The dating game can be nerve-wracking. How many times have you gone to meet a new bloke and wished you could bring a pal along for moral support? Well now you can. Thanks to new 'social clubs' which match up two groups of three friends online and bring them together away from the computer screen for a night out on the town.
What? There are two new ‘clubs’ on the scene. Smeeters – started in Paris and launched in London in October – and Grouper, already running in 25 cities in North America and coming to the capital this month.
Both sell themselves as an innovative way of expanding your social circle (and maybe finding love) without the pressure of one-on-one get-togethers or the hassle of online dating. As Kristen Badal, director of international operations at Grouper, puts it: 'We use online technology to bring our members offline and take conversations to where we think they belong - face to face in the real world.'
How does it work? You sign up for free via Facebook, fill in a short application form and invite two friends to join. The clubs then use your group’s details to hand-match parties by age, interests, tastes, jobs and by their photos. Once everyone’s paid the £15 charge, they’ll organise your evening for you (the venue, any activities and covering the first round of drinks). Then they’ll give you the need-to-know details and get you together.
1. It takes away the awkwardness of conventional dating. With six of you chatting there’s no chance of the conversation drying up.
2. It’s hassle-free. Unlike most online dating sites or meet-up groups, you don’t have to spend hours creating a profile, trawling through other people’s and weeding out weirdos. The clubs claim they do that for you (most applicants tend to be professional types in their 20s and 30s).
3. Ditto fretting about the choice of venue. Both promise they’ll send you somewhere they think is right for your party going on your application and where you can chat – expect bars rather than a club.
4. You’ll meet actual new people. They’ll check if you have any mutual friends on Facebook before matching groups up.
5. The unknown element is part of the fun. The only info Smeeters give you about your potential dates beforehand is two truths and a lie about each of the three friends in the group.
6. There could be some unexpected bonuses. Like the girl who went on a Grouper and landed a job in PR after staying in touch with one of her new acquaintances.
7. You might find actual love. Grouper’s founder met his girlfriend of 18 months on an organsied night out and there have been a couple of engagements.
1. It could get competitive if you all fancy the same bloke.
2. Your night is out of your hands. If you shy away from any sort of organised fun then perhaps a Smeeting or a Grouper aren’t for you. The idea of a group activity like bowling does sound suspiciously like a work team-bonding day.
3. You might have different agendas; you’re looking for some new pals and the other group are after, erm, something else. Both clubs claim they ask people’s expectations before arranging dates but it’s inevitable people might have different ideas – particularly after a few drinks.
4. It’s an urban thing. Both have plans to expand to other UK cities soon but at the moment Smeeters and Grouper are just in London.
5. It’s still got the unpredictable online element. Bear in mind groups are matched on the information they have on their Facebook pages. As we all know sometimes profile pictures may not exactly reflect the reality…
Verdict? We’re on the fence. This sort of curated night out isn’t going to be for everyone – and we reckon the chance of finding ‘the one’ is unlikely – but we’re all for meeting new people and discovering great places. Bring it on.
Want to know more about online dating? We've picked out our 9 favourite sites...
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