A 52-year-old divorced mum living in London has taken matters into her own hands after becoming tired of being constantly catfished online.
Dorisa Soudi began online dating after moving from Dubai to London in 2018 but was disappointed with the results and was left horrified when her daughters, Dalia, 23, and Tala, 19, taught her about the concept of catfishing.
The mum-of-two revealed: “On nearly every date I had [they] looked different to their picture.”
But her experience has inspired her to create her own dating app which makes catfishing “nearly impossible”.
Although she divorced in 2012, it wasn’t until her move to the UK that Dorisa began testing out dating apps, and at first she loved them.
She said: “The diversity and the freedom of being a single woman coming from the Middle East was very liberating. Everyone was very open about going on dating apps and I loved it.”
But when her dates failed to match up with their pictures, Dorisa was put off online dating, adding: “When I met my dates, I was like, goodness gracious, none of these gentlemen look like their pictures – not one. I would politely say your pictures are not quite like you in person, and then they would jokingly say it was a picture from five years ago.
“I was never rude, I would always just tell the truth that I didn’t feel we had a connection. I just didn’t want to date anymore because I didn’t want to waste my time.
“Everyone would be surprised that I used my [own unfiltered] photos but I quickly realised that everyone was using filters and even fake profiles to enhance their online appearance.”
It was Dorisa’s daughters who explained the darker side to online dating to her. She said: “My daughters explained it was a really big thing called catfishing. It’s where people use fake pictures on dating profiles. But I found it wasn’t just fake pictures – people used filters and old photos to appear different.”
Dorisa believes that lockdown and the Netflix show Tinder Swindler made more people wary about fake accounts.
Her own experience and her concern for her daughters inspired her to come up with her own solution, she explained: “Being a female and having two daughters in their 20s, I’m always concerned, always worried. My desire to protect them and their peers, coupled with the knowledge that others were experiencing similar issues online, meant that I knew we needed a solution.”
After doing some research, Dorisa realised that there wasn’t a video profile dating app, so she created her own called ZiP.
With an inbuilt video profile ZiP prevents fake uploads, filters and other catfishing tools.
Explaining how it works, Dorisa said: “It’s a dating app without pictures, that’s what I call it,
”We have face recognition and inbuilt tools to identify any possible catfishes, there are no filters. We also make people update their video every three months so everyone’s profile is current to them.
“We also send reminders during chats to prompt people to stay on the app and not give out any personal information too soon. We just make sure that people are comfortable.”
The videos are 15 seconds long and see users answering “silly” questions about themselves, with Dorisa writing 5,000 questions for the app.
But it’s not just intended for those looking for romance, Dorisa added: ”The app is for friendship as well as love. We launched at several universities in September, such as Manchester, Bristol and Kent.”