Pre-Dating featured on AXIOS: More D.C. singles are ditching dating apps for in-person events

Mimi Montgomery | | May 6, 2024

Pre-Dating featured in AXIOS article on in-person events
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Single Washingtonians experiencing dating app burnout are turning to a radical idea: actually meeting people … in person.

The big picture: Singles are increasingly swapping virtual for IRL connections as a way out of what many see as a bleak dating app landscape and to feel less socially isolated post-pandemic, users tell Axios.

State of date: Meeting live means relief from the apps’ endless messaging, flakiness, and ghosting, say users — not to mention possible harassment or scams.

  • Plus, many platforms require subscriptions for extra swipes, profile boosts, or the chance to interact with popular profiles — a move that “gatekeeps the hot people,” one app user told Bustle.

What they’re saying: “People are craving more authentic human interaction instead of just swiping on the apps all day,” says Alexandria resident Sarah Goldenberg, who launched a local event series called Singles on Socials D.C., where single people gather at local bars.

  • She was inspired by her own frustrations with the constant screen time required of online dating. “[It] felt in some ways like a second job.”
  • Between September when she launched the series, and March, Goldenberg saw an over 240% increase in the number of attendees.

“The apps are rough,” says Kiran Suryadevara, who is single in D.C. and thinks the quality of people she meets on the apps has gone down. “I feel like the top of the funnel is broken.”

  • Or, as TikToker Keara Sullivan put it, if you met your partner on an app two years ago, “You got the last seat on the last lifeboat to leave the sinking Titanic.”

By the numbers: 46% of dating app users say their experiences have been very or somewhat negative, found a Pew Research Center report last year.

Meanwhile, the number of Eventbrite dating and singles events in the D.C. area grew 43% from 2022 to 2023, the company tells Axios.

  • The group Pre-Dating, which hosts speed dating events nationally, has seen a 41% increase in the number of participants at its D.C. events since 2019, says owner Linda de Lucca.

The intrigue: Even the dating apps themselves are reading the room and have offered in-person options, like Bumble IRL, Match’s 72 Hours, and Tinder’s Single Summer Series, while Hinge last year launched a $1 million social impact fund to fight Gen Z loneliness via real-life connections.

  • This comes as Bumble announced earlier this year it was slashing its workforce and rebranding as younger people veer away from apps.
  • And Match Group, which owns groups like Tinder, Hinge, and The League, saw shares fall last year as fewer people paid for its platforms.

Meanwhile, a group of dating app users brought a lawsuit earlier this year against Match Group, alleging its “predatory” platforms are designed so people won’t find love and will instead remain paying users.

  • Match Group called the claims “ridiculous” and said “We actively strive to get people on dates every day and off our apps,” reports Reuters.

Yes, but: Despite all the frustration, many people remain committed to the apps: One in ten partnered adults say they met their significant other via a dating site or app, per the Pew report.

  • That jumps to one in five when looking at the under-30 crowd.

And 53% of app users say their experience has been very or somewhat positive, per Pew.