PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: It’s estimated that worldwide, 382 million people will use dating apps like Tinder, above, this year.

People enjoy using digital dating apps—except when they don’t.

“I refuse to do dating apps,” said Lilian S., 25, of Reno. “Not that I don’t think it’s a valid way to meet people these days; it’s just a numbers game. Too many people just use it for validation of their looks, and it’s hard to form that initial chemistry just from swiping and glancing at a screen.”

Lilian would rather see “how someone walks and talks in real life” than form opinions based on an online profile that’s more of a marketing pitch than a factual description.

She is not alone. Other singles are rejecting fast-and-furious dating-app tech in favor of the old-school method of meeting people face-to-face.

Dating entered the digital realm decades ago when “computer dating” companies specialized in matching people with prospective partners after they filled out lengthy surveys about personal preferences. Dating apps added a real-time urgency to the process. Users make split-second decisions about the members’ profiles that pop up on their screens—and can be chosen or dismissed by swiping right or left.

The apps are used by people of every age, but they have become an integral part of the social lives of many millennials and members of Gen Z, occupying a prominent space on their smartphones. It is estimated that approximately 382 million people worldwide will engage in online dating this year, according to Hack Spirit.

Lilian won’t be one of them. She has been dating in an analog world, with no screens between her and a prospective partner. That’s the way she met her last two boyfriends.

“My last boyfriend and I met at a spa here in Reno,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for anything, but he caught my eye from across the room—and bam!”

The relationship before that, she said, began when she met a man at a college event, although she didn’t exchange numbers with him at first. “A week later, he was behind me in line again waiting to get into a concert,” Lilian said. “So I think if you put yourself in immersive situations and just say ‘yes,’ you will have the power to meet lots of people.”

The Truckee Meadows offers more opportunities for singles to meet than many other cities, according to recent stats.

On WalletHub’s list of the Best and Worst Cities for Singles, Reno ranked 13th out of 182 communities. The criteria included 36 key indicators of dating-friendliness, including the area’s percentage of single people, the number of online dating opportunities and the average price of a two-person meal. The Biggest Little City also has a social calendar packed with special events and a range of taverns, pubs and night clubs. For singles, that’s a target-rich environment—but breaking the ice with strangers in a rowdy crowd while music blasts from speakers isn’t for everyone.

The rise of digital dating

Dating, a social mine field in any era, has gotten both simpler and more complicated with the addition of technology.

Justin S., a 24-year-old University of Nevada, Reno, MBA graduate who has been using dating apps on and off for five years, said the process can be fun, but also habit-forming.

“When you’re bored, you start to find yourself scrolling and just needing validation from a stranger,” he said.

Tinder, Hinge and Bumble are the most common dating apps for most people; each has its own unique features. Connecting through keystrokes is efficient, but not very romantic.

“No one dreams of finding someone on a dating app, but if you like someone, it shouldn’t matter where you met,” Justin said.

Some success stories do begin with a swipe to the right. Stephanie G. and her partner, Erick B., both Renoites in their 20s, met on Bumble and have been together for five years.

“At the time, I had been on and off Bumble for three months, never taking it too seriously,” Stephanie said. “Erick, on the other hand, had never been on a dating app before, and I was the second person he matched with and the first and only person he met from the app.”

“I was caught in a (first date) situation that I thought was going to end badly. It got to the point where I was preparing myself to tuck and roll out of his car. He told me he was just making jokes.” Stephanie G., Reno

Stephanie said she’s encountered her “fair share” of weirdness on dating apps. For example, she said, one first date began turning ominous during a conversation in the man’s car. “I was caught in a situation that I thought was going to end badly,” she said. “(It got) to the point where I was preparing myself to tuck and roll out of his car. He told me he was just making jokes. But after that date, I never saw him again.”

An app eventually led her to Erick, but Stephanie noted that women using dating services have to be very careful.

“Always inform someone you trust about where you are going, who you are meeting, and establish a code word,” she said. “This way, if you have a gut feeling and need to leave, your trusted person can react to your code and call you to assist you in leaving if necessary. If something feels off … trust your instincts and move on.”

People in the LGBTQ+ community are avid users of online dating sites and apps, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, and are nearly twice as likely as straight individuals to have used dating apps and websites. The Pew report noted that more than half of the LGBTQ-identifying people said they have pursued online dating. Only 28% of the straight adults in the survey admitted to having used a dating site or app.

Some dating sites, including Tinder and Bumble, are available to people of any sexual orientation, but a variety of apps—including Grindr, Scruff, HER and others—are exclusive to users seeking people of the same sex.

In general, the LGBTQ+ online daters included in the Pew survey reported positive experiences. At the same time, they are more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms—from name-calling to physical threats.

The need for speed

For those who tire of fast-paced digital dating and the perils of pub meetings, alternatives are available. Tantra speed dating, for example, is gaining popularity in Reno; the events are held monthly at The Studio, 1085 S. Virginia St., and around the country. The concept combines traditional speed dating with the principles of tantra, a practice that emphasizes intimacy, connection and energy. In practice, participants briefly meet others and share an activity with each new person. Those exercises include eye contact for extended periods of time, embracing strangers tightly, and synchronizing breaths to create a sense of shared presence and vulnerability. While these activities may initially seem intense, they encourage individuals to step outside their comfort zones, practitioners attest.

Some singles look for love both online and off. Marie B., 57, of Carson City said she tried online dating while simultaneously venturing out into real world activities.

“I always meet people at concerts during the summer; Carson City has a thriving music scene,” she said.

The traditional way of meeting people remains an option, but also carries the risk of face-to-face rejection. “But so what?” Marie said. “The worst that can happen is that someone says ‘no.’”

Some of the thirst parlors mentioned by singles included the Nashville Social Club at 1105 S. Carson St., which offers live music and line dancing classes. The Truckee Meadows hosts a wide range of funky bars, distilleries and breweries that host live music or trivia nights. Establishments such as 1864 Tavern, Death and Taxes, Chapel Tavern, Midtown Spirits, Wine and Bites, and The Eddy are popular meeting places.

For those who shun dating apps and are wary of looking for love in pubs and clubs, meeting people while volunteering offers an option that also makes the community a better place to live. The Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance brings cyclists together, and Sundance Books and Music hosts book clubs for book enthusiasts.

The bottom line, experts say, is to be open to various experiences and venues, both online and in real life. Singles who have made connections note that whether one chooses to swipe through profiles or venture out into the lively streets, the Truckee Meadows is a singles-friendly place to do it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *