The League: Invite-Only Dating

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The League is a social and dating app catered towards high-achieving young professionals. To ensure that users of The League fall into this exclusive group, the app imposes a set of restrictions to regulate membership. 

The League is like any other dating and social app, except it requires approval to join as a member. Potential users must sign up to be placed on a waitlist to have their application manually reviewed by a panel. If a potential user meets the criteria of joining the app, the panel will approve of a user’s membership to start using the app. The criteria for entry is not clearly stated, but their general guidelines are users who are young professionals. This criteria is evaluated based on data such as education and work which are pulled from Facebook and LinkedIn. 

While waiting for approval, applicants will be placed on a waitlist. To expedite the review process for your account, users can sign up for a premium membership to have their account immediately reviewed. A premium account provides users with a higher number of daily prospects and daily friend requests, among other features. 

The League Waitlist

The restrictions the application process places on the types of users who can join is essential to the app’s raison d’être: “The League’s heavily scrutinized admissions-based model is our attempt to create a founding community of high-achieving, diverse, and influential members… and, most importantly, [to] cultivate the desire for an egalitarian relationship in both sexes.”

In order to regulate entry, the app filters members through an exclusive selection process. This application process clearly serves the pool of young professionals who are looking to date within the circle of young professionals. The CEO, Amanda Bradford, reported to the New York Times that “We’re trying to hit home that these people do have high standards. They’re not accepting everybody.” However, in the CEO’s mission statement, she points out that another group that the app was designed to target is the “alpha female” – high achieving women who desire an equal partnership, citing a Harvard Business Review study that found that 50% of millennial men expect their wife’s career to take a back-seat to theirs (vs. equal priority). 

Restrictive social and dating apps can play a controversial role in how they regulate the culture and community surrounding modern socialization. 

On one hand, apps like The League could reinforce the idea that dating should be limited to one’s socioeconomic circle, but also, it could be serving the people who believe this and would stick to this logic regardless of the app’s existence. Likewise, there exists a dichotomy between the notion that it is okay to have high standards and the toxicity that comes with elitism. 

The app’s vetting process could be potentially beneficial for young professionals more conveniently find someone from a similar background. However, the controversy lies in the question of whether elitism is inherently malevolent, especially if it is something that the users of this app would naturally practice. The process at its best could be convenient and empowering, albeit cringey. At its worse, it could be reinforcing social class hierarchies and toxic exclusionary social practices. 

Along with the application process, the waitlist that users are placed on while waiting for approval is another restrictive layer. The waitlist is necessary for the app’s manual screening process. A thorough screening process also allows for a lower likelihood of catfishing, scams, and other safety concerns that users may have with meeting people online. However, the waitlist could also be self-serving to the company, as it incentivizes users to pay for a premium membership to bypass the waitlist. 

Fundamentally, the app is a walled garden for young professionals. However, as with most dating applications today, there is also a premium membership that users can sign up for, creating more restrictions with the access of a free account. For the League, a free account only allows for 3 potential matches a day. 

A premium member account allows users to see 5 potential matches a day, and a premium ownership account allows for 7 matches a day, along with other perks. The cost of the premium accounts varies by membership length, but 3 months of a member account is $99/month, and 3 months of an owner account is $299/month.  Additionally, users can purchase individual “tickets” to see more daily prospects with varying prices, with the most popular being $60 for 15 tickets. 

For reference, with a free Hinge account, members get 8 likes per day, with an unlimited number of swipes through potential matches. Considering how few profiles can be browsed through, the League is quite pricey. The company works this into their methodology though, claiming that fewer daily potential matches mitigate the decision paralysis that comes with unlimited choices. Instead, The League attempts to promote having conversations with each potential match, rather than rejecting them based on appearance, given the assurance that the profiles are filtered for through each user’s criteria. 

Premium services are clearly self-serving to the company, but also with bypassing the waitlist, it is necessary that only a few individuals will feasibly be able to do this, given the time needed to approve of an account. However, given the price, these expensive memberships could leave users feeling dejected after investing heavily into a service that may not return the results they hoped for. 

The restrictions of The League are interrelated in how they feed their exclusive community. Not only do they want the elite to join, but they desire to make the elite feel even more elite, with an application process, waitlist, and expensive premium membership. 

Online dating has always been criticized for its superficiality. Most other apps allow users to report where they work, went to school, height, race, etc. The League attempts to mimic the 

Social media has rarely been viewed as an exclusive and closed off platform. However, apps like the League could speak to the direction that online dating, or more broadly, social media will be heading in. Similar to our in-person encounters, users may want more closed off communities that are restricted to similar individuals. 

Whether this is blatantly malevolent is uncertain. It appears most modern-day apps will capitalize on perfecting each user’s algorithm to provide them with exactly what they want to see, whether it be dating apps, Facebook ads, or Tiktok videos.

The League may be far more blatant about applying this algorithm, but its analysis necessitates thinking about how other apps and companies employ algorithms to impose restrictions on the content we view without the complete awareness of users. Ultimately, the open nature of the internet can both be conspicuously or inconspicuously restricted by applications that feed the desires of users. 

Works Cited:

Bradford, Amanda, “I’m Not An Elitist, I’m Just An Alpha Female,” LinkedIn, October 20, 2015.

Ely, Robin J., Stone, Pamela, and Colleen Ammerman, “Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women,” Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2014.

Haber, Matt, “The League, a Dating App for Would-Be Power Couples,” The New York Times (New York), Jan. 23, 2015.

L’Amie, Lauren, “A beginner’s guide to the League, your favorite elitist dating app,” Daily Dot, Jun. 29, 2018.

Miller, Theo, “The League Is A Dating App That Doesn’t Play Games,” Forbes, Sep. 25, 2017.

Sola, Katie, “Dating App Data Reveals What Successful Men And Women Really Want,” Forbes, Aug. 24, 2016.

“The League Review,” last modified October 2021.

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