Students search for love with return of Ephmatch during final days on campus

Tali Natter

While hundreds of students stood on the Paresky steps and screamed to express their intense emotions after the College announced its switch to online learning due to COVID-19, many students were preoccupied with another thought: romance. After receiving many requests Ephmatch developer Aidan Lloyd-Tucker ’22 sat on Paresky steps immediately after the scream’s conclusion and relaunched the app.

While Ephmatch, a romantic and platonic relationship building service on Williams Student Online (WSO), has only been available in past years to seniors during their final weeks, this relaunch is the second time the program was opened to all students, the first being this past Winter Study. Students can opt-in to the service, add a bio, change their WSO photo if they so choose and select the students who they are interested in, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And if the click is mutual, it’s a “match!”

“In total, the corona-week has been crazy for Ephmatch,” Lloyd-Tucker wrote in an email to the Record. Between March 11 and March 17, the window between when students were notified of the campus closure and when they had to leave campus, 1,097 matches were made — more than half of all matches made in the history of Ephmatch. The page had 626 active users and an average of 1,500 views per hour.

The reboot was appreciated by Ephmatch users new and old. Victoria Michalska ’22, a big supporter of Ephmatch, was one student who had been “bolstering” its original run during Winter Study. Upon seeing its reinstatement, she laughed. “I was like, ‘This is perfect; this is exactly what the campus needs right now. It’s the right energy for the apocalypse,’” Michalska said.

Michalska enjoyed the new developments to Ephmatch, such as the extra message you could add that would only be revealed to matches. Lloyd-Tucker added this after users requested a chat feature, so that matches could move to a different chat app, such as Snapchat or Instagram or, in Michalska’s case, texting. “I put my phone number, just cause I’m ballsy,” she said.

In addition to hardcore Ephmatch supporters such as Michalska, this run of the program yielded 156 new student users, such as Kara Hadden ’22. “The first time I wasn’t on it, but this time I thought, ‘There’s nothing to lose, I might as well go on,’” Hadden said.

This attitude is in line with Lloyd-Tucker’s general analysis of Ephmatch during the last week before students unexpectantly departed campus for the rest of the year. “I think the frenzy of the past week and the attitude of ‘last chance to text your crush’ significantly shifted Ephmatch into a relationship or hookup-style app, rather than a friendship/connections app,” he said.

Michalska agreed, saying that she was “absolutely” more impulsive this time around because she knew she would not see any of her matches for a while.

Not everyone, however, felt the impulsivity for quick romance. Eddie Wolfson ’23 did not find himself approaching EphMatch differently from Winter Study. “I didn’t really feel like the world was ending,” he said. “Because I’m a freshman, I still have three more years to live with my decisions, so it really made no difference as far as being impulsive and what I felt like I could do. I think seniors definitely were more wild.”

Hadden took a daring approach, trying to match with as many people as possible. “On the last night that I was on campus, my friend and I decided to go on and ‘like’ every single person to see how many matches we would get,” Hadden said. Despite making dozens of matches, Hadden’s Ephmatch experience did not go beyond the single email and Instagram direct message  she received. “As far as I know, I don’t think that people would schedule a date after matching on Ephmatch, but if they saw each other at Hoxsey, they would feel a lot more comfortable making a move.”

In the future, Ephmatch plans to move to a mobile app. Lloyd-Tucker said he and his team are planning to change the app to fit the way people are using it, and added that WSO is always open for suggestions and new members. Some students shared requests for a place to add mutual interests to create matches and the ability to view matches after the app closes.

While many bios stayed the same from Winter Study, others changed to fit the theme.

Some highlights include “‘an extremely healthy young woman’ -my doctor (aug 2019)” from Alex Pear ’22, “hmu before Tyler Annex becomes isolation housing” from Becca Brody ’22 and “you can’t spell quarantine without u, r, a, q, t,” from Eyobel Gebre ’22

While true love appears tough to find on Ephmatch, many students shared stories of successful fleeting encounters, noting Ephmatch to be a good conversation starter. Many also made new friends in the process, enjoyed interacting with people they already knew and had fun reading through the entertaining bios.

“[The reason I joined] was mostly so I could match with all my friends and laugh over the profiles,” Wolfson said. Hadden expressed similar sentiments, explaining, “Some of them were pretty forward. They were like ‘let’s go out with a bang.’”

“It was just a beautiful time,” Michalska added.