of ethos we’re dealing with here. This is more than just a hobby; for these people, it’s very much a way of life.
(We reached out to Slindir for comment and will update if we hear back.)
If people are so obsessed with fitness that they only want to date someone similarly obsessed with fitness, then I say great—let them have their own app. Maybe they won’t crowd up our other apps. Let them force their own kind into romantic 7 a.m. weekend runs.
Now, who wants to join my Netflix-binge-on-a-couch dating app?