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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Disillusioned with dating apps, young adults embrace in-person speed dating

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On a rainy March day in Culver City, a pub hummed with conversation as about 50 young men and women engaged in a unique dating experience.

Arranged across tables on the patio, pairs of participants engaged in brief encounters, some exchanging awkward banter, others sharing soft laughter, while a few opted for a more reserved approach, simply enjoying their drinks.

Younger adults are flocking back to face-to-face meetings like speed dating. A man and woman chat at a speed dating event held in Culver City.


Host Savanna Soma announced each table rotation, prompting the men to move to a new partner every five minutes. The women remained seated as the men circulated, allowing each participant multiple chances to make a connection.

This event followed the format of speed dating, where individuals seek potential matches through a series of short, structured interactions.

Participants paid $40.25 for 120 minutes of matchmaking, comprising 24 opportunities to connect in five-minute intervals. During these brief encounters, participants aimed to convey their interest through conversation, eye contact, and mutual ratings. At the event’s conclusion, participants would be paired based on mutual high ratings.

Despite the challenge of forming meaningful connections in such a short time, speed dating has experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly among young adults disillusioned with dating apps.

“After the pandemic, speed dating events have seen a surge in participation over the past year or so,” noted Soma. “It is especially popular among the younger generation who are fed up with dating apps.”

Many individuals have turned to in-person dating events due to frustrations with dating apps’ drawbacks, such as high fees, fake profiles, and limited emotional connection.

According to Eventbrite, attendance at dating events increased significantly last year, with a particular uptick in events offering light entertainment or athletic activities.

One participant shared her negative experience with dating apps, citing encounters with fake profiles and undesirable matches. She found solace in speed dating’s face-to-face interactions, which allowed for more authentic connections.

The exorbitant fees associated with dating apps have also contributed to their decline in popularity. Premium subscriptions on apps like Hinge and The League can cost hundreds of dollars, with no guarantee of finding a compatible partner.

Furthermore, skewed gender ratios and the gamification of dating apps have made it challenging for users to find meaningful connections.

Speed dating offers a refreshing alternative, providing participants with the opportunity to gauge compatibility through real-time interactions and non-verbal cues.

“We try to keep the ratio of male to female participants at 5:5,” explained Soma. “Participants appreciate face-to-face events because they can assess compatibility based on more than just physical appearance.”

While physical attraction remains important, participants value the ability to communicate effectively and establish genuine connections, qualities often overlooked in the digital realm of dating apps.

BY JAESUN SUH, HOONSIK WOO [suh.jaesun@koreadaily.com]