Singles are sick of dating apps. Here’s what they’re doing instead

Feb 14, 2024, 1:22 PM | Updated: 1:23 pm

A speed dating ice bath event in California last year.
(Mike Blake, Reuters)...

A speed dating ice bath event in California last year. (Mike Blake, Reuters)

(Mike Blake, Reuters)

(CNN) — Many singles are tired of swiping on dating apps. They’re going old school to find romance.

Speed dating, singles mixers and other group dating parties have made a comeback since the Covid-19 pandemic ended as singles look to get off their screens and meet potential partners in person. (“Mardi Gras Singles Social” in New York City, “Shuffle Speed Dating in Chicago,” and “Game Night Social” in Los Angeles are a few upcoming events.)

Attendance at dating events in the United States grew 42% in 2023 from 2022, according to ticketing platform Eventbrite, and was higher than pre-pandemic.

Blindfolded, athletic and board-game dating events have grown on Eventbrite. Game-based dating events grew 163% in 2023 and athletic dating events like pickleball and spin classes saw a 135% rise on the platform. Even dating app companies themselves are throwing singles mixers to adapt to the trend.

The dating app market is saturated. (Yu Chun Christopher Wong, S3studio/Getty Images)

A popular time for meetups

Valentine’s Day is a popular day for singles meetups.

As of Sunday, singles events listed for Valentine’s Day increased 41% this year from a year ago, according to Eventbrite.

“The number one complaint I hear is that people are experiencing dating app fatigue,” said Maria Avgitidis, CEO of matchmaking company Apage Match. “We have to go back to dating like it’s 1988.”

Meetups and other in-person dating events are ways to recreate “third spaces” that existed before apps where people could spontaneously get to know each other, she said.

Forty-five percent of Baby Boomers met their partners through a set-up or at work, compared to 26% of Millennials and Gen Z, according to Ipsos polling.

In-person events are “mimicking as if you met through a friend,” Avgitidis said. “It’s really hard to catch a vibe via text, and a lot of pressure on first dates when you have eliminated the time together before.”

Linda de Lucca, who runs Pre-Dating, a speed dating and singles events service in more than 50 cities, said business was slow before and during the pandemic. But it has bounced back.

“Nowadays, and especially after the pandemic, our business is booming,” de Lucca said. “We’ve added second events every night almost to cover the demand.”

“There’s something called chemistry,” she said. “Billions of dollars have been spent trying to replicate the experience of meeting face to face. And it’s never been replicated.”

Mixed feelings about dating apps

Online dating was stigmatized for years, but it’s now a primary form of dating.

According to Match, 25% met their most recent first date online, compared to 20% who met through a friend.

Still, online dating users are divided over whether their experiences on dating apps have been positive.

Fifty-three percent of people say their personal experiences have been very or somewhat positive on dating apps, according to Pew. Forty-six say they have been very or somewhat negative.

Match Group — the owner of Tinder, Hinge and other dating apps — and Bumble boomed during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and saw millions of new users and rising stock prices. But they have been slumping.

Since Match Group’s peak in 2021, shares have lost nearly 80% of their value. Bumble has also dropped around 80% since going public in 2021.

‘Dating app fatigue’

Hinge CEO Justin McLeod acknowledged dating app fatigue among some singles in an interview in December.

“You are overwhelmed: there’s so much activity, and so many people, and everyone starts to look the same, and conversations are dying,” he told the Financial Times.

Dating apps are also shifting to try to facilitate in-person events.

New apps such as Thursday have popped up that throw events for singles in major cities. Bumble has launched Bumble IRL, inviting singles to “start the chat in person” at spin classes, community service outings and other in-person singles gatherings.

“There has been a trend to getting back in person and getting into real life experiences,” said Rachel DeAlto, the chief dating expert at Match Group.

Match last summer launched 72 Hours, a feature designed to get people off their phones and on a date within three days.

This feature is designed to “disrupt the incessant messaging back and forth and get people offline” more quickly, she said.


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Singles are sick of dating apps. Here’s what they’re doing instead