Speed dating is alive but apps give women protection

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By Kelly Saberi and Brogan Harte

As she walks into The Nutty Irishman, a pub in Farmingdale, the woman pulls her hair away from her chest so her name tag is fully displayed. It’s speed dating night, so this time she might find a partner.

In speed dating, singles gather in a space, sit at a table with one stranger, and get five to eight minutes to engage in conversation. If they like each other, they may end up spending more time together that same night. And perhaps the rest of their lives.

Speed dating creates an opportunity to find a person with whom you have common interests. With so many people using dating apps face-to-face interaction, it could be key to the foundation of a long lasting relationship.

“Do you remember having pen pals in elementary school?” Stony Brook University student Meerah Shah, who organizes speed dating events for her philanthropy, Distressed Children and Infants International, said. “How close were you really with that person?” She wasn’t.

Popular dating apps like Tinder have made old-fashion dating a thing of the past. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10% in 2013 to 27% today, according to Pew Research Center. Even one of the newer apps, happn, has 1.6 million users in the United States.

“That generation will only know the screen,” Catherine Marrone, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University, said. “They’ll know what tone means. They’ll know what [capital letters] means.”

Digital dating lacks important modes of communication like body language, Marrone said. But virtual communication is still communication and it can be advantageous for women.

Before digitization, men held more social power than women, she said. Men could call women degrading names and make other people look at them differently. Now with technology, women have the same ability to tell others about men.

“One of the good things about [apps] for women is that [they create] oversight,” Marrone said. “You don’t like a worker you can go on and tell everyone, ‘I don’t like that plumber’.”

Apps like Bumble from Tinder co-creator Whitney Wolfe give women the opportunity to connect, with a twist: only women can initiate conversations with potential love interests.

“People have so many options these days so on the one hand you can do almost anything you want without anyone judging you, on the other it makes decision making very difficult,” Joanne Davila, psychology professor at Stony Brook University, said.

At the swipe of a finger men and women are choosing who they do and do not want to be matched with, all on their smart phone. There is a superficial barrier that dating apps do not break, because all a person sees is a picture.

Jay Rosensweig, founder of WeekendDating.com, has been bringing couples together in person since 2003. The event this past weekend was hosted by Rosensweig’s group.

“I’m one of the few people who get to say they change people’s lives for a living,” Rosensweig said.

Over the years Rosensweig has been a part of numerous life-long connections and milestones, from engagements to starting a family.

“I proposed to her in the same spot where I asked for her number, exactly one year later,” Chris DeNigris, speed dating veteran, said. DeNigris met his fiancée Jackie Vinet at one of Rosensweig’s single events in 2013 and they are getting married this July.

Speed Dating from Kelly Saberi on Vimeo.