Dating apps are on the out in London. As a city, we’ve reached peak swipe; Tinder has been long over in favour of its self-labelled feminist competitor Bumble, and even that is now rarely used with any level of seriousness amongst my friends. In fact, many singletons I know can’t remember the last time they used an app at all, bar to fend off boredom on the occasional evening – and boredom swiping is like boredom eating: mindless, unnecessary, perhaps with some instant gratification, but dissatisfying long-term. No thanks.
And so, Londoners are on an IRL (in real life) diet. Events have popped up all over the capital to that end, from supper clubs (where you pay to go to a dinner party with other singletons) to games nights (think speed dating but with Cards Against Humanity, dirty Scrabble and Jenga) and even singles cycle rides and doing charity work. Yes, that’s really a thing – see gooddeeddating.co.uk.
Singles nights might be met with turned-up noses in New York. And, true enough, they can have a sniff of desperation around them. But these events are no Match.com meet-ups. They’re often run by other millennials who grew bored of screen-time, and only attract those born after 1982. You can go as groups of friends and use them more as a night out than purely for seeking love. Plus, they’re proving popular – singles events on Design My Night (a UK-based events platform) regularly sell out.
The surface reason for this seems to be to do with manners. My friends – male and female – are sick of the behaviour being behind a screen allows. Ghosting, standing-up, dirty-talk from the off: none of these, we think, are likely to happen with someone we’ve met outside of the Tinder’s virtual realm.
Actually, I take back that last one. There’s nothing more fun than dirty talk in a bar with someone you just met.
Perhaps then, it’s better to say that we just want a shortcut to chemistry. Out with the guy who you think might be OK looking based on the filters on his profile picture; in with the not-your-usual-type guy you were able to talk to at a dinner party for hours. It might not sound like rocket science, but to a generation glued to their screens (and to British girls used to shy British boys who would likely never approach them in a bar) the basic act of meeting someone in person and asking them out does conjure feelings of voodoo and witchcraft (as in, it may have happened to someone else at some time, maybe, but probably won’t happen to us). When it does happen, it is a little bit magic.
Of course, screens aren’t just a problem for singletons. They get in the way of relationships, too. I’ve regularly been on dates with boyfriends who are more interested in their phones (plural: they have one for work, and one for themselves) than me, or who can’t come to bed without still talking to their work colleagues on WhatsApp. Now a lot of couples I know have rules about phones at dinner, and leave them in another room when they go to sleep. It’s amazing how primitive these acts seem, given the huge difference they make to actually being present in a situation.
And maybe being present is the thing. But I think it’s also about fun. Ultimately that’s the one thing we’re always seeking as an age bracket, and it’s what apps have sucked out of dating; what screens have of dates. So – without trying to deliver too much of a cliched Carrie Bradshaw line – there’s something in the trend for connecting by disconnecting. Go forth and date, IRL.