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Tired of dating apps, Vancouver man launches ‘social experiment’ to find companion

Dan Hawkins is tired of using dating apps to meet someone. 

He’s been on them for several years and describes the experience as “removed.”

He says the swipe-right or swipe-left nature of many of the apps means people are judging a person based on very little, a photo and a short bio.

“I was looking at strangers with no context,” he said, adding that he didn’t enjoy the short online chat ahead of meeting in person. 

According to research from Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, in 2017, 39 per cent of heterosexual couples reported meeting their partner online, up from 22 per cent in 2009.

He said meeting a significant other online has replaced meeting a partner through friends and trust in matchmaking technology has been increasing.

Rosenfeld also found that online dating improved the chances of relationships leading to marriage because people were able to choose their partners based on their preferences.

Hawkins, however, doesn’t like it. So, he’s started his own social experiment to find a “lifelong partner.”

He’s offering prizes of up to $7,000 in value to anyone who can help him get a date, and ultimately, a wife

“I’m looking for somebody who has a kind heart, someone who’s curious and maybe has a sense of humour, it doesn’t have to be my sense of humour.”

People are asked to send along potential matches for him. After filling out a form, the hopeful matchmakers will be entered to win prizes. 

A committee made up of his friends will then sift through the leads to identify good matches, set Hawkins up on some dates, and ideally, he says, a courtship will lead to marriage.

After the wedding, Hawkins will hand out the prizes. 

tired of dating apps vancouver man launches social experiment to find companion
Dan Hawkins tends to a plant in his apartment in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Hawkins realizes he’s likely not the only person who is sick of dating apps.

He says he’s heard from others who like what he’s doing, and he encourages others to take on their own dating project — though he realizes his model might not work for everyone.

“To put that email out it’s hard, because you’re making yourself pretty vulnerable and sound pretty desperate,” he said. 

“I think people know I’m a bit quirky, so it kind of works for me.”

Dating coach Dino Bodovski says online dating apps are difficult because they create a lot of hope that is quickly undercut when a match stops communicating. 

“Because there’s so many other people perhaps talking to them, it’s very easy to get lost, and be forgotten,” Bodovski said. 

That said, he recognizes how important they’ve become during the course of the pandemic for people trying to find a potential partner. 

Dating habits change during pandemic

Billie Coben met her partner online during the pandemic. She says using dating apps let her choose who she “opened the door for.”

“That’s not something you can do meeting people at a bar. You don’t have the opportunity to put up those same barriers,” Coben said. “Everyone needs a security blanket.”

tired of dating apps vancouver man launches social experiment to find companion 1
Dating apps have become more popular during the pandemic as people look for ways to safely meet potential partners. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Logan Ury, director of relationship science with dating app Hinge, says the pandemic prompted a spike in use on the app, and that user feedback suggests the pandemic also encouraged people to prioritize looking for a romantic partner more seriously. 

“There’s an even greater sense of people really wanting to connect in a meaningful way, not just for a hookup,” she said. 

Bodovski, however, still believes there’s a better way to find “the one.” He suggests people work on themselves and their ability to make connections in person, rather than focus all their energy on online dating apps.

“As humans, we really need some connections, it’s the most natural thing for us to have. We want some companionship, some true genuine connection.”

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