Conspiracy theorists are carving out their own niche in the dating world, setting up dedicated dating sites to address what they perceive as a growing disconnect with mainstream society. The most recent addition, schwurbeltreff.de, launched in Germany, has already attracted 1,500 users within its initial three weeks. This unique platform deviates from standard dating profiles by probing into users’ beliefs about various conspiracy theories, including COVID-19, QAnon, New World Order, or prepper ideology, as well as disclosing the number of COVID-19 vaccines they’ve received. Additionally, new users are prompted to describe their information sources on current events and speculate on global changes over the next two decades.
Michael Bründel, a prominent figure in Germany’s anti-lockdown conspiracy scene, established the site, adopting the moniker “Captain Future” and often appearing in trademark yellow headgear and a mask at “Freedom Marches” during the pandemic. The site’s homepage displays a visually charged depiction of Bründel wearing a tinfoil hat, symbolically connected to a similarly adorned woman on a laptop embellished with UFO stickers and references to “Free Julian Assange” and the World Trade Center.
Bründel asserts that the divergence of opinions during the pandemic, particularly on COVID-19, has ruptured existing relationships and forged new connections. He advocates for separate dating platforms for “lateral thinkers,” as he believes that individuals viewing the world differently would struggle to comprehend each other’s perspectives. He perpetuates the misconception that vaccinated individuals pose a threat to the unvaccinated by “shedding” the vaccine, asserting that as an unvaccinated “lateral thinker,” vaccinated individuals aren’t a viable option for him.
Nicholas Potter, a researcher at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, notes how conspiracy theories can alienate believers from their social circles due to increasingly far-fetched claims, leading them to seek solace among like-minded individuals. He highlights the separatist tendencies of conspiracy movements evident in the emergence of dating sites tailored to these beliefs and other separatist initiatives like anti-vaxxer job portals and efforts to create insulated communities.
While Bründel’s dating platform encompasses functions allowing users to list conspiracist events, concerns about organizing potentially violent demonstrations remain low. Potter suggests that existing digital spaces like Telegram serve as ideal hubs for radicalizing followers and spreading misinformation. He perceives the dating site launch as an attempt by Bründel to sustain relevance within the shrinking protest movement, which faces diminishing attendance and is hindered by a pro-Russian stance that distances potential supporters.
Bründel anticipates that “lateral thinkers” like himself will eventually transition into the mainstream, hoping for societal reconciliation once those allegedly responsible for the pandemic face accountability. This view, prevalent among conspiracists, envisions a future where their perspectives become widely accepted, marking an end to the societal divide only when the “truth” is embraced, and the purported culprits are brought to justice.