Why you should care
Because we’re all too scared to swipe right.
When 23-year-olds Georgie Grant and Stroma Parker connected with a pair of dapper young men via a dating app, the sparks started flying. After exchanging a few flirty lines, the chummy group of four met up at London’s Heathrow Airport. To set the mood, they jetted off on a weekend getaway to Paris, the City of Love.
Talk about flying past the first-date jitters.
The dating app tale is familiar by now: Boy swipes right, girl swipes right and then … nothing happens. That’s because the mobile-dating plunge is far from painless. But if misery loves company, so too does shyness. For the lovelorn who still have the sour taste of Tinder in their mouths, a growing hotbed of group dating apps wants to help ease the awkward labor of love: Grouvly in Hong Kong, Double in the United Kingdom, Entourage in Chicago, Grouper in the United States and Peekawoo in the Philippines. Perks may include a dashing wingman or foxy wingma’am on demand, cheesy double dates at the bowling alley or an entourage if you want to tag team your date, all with a swipe of the finger. These apps are hoping, in some way, to capture a bit of the online dating market — which grew 5 percent annually between 2010 and 2015, when it was worth more than $2 billion, according IBIS World.
The new dating apps have picked up on the universal frustration of online dating: It is, for many people, deeply unnatural, sometimes alienating and even scary.
For Grant and Parker, who used Double, the Paris jaunt yielded mixed results. On the one hand, no one fell head over heels; on the other, they all had a blast and stay in touch on social media. Whether or not the new dating apps succeed, they’ve definitely picked up on the universal frustration of online dating: It is, for many people, deeply unnatural, sometimes alienating and even scary. Picture a crowded bar on a Friday night, says Entourage co-founder Edgar Friloux, “You never see someone going it alone.” It’s not just that another wingman (or, yes, wingma’am) can help move those awkward moments along. His or her very presence vouches for you and, ideally, casts you in your best, most attractive light. So, in turn, the ideal group dates feel more like outings than auditions.
Of course, group dating is nothing new. It remains the cultural norm in Japan and Korea, where singles often go on group blind dates. If anything, one-on-one dates are the new phenomenon, with the rituals of modern courtship — unchaperoned rendezvous that occur outside the home — taking off in the U.S. only in the post–World War II era. Nowadays, the industry has matured, all the way toward the alleged dating apocalypse, according to some. And some companies see opportunity in the wreckage of it all, the hitters and quitters, the one and doners. These days, it can seem like there’s a niche dating app for everyone: the gluten-free, the dog owners, tall people, hirsute men and those who love them.
But in such a saturated marketplace, will group dating apps ever gain a meaningful audience? “Dating is inherently niche,” says Loren Gould, co-founder of Double. He argues that just as there is more than one social media network and more than one ride-sharing app, there’s plenty of room for variation. Most singles already switch among three and five apps, adds Julie Spira, a cyberdating expert. But group dating apps help singles “cast a wider net,” she adds. “You’re not going to get stuck with someone with ill intentions.”
Of course, you might find yourself sticking out a terrible date for the sake of the group. Thornier complications can spring up too: Consider the prospect of a love triangle arising during a group date — 26-year-old Liam Doolan, of London, had to. He and his wingman called up a date through Double, and his wingman called dibs on one woman. But early into the date, the wingman found his chosen one didn’t tickle his fancy — he wanted to switch camps. (They didn’t end up switching, but Doolan says it didn’t matter: There’s always witty banter flowing in a group of four.) To keep feelings from getting hurt, partners might have to be strict on terms of engagement. Trust us, you want to avoid a weird love triangle or quintuplet at all costs. After all, “rules are rules and he made the shout early,” says Doolan.
But with your bro, even if it’s not love at first sight, you can always ditch your dates and have a night on the town regardless.