Tired of dating apps? Real-life singles experiences are making a comeback.

Many users are tired of the “swiping, matching, ghosting” cycle and are looking to “meet cute” in person.

Many people are experiencing dating app fatigue and are looking for options beyond the screen. (Tatiana Lavrova via Getty Images)

For Maxine Williams, 27, dating apps felt exhausting.

Not only was the New Yorker feeling screen fatigue coming out of the pandemic, but she was also noticing a frustrating cycle of “swiping, matching, ghosting,” and fewer guys who were interested in more than just hooking up.

“It’s really difficult to find someone genuine,” Williams told Yahoo News.

She’s not alone. While options like Bumble, Hinge and Tinder saw years of steady growth, by offering virtual places for people to connect, many users have started to notice their shortcomings — endless in-app conversations that don’t lead to dates, fake profiles, limited free options and an increased “cringe” factor when it comes to paying for supposedly better choices. And while some users might not be breaking up with apps altogether, their eyes are definitely wandering to other options.

The apps have noticed, with many shedding employees and rethinking their strategies. According to the New York Times, Match Group and Bumble “have lost more than $40 billion in market value since 2021.”

But what’s the alternative? Turns out, many people are opting for something a little retro. Whether Gen Z or Gen X, some users are ready to trade in virtual experiences for IRL — that is, in real life — ones.

Enter companies like Equanimity Equation, which has hosted “IRL singles event” the Feels in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Founder Allie Hoffman, 40, used her studies at Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute to create a multisensory approach to connecting with others.

People who buy a ticket for the Feels dating experience, which also includes polyamorous and sapphic editions and can range from about $70-$95 per event, pair up on activities like hugging another person for a period of time or even giving your partner a series of compliments. Hoffman launched the event in New York in 2022, in part to combat the “bad behavior” of ghosting and breadcrumbing (basically stringing someone along) that she was seeing on dating apps.

While the average age of attendees is mid-30s, Hoffman said she’s seen participants as young as early 20s (21 is the minimum age since alcohol is served) to people in their 60s. Ticket prices are set with “intention,” she said, to ensure that people who join are really invested in the experience.

This is about learning a tool kit for more meaningful interactions, she said.

While 30% of U.S. adults say they’ve used a dating app, according to a 2023 study from the Pew Research Center, that number hasn’t changed — much less grown — from a similar survey by the organization in 2019.

That said, it’s not apps that are the problem, argues Sabrina Zohar, a San Diego-based dating coach and podcast host who met her partner on a dating app.

“The issue is that people are noncommittal, and that people have options, and they know it,” Zohar told Yahoo News.

Tired of the dating app scene, which seemed to rely too heavily on filters that could negatively affect women of color, Williams became enamored of something a little more old-fashioned: speed dating.

“Dating apps have always been the norm for my generation. Literally since college, I’ve been on dating apps,” Williams said. “So we really heavily romanticize ‘meet-cutes’ in a different way than I think older generations have, because they’ve always had that as an option, whereas us, it’s like, ‘Oh, you're single? Get on a dating app.’”

So in 2022, she launched We Met IRL, giving speed dating a 21st century makeover by hosting events in New York, New Jersey and D.C. that capitalize on social media and celebrate diversity.

“I feel like women, especially women of color, there’s been so much data over the years saying we’re like the least desirable or the least swiped on,” Williams told Yahoo News.

“So I created my events, not just for people of color, just for the events to be diverse,” added Williams.

Tickets are $30 per person, and each event is limited to 44 people because, as Williams said, talking to 15-20 people takes a lot of energy.

Williams does caution that attendees shouldn’t come with the sole idea of finding a lifelong partner but rather to meet people and have fun.

“You probably won’t meet your husband here, but it’s OK. You’re gonna talk to men,” she said. “And when was the last time you talked to more than two single men in person face-to-face?”

Zohar agrees and suggests reframing expectations even off the apps.

“What I suggest is just interject yourself into the community and into doing things that you genuinely enjoy so that you can meet people that are like-minded,” she said.

An image showing several people on a desert adventure, running through the sand.
Flash Pack organizes trips to places like Morocco for singles in their 30s and 40s. (Flash Pack)

Flash Pack, a travel company that organizes “group adventures for solo travelers in their 30s and 40s,” offers exactly that.

Created by co-founders Lee Thompson and Radha Vyas to combat the “worsening loneliness epidemic,” the company aims to create “meaningful friendships” through travel.

Solo adventurers can book trips to places like Tanzania, Finland or Sri Lanka, where they will meet others who might share similar interests. In fact, according to Flash Pack, 80% of attendees keep in touch after their experience.

“Of course, sometimes these friendships may develop into something further — leading to long-term relationships or even marriages — but if that happens, it tends to be more impromptu,” Thompson told Yahoo News via email.

An image of a couple playing the card game Uno at a candlelit table.
Dating apps including Tinder have also ventured into IRL experiences. (Tinder)

Companies like Match Group, which owns apps including Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and Match.com, have been investing in their own IRL experiences. Match, in particular, has been hosting about 100 monthly events across the U.S. and Canada since 2011. Tinder has also hosted a variety of singles events.

Bumble also created its own IRL events, focused mainly on “a return to real-life and in-person dating” after the cooped-up pandemic years, but the calendar is currently empty. A Bumble representative did not return Yahoo News’ request for comment.

At the end of the day, while dating apps have dominated the coupling scene for more than a decade, more and more people are exploring life beyond the screen. With a changing landscape and fresh ideas for meeting cute, a path to romance has emerged beyond the swipe.

“You might not meet the love of your life,” Williams said, “but I think it’s a great opportunity to just put yourself out there in a different way.”