Dating apps aren't as popular as they once were. How are we meeting people now?

Dating apps aren't as popular as they once were. How are we meeting people now?

If you had a smartphone ten years ago, you’ll remember how exciting it was when Tinder first launched.

The app—which has since spawned multiple copies, spin-offs, and riffs-on—allows users to scroll through potential dates, swiping left for no and right for yes. If two users swipe right on each other, a match is created and the two can converse.

Sounds perfect, right?

Although dating apps were undeniably hugely popular for a long time, there appears to have been a shift of interest away from them since the end of the pandemic.

Many people are now eschewing apps in favour of meeting people in-person, or simply staying single.

But why? What could have caused a generation of swipers to put down their phones and return to the real world? After all, dating apps promise the potential of limitless matches and opportunities for romance—why give that up?

We reckon there’s a few reasons why people might be prioritising real-world dating:


The rate of success on apps isn’t as high as we want it to be

 Although seemingly every friend group boasts that one perfect couple who met on an app and went on to get married and have kids, there are undoubtedly more of us who’ve tried their luck swiping and simply given up. And it’s not because we’re unappealing—it may be down to pure decision fatigue. After all, it’s exciting to talk to one potential date, but five? Ten? Even more? After a while, answering all of those messages can feel like emptying your work inbox after being out of office for a week. Couple that with the fact that each match might have five or ten other matches in their inbox, and you can understand why the odds may not be in our favour on dating apps.

It’s hard to connect through a phone screen

 Anyone who’s ever sat through a job interview on Zoom can tell you that connecting in a real, human way is difficult through a screen. Sure, we can do our best, but at the end of the day it’s hard to deny that meeting someone in-person is often the best way to get to know them, especially if you haven’t met before. As it is, it’s hard to find common ground on a dating app, especially if all you have to spark conversation is someone’s Insta snaps, stance on pineapple on pizza, or height. It’s no wonder that so many conversations fall into the lull of, “Hey, how are you?” “Good, how are you? “Great, how are you?.

Dating apps feel spookily close to games

 The bright colours, the jingling tones, the repetitive swiping…it all feels a lot like the pokies, but for romance. That apps have gamified dating is not a new theory, but we do wonder if the shift away from casual hook-ups has led to a culture that wants to make dating feel less like a game, and more like an attempt at genuine human connection. Games are fun and all, but it feels a little jarring to use the same mechanics on people as we do when we play Candy Crush.

So, the question remains: if we aren’t meeting people on apps, where are we meeting them? We have a few ideas—and some tips!


  • Run clubs. The concept of getting together to go for a run with strangers isn’t new, but it is seriously popular at the moment. ‘Run clubs’ hold runs and walks at regular times, and virtually anyone can participate. It’s a great way to explore your local area, move your body, and meet people—and, yes, find a date. Be aware, though, that run clubs (just like the gym and yoga studios) are places people go to for health and wellness reasons primarily, not just to find dates. If you meet someone and hit it off, that’s great—but picking up shouldn’t be your main motivation for going.
  • Speed dating. Like run clubs, speed dating isn’t new but speed dating events are having a real renaissance right now. Forget about the thought of having to pitch yourself to a group of nervous strangers—contemporary speed dating is fun, young, and often geared towards specific communities, such as queer or neurodivergent people.
  • Dinner parties. We don’t mean dinner parties with people you know—we’re talking total strangers here! Dinner and supper clubs have really taken off recently, with people seeking out opportunities to meet new friends and even potential dates. Each club has their own rules, so we recommend finding one that’s right for you. Many seem to be focused on meeting new friends, so we recommend taking it slow and keeping in mind that finding someone to date is a bonus, not the goal of the night.
  • Meeting in person. Just like our parents used to do, right? After so long spent on the apps, meeting someone in person feels exciting and thrilling—everything that a date is supposed to be. Of course, if you’re keen to meet someone in person we recommend sticking to places where people might be open to striking up a conversation, like a bar, party, games night, or hobby group. Be aware of their comfort levels, and never try to convince or persuade anyone to take your number or go on a date with you if they’re not interested. But if you lock eyes with a cutie at your local book club and you’re both sharing a smile, why not go up and say hi? It might be a great date just waiting to happen.

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