It seemed so easy, once upon a time, to sit on the couch in pajamas scrolling through attractive dating profiles, making connections, and writing the next chapter of your love story. Everyone has heard about that perfect couple that met online. In fact, that’s how I met my wonderful partner. But according to recent studies, dating apps are on the decline, and meeting people in the real world is now trending.
Genuine connections, some say, make for better first dates because a positive vibe has already been established. Others insist there are “lower-quality” people on the apps who are lying, spamming, using dated photos, ghosting, slinging hurtful slurs, or hunting for an ego boost. According to a Pew Research study at the height of the apps’ popularity, 32% of female users reported being harassed while using a dating app.
Unsurprisingly, the most popular dating platforms have recently seen lower numbers of new users. According to Tinder’s company data, the dating app giant has continuously lost subscribers since mid-2022. Match.com and Hinge, which offer “better user experiences” for paid subscribers, have seen a decline as well. And there’s been a major shift in demographics, with more straight men than straight women utilizing them (while LGBTQ users are on the rise). Tinder reportedly has the highest gender imbalance, with 75% of users identifying as male. At the end of 2023, an Axios survey found that 79% of college students don’t use dating apps at all, preferring instead to meet people in person.
For those holding onto the apps and believing that it takes more effort to go out in public and meet somebody, here’s the thing: you’re exhausting the same time and energy scrolling through countless profiles that may or may not result in a date. If you want to meet other datable singles, why not attend some local singles events?
A few months ago, Jill Shearer and her partners launched Dating in Pittsburgh, a chill happy hour gathering for singles set to occur once a month (or more) in 2024. It all started when Jill and her partners, Rachel and Megan, decided that they were “sick of the dating apps” and wanted another option in Pittsburgh. Shearer was excited when she first began online dating but quickly realized it wasn’t for her, citing the “dissonance” between who a potential partner is in person and behind a screen.
Dating in Pittsburgh’s first event quickly sold all 75 tickets, after which they launched a second event catering to a slightly older demographic. Shearer feels positive that the events will continue to thrive, stating that some of the participants met someone they were interested in dating, while others made new friends while having fun.
But Dating in Pittsburgh is not the only local service to follow the organic meetup trend.
Speed dating, in a sense, has been added to Nerd Night’s “Speed Mingling” events, offering participants seeking a romantic connection a green wristband to let others know, “I’m single and ready to mingle!” And then there’s Timber, an inclusive singles group for outdoorsy folks that holds events all over the Commonwealth, including hiking, camping, and kayaking, as well as attending local happenings together as a group. Despite being a statewide singles community, Timber offers localized chats and meetups for the “Westies” here in Allegheny County.
You can also meet people at fun local events not exclusively tied to dating.
Not to toot Pittsburgh City Paper’s horn, but we have a pretty extensive list of events both on our events page and in our Seven Days newsletter, so you’ll never have trouble finding an event to get yourself out in a public setting — dressed to the hilt, if that’s your thing — to connect with new people.
When searching for events, the key is to connect with like-minded people. For instance, if you love frisbee, try a frisbee event where you can mingle with locals who love tossing the disc as much as you do. If you love wine, try a wine mixer. If you love professional wrestling, go watch muscly opponents smash each other in the face with a chair with some new friends. The possibilities are endless, and the connections you make will be well worth putting yourself out there.
You may be reading my recommendations and thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. I’m an introvert or a busy professional with very little time to spend out at social functions.” I get it. If online dating isn’t working for you, may I suggest trying a matchmaking service instead? A matchmaking service will cost more money than online dating, but it may be worth the investment.
Whatever avenue you choose, I wish you good fortune in your dating journey. Stay true to yourself, set healthy boundaries, and remember to keep it light and fun!