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3. We try the Pear ring
Photo: Pear

The Pear ring: will this social experiment really disrupt dating?

A new startup is hoping to eliminate the need for dating apps by encouraging singles all over the world to wear a small green ring

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Dating apps are dead, that much is clear. What’s less clear is how we negotiate fostering romance in a post-dating app world. Enter the Pear ring: a small, turquoise band which is designed to show strangers that you’re single.

“If 1.2 billion singles around the world wore a little green ring on their finger to show they’re single, we wouldn’t need dating apps. IRL connection is the mission,” reads a statement on the Pear website. For £19.99, you’ll get three Pear rings in three different sizes, as well as “a unique membership number,” and an invite to “PearFest”, plus access to “exclusive free events in [their] city.” So far, the ‘first release’ of rings has sold out, with the second release sale ‘ending soon’. At time of writing, their website says that their stock is 93 per cent sold out, while their Instagram has racked up over 162,000 followers.

Pear has definitely tapped into something very real and pervasive – dating app fatigue, and the struggle to move dating offline and back into ‘the real world’ again. Now that most of us are so used to swiping, matching, and chatting a bit via Hinge (or Feeld, or Bumble, or Tinder), the idea of approaching someone in real life and submitting to the terrifying prospect of rejection seems entirely alien – even though we need to do this if we want to meet someone ‘organically’.

According to recent research from dating app Inner Circle, 3 in 4 single people in the UK would prefer to meet a future partner in real life – and yet on average, singles only approach someone they fancy in person just once every 2.4 years. Only 3 in 10 people said they’d been approached by someone in the last three months. The reason behind these contradictory findings? 61 per cent of people said they feel nervous to approach someone in real life.

Perhaps it’s also worth noting that given the recent conversations that have happened around women’s experience of sexual harassment and assault have left many men hesitant to make the first move; a recent survey found that 53 per cent of single men said the fear of being creepy “reduces their likelihood of interacting with women”. In light of this, it makes sense that some men – those who feel wary of approaching women – would like the idea of a little ring which signals that a person is single (à la wearing green at a ‘traffic light party’).

With this in mind, the Pear Ring seems like a good idea – a way of starting conversation, a way of circumventing the humiliation of approaching someone at a bar only to be told ‘sorry, I’m in a relationship’. (Some people have pointed out that it’s arguably a rehashing of ‘queer signalling’ – where LGBTQ people use signifiers such as earrings, handkerchiefs, and keys to subtly communicate their sexuality – for straight people.) But will this tacky little ring really ‘disrupt’ the dating app industry? Will this startup really prove to be ‘the world’s biggest social experiment’, as their Instagram bio suggests? I highly doubt it. The ring is merely symptomatic of our dating app disillusionment, rather than a real solution to it: because the big issue here isn’t rejection itself; it’s the fear of rejection.

Of course, it would be psychopathic to respond to every dumping by saying “thank you for telling me. I want to be with someone who actually wants to be with me, so this is good information to have”, like this guy. Being turned down is Not Nice. This is a large part of the reason why Tinder took off – by gamifying the dating experience, it blunted the burn of rejection. You’d never really know if someone swiped left on you, and if someone did unmatch you, you’d be presented with an infinite number of possible ‘replacements’. But – without sounding like a TikTok therapist – we do have to ‘put ourselves out there’ and take some risks when it comes to dating IRL. Why? Because that’s just how it works! Nobody can get through life without facing rejection – be it professionally, platonically, or romantically – and learning to deal with it is a valuable life skill. Plus it’s romantic! It’s nice to think that your partner fancied you so much that they put aside their pride and fear to ask you out. 

For too long we’ve focused on dating apps lessening the sting of rejection and neglected to consider that they’ve also dampened the joy of finding love, too. The thrill of the chase is part of the fun! I pined after my ex-boyfriend for one and a half years before we started dating – I spent months secretly hoping that we’d bump into each other on campus, or engineering things so that I’d end up at the same pre-drinks as him (wearing the sluttiest outfit imaginable). If we’d matched on an app – or spotted each other’s Pear rings (lol) – it would have taken some of the excitement out of the relationship’s nascent stages.

Pear argues that we wouldn’t need dating apps if single people wore little green rings – but we wouldn’t need little green rings if people just… were a bit brave, or at least more comfortable with the messy business of trying to flirt. We already have all the tools within us – a heart, a brain, speech – to find and nurture connections with people. At a time when we’re hurtling towards climate catastrophe, I don’t think it’s wise for us to be buying rings – which are made of non-biodegradable silicone – which are designed to do something (start a conversation) that we can already do, sans ring. You have to buy three rings, too, in three different sizes – you can’t buy just one – meaning at least two of the rings you get will most likely sit gathering dust in the back of your jewellery box until you decide to chuck them out in a year’s time. 

One of my university friends always seemed to have a lot of success when it came to meeting people IRL. Her failsafe, reliable chat-up line? “Are you single?”. Maybe we could all take a leaf out of her book: strip things back, make dating simple again – and do away altogether with soulless apps and £20 rings which will end up in landfill one day.

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