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What is Secret Crush? Facebook Dating's new feature has Tinder-esque vibes

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For many users, Facebook is the first place they go when looking for updates on their friends' lives. Now, the social network also wants to be the first place people go when they're looking for romance. At the 2019 Facebook F8 Conference on April 30, it was announced that the site's Facebook Dating service has expanded to 14 countries (it previously launched in five), excluding the United States – it'll come here by the end of 2019. For those unfamiliar, the service works mostly like a regular dating app, letting you find users you might be interested in meeting. But at the conference, it was revealed that Facebook Dating will now also have a new, eyebrow-raising component: Secret Crush.

As explained at the conference, this feature will let Facebook Dating users pick people they want to express interest in and, if they're also chosen by those people, Facebook will match them together. Basically, it's an easy way for your Facebook friends to let you know they're secretly in love with you, and vice versa — but given Facebook's track record with handling user data and concerns about Secret Crush's capability, this may not be the best idea. Some users are already questioning the feature's potential success, but before making any decision of your own, here's everything to know about Facebook Dating and its new feature:

What exactly is Facebook Dating?

Originally announced during Facebook's 2018 F8 conference, the Dating platform is meant to mirror traditional dating services like OkCupid or Match, except you can use it directly from your Facebook profile rather than logging onto a separate site. To access it, you have to opt in — it's not automatically added to your profile — and it's only accessible via Facebook's mobile app. It's currently available in Colombia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.

How does it actually work?

Unlike many other dating apps, there's no swiping here. Instead, when you create a profile (which is separate from your regular Facebook profile), you answer a few personal questions and add a photo. You're then shown a listing of Facebook groups and events to browse through, featuring other Facebook Dating users. If you stumble upon someone in one of those places that you're interested in, you can send them a message — but it has to based on information in their profile, such as a shared interest or mutual friends. Once the message is sent, it will arrive in that person's Dating inbox (separate from Facebook Messenger communications). If the person is interested and chooses to reciprocate, they can begin a conversation.

And what does Secret Crush do?

Secret Crush lets you express romantic interest in up to nine Facebook users at a time — and the recipients don't have to be Facebook Dating users as well, or Facebook friends with you already, for you to contact them. When you send a Secret Crush notification to someone, they'll get an anonymous message that indicates someone "likes" them. They can reciprocate the "secret crush," and if you end up matching each other, you'll both receive notifications and your names will be revealed.

Think of Secret Crush as something like Facebook "pokes" from back in the day, but on a slightly creepier scale. After all, although some people might view the feature as being as innocuous as passing a note in class to your crush, it's easy to see how it could have insidious implications. Since you can send Crush notifications to people who haven’t opted in to Facebook Dating, it could be viewed as obtrusive and even a bit invasive. There's also the high probability that those who wish to abuse the feature could do so, feigning romantic interest and otherwise misrepresenting themselves or their intentions to others. And then there are the problems with Facebook potentially mining Secret Crush users' data, although the company said at the conference that it won't share that info externally.

With Secret Crush just beginning to be rolled out as part of Facebook Dating, it's too early to know whether or not the feature will truly have serious repercussions. For now, keep an eye out for its upcoming U.S. debut, and in the meantime, stick to traditional dating apps if you want to meet new people.

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