I have heard lately that along with the growing use of “shidduch groups” to network and share résumés and information about singles for shidduchim, there has developed a situation whereby many singles who meet a shadchan privately end up getting posted and mass shared without having granted permission. When they find out, they are very unhappy, but powerless to do anything, since by that point their information is already out there. What steps would you recommend a single take to ensure that their information doesn’t get mass shared without permission?
That those tasked with the all-encompassing charge of redding shidduchim will frequently, and somewhat clandestinely, share information and résumés, is largely an accepted practice. And for good reason.
First, when meeting dater informally, or in public settings, it is often unfeasible to begin an official conversation or directing the dater to share their profile. Hence, shadchanim may turn to peers for information before taking action. Second, when a dater is given a name mid-meeting, or told that an idea is percolating, it can immediately plant premature excitement in the dater’s mind. Accordingly, when shadchanim are not entirely sure whether their initial ideas are suitable, they may gather augmented information from other sources prior to proceeding with an explicit suggestion. By taking this brief pause to collect material before making a precise suggestion, daters can easily be spared unwarranted apprehension or disappointment. Third, there are conditions where it is simply more efficient to reach out to other shadchanim for quick and crucial tidbits, rather than asking families for answers, which commonly leads to a lengthy back and forth, quickly spiraling out of control, and eventually subverting what might have been an excellent opportunity for no substantive reason whatsoever.
Similarly, for decades past, and continuing resiliently today, there are many shidduch groups composed of dedicated community members meet regularly to brainstorm ideas and discern if any potential shidduchim can be redd. Plentiful dates and engagements have resulted from such meetings, and most of these initiatives retain experienced leaders for oversight, maintaining decorum, safeguarding discussions, and to uphold guidelines vis-à-vis which and how daters should be presented.
With respect to such ventures, I stand as a strong proponent, as the efforts along these lines I have personally witnessed or researched have proven to remain on the up-and-up. Mass propagation is decidedly restricted, and the information distributed is typically basic, accurate, and unobtrusive. All told, the risk at hand pertinent to these undertakings is virtually negligible, and the enhanced exposure and enriched attention is nigh invaluable.
Conversely, there has recently been a mass proliferation of various shidduch-group-style databases wherein all group members can view any posts which are distributed. Some are web-based and others are WhatsApp or email-based; some permit profiles to be seen by daters themselves, while others restrict access to approved shadchanim only; and of these ever emergent groups, many are comprised of hundreds of contributors and contain thousands of profiles.
Fortunately, some of these databases are well-run, employing active admin to maintain integrity and keep clear regulations in place, and for the most part, produce prodigious practical results for daters of all ages. Unfortunately, however, well-meaning or not, several such programs are poorly run, if actively supervised at all. Indeed, as of late, I have been contacted by daters and local rabbanim attempting to navigate through the agmas nefesh of breaches of privacy.
And as it appears to me, the core issue which debilitates these novel groups is when there is an allowance for any individual to create a dating profile, without eliciting the input, or even knowledge, of the daters themselves. Furthermore, some of these platforms have little to no approval process, and once a profile is created, it becomes immediately available to countless viewers. Consequently, given the ever-growing terminology used to describe a dater’s essence, interests, and hashkafos, when they are excluded from the portrayal process, these manufactured profiles cause confusion and miscommunication. Or, worse yet, daters are sorely and erroneous misidentified and put in an unfavorable light, concluding in a dearth, or complete lack, of decent suggestions.
Lastly, when there is a lack of oversight, it has been conveyed that negative comments about daters, or tangential and adverse discussions arise, which dissuade shadchanim and generally prove detrimental to the process. To be clear, while there is great latent potential to these platforms, as I see it, there is dire need of more responsible supervision in order to reestablish these enterprises so that they may ultimately benefit daters, rather than hurt them.
As far as steps for daters to take, there are two proposals I would make. The first step would be to instruct shadchanim with whom one meets not to mass-post one’s profile on any such chats. The vast majority of professional shadchanim I know would respect such a directive, regardless of their personal opinion on the matter. Second, thoroughly investigate these databases. If possible, search to see if a profile has been created without one’s knowledge, and if not, reach out to well-connected shadchanim with platform access to perform a search. And if one discovers that their information has been made publicly available, solicit outside relief. Of course, I cannot guarantee that these exercises will perform flawlessly. Nonetheless, my experiences in this realm have shown that the more one is aware of what is out there, the more one makes clear what they validate on their behalf, the more one self-advocates and secures shadchanim and rabbonim with clout when obligatory, the greater overall success I have perceived when it comes to controlling how one’s information is distributed.
May the Yaasher V’Neeman ensure that each and every Shidduch Initiative operates at the highest of standards and discretion, perpetually puts the prerequisites and sensitives of our single men and women at the forefront, and is matzliach in creating countless zivugim hagunim in the most contented and gratifying fashion for all involved.