Fed up with the major dating apps, people of all ages are using Facebook’s private Groups function to find romance and show off their single friends.
Depending on the group, users will share pictures of themselves or of a friend who is looking for a relationship, and then will field the responses. One woman, for example, says in the “Date Him New York” group that her friend is “incredibly intelligent, ambitious and funny. He loves being active, traveling and is family oriented.” Another woman, writing in the group TikMatched Private Singles Community, says she’s looking for “a partner in mischief.”
Dating apps surged in popularity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Relegated to their homes, people turned online more than ever to find romantic connections (along with platonic and professional ones). In the race to lure new customers, the dating app behemoths unleashed a slew of new features—such as audio and video options, and in-app games—aimed at improving the matching experience.
But even with those added perks, many singles feel burned out on the traditional app experience. “The main issue with dating apps to me is the lack of follow-through and the general opinion that if you are on a dating app you have many options and you are not looking for anything serious,” says Dana, a 28-year-old from New York who has used Hinge, Bumble, and The League. She asked Fast Company to withhold her last name so she could keep her dating life private.
To be sure, the business of dating is nowhere near dead: Millions of users are still on dating apps, according to third-party data sites (the companies don’t break out figures for total users). “As much as people complain about the apps, it seems there aren’t many other options for such instant access to singles,” says Caitlin Cooper, a dating coach who founded the Date Him New York Facebook group.
But plenty of people are looking for other ways to meet partners, even if they continue to maintain a presence on the Bumbles and Tinders of the world. And many are turning to Facebook Groups. Date Him New York, for example, has amassed more than 2,000 members since its creation in August.
Whereas most of the popular apps run on a “freemium” model, meaning users can access the app for free but have to pay for services such as more “likes” or the ability to backtrack on swipes, Facebook Groups brings back the era of old-school, word-of-mouth matchmaking—which is exactly what many have missed in the digital age that is monetizing romance. (On the flip side, some are using Facebook to dig up information about partners’ infidelities. The group “Are We Dating The Same Guy? New York City NYC” has more than 50,000 members.)
Meta declined to comment on the number of dating-focused groups it houses on the platform, but a quick scan shows that such groups are popping up in several U.S. cities. (Facebook launched its own free dating service in September 2019, though it has released little information about the service, including how many users have signed up or connected.)
“This is the new reality of people looking for a vetted, vouched person,” Cooper says. “The best daters are the ones that don’t have an ego about it and will throw themselves into anything. The people that say yes with no expectations are the ones that do very well.”
People in Cooper’s “Date Him” group post pictures of their single guy friends or family members (the group page includes a disclaimer to post men only if given permission) and what they’re looking for. Earlier this month, for example, someone posted on behalf of a 30-year-old male friend who is looking for a serious relationship with a 24- to 31-year-old woman. Five people responded in the comments asking to be set up with the man.
“Usually you’ll find a couple of gems in there and make those connections,” says Cooper, who also runs TikMatched, a private Facebook group of 2,800 people that asks members to share pictures of themselves and bits of information in hopes of finding connections.
Dana, who is part of a few dating-focused Facebook groups, including Cooper’s, says she is drawn to the idea of being able to connect with women, learn about their dating experiences, and seek advice. (Dana says she hasn’t gone out with anyone from the groups yet, but has helped a friend connect with dates. ) “It does provide a little more comfort mentally when someone provides character references and actually knows the person well enough to vouch for them,” she says. “To me personally, it’s important that a man I am potentially going to meet has close friends and family that speak highly of him.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Bursztynsky is a staff writer for Fast Company, covering the gig economy and other consumer internet companies. She previously covered tech and breaking news for CNBC.