With Valentine’s Day next week, those in relationships are planning to buy flowers or jewelry, go out to dinner and otherwise treat their significant other to some kind of romantic gift, food or activity.
It’s also a time when those in the dating world take a step, and figure out a plan to avoid having to save face by proclaiming how much they enjoy being single next Valentine’s Day.
There are some notable trends expected in 2017, according to social behavior observers. After years of online sites like Match.com and Plenty of Fish, and apps like Tinder dominating the dating scene, some are predicting a return to the old fashioned, face-to-face method of finding a first date and dating in general.
“Fast, impulsive, sexting, quick hookups and isolation from real world dating enables singles to hide out, isolate, avoid, not learning how to date or follow through with dating and love skills for life partners,” Wendy O’Connor, a licensed family and relationship therapist tells the women’s lifestyle blog Bustle. “It does not help singles learn social skills needed in order to build a long-term secure attachment in real life or technology. This year, we will start to separate the players from the serious daters seeking a committed relationship.”
Match.com boasts having 4.2 million members per month and estimates the site is visited some 26.2 million times a month. Tinder, where you swipe right to indicate you like a potential match or left to move on to the next abbreviated profile, claims on its website the app is available in 30 languages with an estimated 50 million people using it per month. Users, it says, collectively make around one billion swipes – left or right – per day.
Online dating, though, while growing exponentially over the past two decades, still opens the door to all sorts of fake profiles and, some believe, can be a dangerous way to meet a complete stranger for the first time.
“I’m not single anymore. Tom and I met hiking,” said local outdoor enthusiast Sue Hall. “My advice to all of my older single friends is to do the things you love and there you will find someone who also loves those things. Makes for the perfectly matched companion in my humble opinion.”
Jay Renzi, a single guy from Troy, said the whole online dating experience brings a “whole set of problems” and would prefer to meet face-to-face.
“With tinder specifically it becomes so simple to swipe through that you start to feel that there is a better ‘option’ one more swipe away. And when you do match you are confronted with how to play the situation in that is what you are looking for in line with what they are looking for,” he said. “The great thing about meeting someone in the traditional way is that immediately you know if there is a form of attraction … And any bond, no matter how small, feels genuine, and thus worthy of further emotional investment.”
While not all Meetup groups are geared towards the singles scene or dating at all, they are gaining in popularity across the board. Right now, there are Meetup groups for about every activity imaginable from knitting, to reading, to outdoor adventures to social activism to trivia to cooking to shooting and archery.
The Meetup website says it has 29.8 million members enrolled in 286,055 Meetup groups based in 180 countries. Each month there are 576,667 Meetups, with 3.88 million members. At any given time, the website claims, there are 2,895 Meetups happening.
The worst that can happen to those singles looking for romance on a Meetup outing is they spend some time doing something they enjoy doing anyway – and it doesn’t include swiping right or left or writing a note to a cold, lifeless profile picture.
The Albany-based Singles Outreach Services has been in business for 34 years and it is perhaps the first generation of Meetup groups – or a Meetup group before the internet and social media.
SOS is not a dating site, and it doesn’t try to be one, board member Ann Parillo said. Rather, it acts as a resource offering information on housing and employment and also sponsors a host of activities like a Valentine’s Day dance. Shortly after it first started in 1983, SOS was getting 300 new members a month and topped out at around 5,000 in the mid-80s Parillo said.
“But, with the advent of Match.com and Our Time and all those sites and with sites like the Meetups and other organizations where people can get together, they don’t seem to need singles outreach as much as they used to,” she said. “The newer generation is so tied to their cell phones and social media to connect with things. There is no physical commitment. There is no physical presence.”
She said the shift away from the internet, real or perceived, and toward more face-to-face could help out her non-profit group which, unlike most Meetups, charges a $30 a year membership fee to help pay for, among other things, its community center at 455 New Karner Road.
“We have friendships that have lasted 30 years,” she said, adding some couples who met through SOS still come to events. “Our vision was to form friendships and not act as a dating site.”