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Could blind dates rescue us from dating app burnout?

Could blind dates rescue us from dating app burnout?

3 min read

Blind dates are back, with many singles choosing to swipe away from the dating app churn. Could the blind date trend be the answer to finding real love?
Amid the return of low-rise jeans and bucket hats to the high street (I had one of the latter in 1999, thank you very much), another Nineties trend is enjoying a revival: blind dates. 
Back then, before smartphones and dating apps, you didn’t have to swipe through a sea of prospects to find a match—you relied on your friends to set you up with someone. You’d then show up for that date with an open mind and hope for the best. 
In many ways, it was the opposite of how we date today—and that’s precisely why a growing number of Brits are going retro.
"You’d then show up for that date with an open mind and hope for the best"
Folks are fed up with online dating, where you’re flooded with options yet the exchanges you have are often superficial and lead nowhere. Dating app Hinge reports that 61 per cent of their users find modern dating tiring and overwhelming. 
On the other hand, in-person events for mixing with eligible strangers have increased by 400 per cent from 2014-2018 in the UK, per ticketing platform Eventbrite.
There are now also dedicated apps, like Blindlee and Magnet, that will pair you with someone without showing you their profile. 
The idea is that by trying to get to know someone rather than forming a snap judgement from their profile, you’ve got more of a shot at making a meaningful connection. I think there’s some truth to that. 

The science of a romantic spark

couple walking through park on blind date
How attracted we are to someone is influenced by looks—some research names physical attractiveness as the strongest predictor of whether we’ll fancy someone—but this isn’t the only factor at play. 
Once you spend a bit of time with your date, you take in a whole new suite of information that can make them more or less attractive to you: are they funny? Smart? Giving off positive body language?
In fact, there’s research showing that judging someone based on written or visual information, like their dating profile, doesn’t reflect how attracted to them you’ll feel once you’re on a first date together. 
What does predict whether people will fancy each other is having a “gut feeling of connection,” according to a 2021 study of 140 heterosexual singles on blind first dates.
"To give the spark a chance to happen, there needs to be some meaningful level of interaction"
This connection, the study authors suggest, is an actual sensation you feel in your body: there’s a theory that the ways we react emotionally to someone correlate with physical signs of arousal, like pupil size and heart rate.
We experience this as a “gut feeling” which shapes how we see them. 
Sure enough, people in the study who both experienced these physical sensations during the date tended to feel attracted to one another.
The authors propose that this captures a “genuine emotional exchange”—something like a romantic spark—compared to the quick and transactional encounters typical of online dating today. 
The implication here is that to give the spark a chance to happen, there needs to be some meaningful level of interaction between you. Blind dating creates space for us to do that, whereas online dating generally doesn’t.

The blind date renaissance

While finding a partner is still ultimately a game of numbers and luck, I’d argue that blind dating tees us up to form more genuine connections earlier on in the process.
You might have fewer matches than you’d get online but you would give yourself the chance to click with each, versus trying to strike gold by sifting through reams of profiles and flirty texts
I’m excited about the blind dating renaissance: it suggests a slower and more intentional approach to finding love. It asks us to put time and effort into meeting people and to take them at face value before deciding whether they’re for us.
Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful reprieve from swiping? 
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