The Scoop: People are spending less time with each other in person than they were 20 years ago. While technology has changed how people socialize, loneliness has become a significant concern — one that can have long-term health effects. Authentic social connections are essential to human nature, and finding your tribe can lead you to satisfaction and improved health. Eden helps the LGBTQIA+ community discover and foster lasting friendships and connections through music and chat. We spoke with Justin Haar, CEO of Eden, about the platform’s unique musical approach, ban on swiping, and tips for creating connections in real life and online.
Not too long ago, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared loneliness an epidemic. A life void of social connection can lead to lasting side effects and take a toll not only on emotional and mental health but also on physical and long-term well-being. Research has highlighted that social connection is just as important to our well-being as food and water.
Loneliness can go beyond being physically alone. The quality of our connections can also play a significant role in avoiding feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s probably not your first time hearing that someone can be surrounded by people and feel even more alone. We, as humans, want to feel seen and heard, and fostering genuine and deep connections can help with that.
Justin Haar channeled his experience with loneliness into a solution by creating his social app Eden. In 2015, he began developing Eden as a way to curb his own loneliness and that of his peers. Justin had experienced a lot in his early years, including beating childhood cancer, losing his mother to the disease, suffering from Tourette’s, and coming out while part of a fraternity at a conservative college.
Driven by his own story, Justin used the skills he learned from coding boot camps and working in the automotive and media industries for 8 years to give the LGBTQIA+ community a safe space to connect romantically or platonically. Eden also takes a unique approach by adding musical discovery to its platform to help users connect over musical interests.
“Music is a big part of the queer community. In every community in general, we use music to express ourselves. It amplifies how we connect with each other. Music is arguably the language of love, connection, and relationships. So it makes somewhat perfect sense to have it,” said Justin Haar, CEO of Eden.
Music is a Universal Language for Connection
Music has brought people together for centuries. Today’s musical gatherings may look somewhat different from those in earlier times. But we still come together and share the same passion, whether at a concert jam-packed with thousands of people or a spontaneous sing-a-long session at a local bar.
Eden brings people together through music in a similar but more modern way. Since music is such an important part of the queer community, Eden integrates it to help people break through the ice and connect through their musical interests.
“I feel like music needs to be there in one way or another. It’s definitely a universal aspect. It allows people to connect in many different ways. Your music takes tastes,” said Justin.
Justin had a previous career in media, so it’s not his first time working with media and music players. He said his experience made it easy for him to integrate into the platform. Eden’s music player acts as a remote or extension to popular music platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music. Users can control playback seamlessly through the app.
Justin said he recently worked on fixing some bugs for Spotify players to improve their user experience. But he also wanted to highlight that the in-app player isn’t only for playing music and encourages users to take advantage of its social aspect.
“It’s also like an Instagram meets music. Users can post songs to their profile and follow others too. So you have that social networking component, side by side with the relationship, friends, and dating component. So it’s two types of experiences in one,” said Justin
Saying Goodbye to Swiping
Swiping has created a trend in dating that hasn’t led to the best results. Dating has become more superficial, and people can often miss out on a good match because they swipe through profiles too quickly. Hot-or-not swiping can also lead to more short-term relationships.
“Finding someone when you’re constantly swiping and in that mindset of whether you’re hot or not potentially encourages a short-term mindset. And that’s not what Eden is,” said Justin.
Justin said Eden is a place for users to find and form lasting relationships. This is exactly why Justin decided to forgo swiping capabilities in his app. Removing swiping pushes singles to put their time and effort into engaging with people. Eden also allows them to speak with people they haven’t matched with.
“It eliminates to some degree that rejection feeling because with swiping up, you’re either being accepted or rejected or rejecting somebody. So it’s just a mentality that I think isn’t healthy to have when you’re looking for people and trying to engage,” said Justin.
And Eden doesn’t limit connections to the user’s sexuality or gender. So when you set your sexuality, you won’t only get profiles with that same sexuality, unlike other apps. Eden is all about creating a place where emotional intimacy and connections can thrive.
“So it creates a more flexible place to find exactly what you’re interested in and create that mentality that your gender or sexuality may be irrelevant to the way I’m looking to connect and who I’m looking to connect with,” said Justin.
Eden Makes It Easy to Find Like-Minded Individuals
Eden is an inclusive space that allows queer people to meet other individuals who share their interests, whether through music or chatting. Because the app is so flexible with settings, it makes finding matches or exploring preferences easier. Justin said younger generations tend to be more open-minded and look for different types of people, whereas older people want more specific things.
“This is a place where whoever you are, there’s a community looking for you. And it’s important to encompass that in one place where we can all connect and find the people we’re attracted to on an emotional and physical level,” said Justin.
Eden is also adding more local resources to the app. As of now, it has local health, mental health, and suicide hotlines in the US. It also has testing center locations. “I’m also looking to put in a sports network for queer require people to find sports clubs they can join. So trying to create an all-inclusive place where you can find people or things to do nearby and be a one-stop shop for ways for people to connect,” said Justin.
Justin encourages the LGBTQIA+ community to hang out with people in real life, especially because of loneliness and other things happening in the world. He said people should try new things or meet up at local events. But he also advised them to take things slow.
“Don’t forget the old-school way of connecting people, which is to take it slow. You don’t need to tell everything to everyone. Keep it chill, cool, and funny. And then let time work its magic. Time will tell whether or not this person is right as a friend or as a partner. You don’t have to know immediately,” said Justin.