Today's Reading

"Well. I'm glad you're sitting down and hopefully circulating loads of happy-making dopamine." Clutched against her chest was her trusty tablet. His pulse leaped.

Katie stared at him, unblinking, for an unsettling beat. Then her eyes rolled skyward. "I'm kidding. Relax, before you burst something." She stepped inside his office, shutting the door behind her. "Chill out, okay? It's just the annual independent study on intimacy and relationships. The one you asked me to show you as soon as it was published?"

"Way to give me a heart attack." He pressed a hand to his chest. "I should have you written up for insubordination."

She cocked her head. "Insubordination? I don't think that's in the employee rulebook. I remember You shall not yuck anyone's yum and slander ships you do not personally sail, but insubordination? I think not."

Corporate culture at OTP was less corporate and more an amalgamation of all the truisms Brendon subscribed to—don't be a douche, listen to the dungeon master, and the only way to fail was to not try.

He eyed the tablet in Katie's hands, her bright orange nails clicking against the black protective sleeve. "Did you look at it already?"

Once a year, the Dew Research Center reported their findings regarding the public's perception of intimacy and dating in the digital age. No apps were named, but the trends were enlightening and helped OTP to better understand their target demographic, along with the overall pain and pressure points felt with online dating.

Katie passed him the tablet. "I did. Most of it's what we expected from the previous two years. The whole market is seeing a slowdown in growth of new users, not only us."

He cradled the tablet in his hands. "Overall outlook?"

She reached for the smiley-face stress ball on his desk, giving it a good squeeze. She made a serious of hmm's and meh's, sounding like an out-of-tune piano, and shrugged.

That didn't sound promising.

He skimmed the intro section on methodology and polling practices, scrolling with his index finger until he reached the section labeled "Outlooks and Experiences."

Roughly half of users who had used one or more dating apps reported their experience left them feeling 'more' frustrated, rather than hopeful. Forty percent of users reported their experience left them feeling more pessimistic than optimistic, while nearly 40 percent reported feeling neither.

A whopping 30 percent of users expressed that dating apps made courtships impersonal and devoid of romance.

Devoid of romance?

Meh was right.

Katie sighed and set his stress ball aside. "I know. Some of this is . . . less than ideal, but remember, none of this is app specific. According to our last in-house survey, over half of our users report high levels of satisfaction, and that was even before the updates we made last quarter. We own the market with Gen Z and younger millennial users, and users of other apps who switch are most likely to download OTP. Focus on 'those' figures and be happy. This survey? Hardly relevant. Pretend it doesn't exist. You saw nothing."

Easier said than done when almost a third of people polled believed dating apps had killed romance when OTP was trying to revive it. Not that he'd believed it was dead to begin with.

The poll wasn't personal, it wasn't a jab at him or his company, but it was the principle of the matter. OTP's entire raison d'tre, the canon he clung to without fail, was that everyone had a perfect person. Not a person who was perfect, but a person perfect for them. Puzzle pieces slotting together just so. OTP promised to help users find that person.

It was disheartening to see that so many people were jaded.

He smiled wanly, having gone from buoyant to bummed in under five minutes. "Mind emailing me this?"

"As if it's not already sitting in your inbox." Katie rolled her eyes and snagged her tablet, powering the screen down into sleep mode. "I figured you'd want to study the data."

Agonize over it, more like.

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