By Ryan McLendon
For The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Looking for love? Got five minutes and some Ray Ban wayfarers?
Speed dating, a party where groups of people have micro-dates over the course of an evening in a sort of amorous musical chairs is being rebranded as a younger, hipper alternative to online dating.
In Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, an event called “The Internet Killed Your Social Skills” is drawing crowds every first Thursday of the month, filling a bar with a sea of 20-somethings in fedoras.
Julia Segal, 25, founded the event, nicknamed “hipster speed dating,” as a way to polish up the dating skills that online dating and social networking sites, such as Facebook, have helped to obliterate.
“I don’t think it’s better, but I do think it’s more fun,” Segal said. “We do try to make it fun, lighthearted and for a younger crowd.”
Since it began six months ago, the event has gained enough momentum to warrant a second night. Soon hipster speed dating will come to nearby Park Slope.
And a slew of other dating agencies are offering specialized speed dating services to clients. Speed Dating Connections, a Manhattan-based speed dating agency, has hosted 10,000 daters over the past two years, with many daters looking for very specific kinds of dates.
Speed Dating Connections primarily focuses on ethnicity-based dating; the majority of their events are for Asian and Indian clients. But like many agencies, they also offer a variety of specialized services: Dates based on pet ownership, military service and athletic ability are common among of their clients. Jacob Tanur, owner of Speed Dating Connections, said it only makes sense to whittle down the number of people in the dating pool.
“Everybody is looking for something specific in every person,” he said. “An athletic person doesn’t want to date a couch potato.”
The crowd at this month’s hipster speed dating event is modest, but animated. A group of 20 daters line the far end of the darkened wood-paneled room, shuffling from table to table to the rhythm of Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug.” When the song changes, the next date begins.
After the last date, patrons turn in note cards to Segal that tell her with whom they felt a connection. The next day, she will send out an e-mail informing the daters of their matches.
David Castillo, 27, the resident DJ and co-founder for hipster speed dating, believes true matches can only happen face to face. He met his girlfriend of four years dancing in a club. He doesn’t think it’s natural to date online.
“There’s something really natural about whittling through that digital hurdle,” he said,
Ed Cadmus, 23, of Manhattan, doesn’t participate in the speed dating, but rather comes to watch. Spectators have as much of a chance of finding romance as do the daters playing. “I’ve seen people just meet up at the bar afterwards.”
Tanur believes speed daters shouldn’t focus on looking for “the one,” at least not immediately.
“The point is not to decide if the person is the person they want to spend the rest of their life with,” Tanur said. “It’s if they want to spend an evening with them.”
But according to some experts, speed dating is not a fast track to finding love.
“What can you possibly tell in that short amount of time?” asked April Beyer, founder and president of Beyer and Company, a relationship consultant group based in Los Angeles. “(Women) need to feel there is a connection.”
According to Beyer, men especially don’t benefit from speed dating because they invariably make bad choices when presented with a feast of appealing women.
“Men are like autistic toddlers,” she said. “You can’t give them too many options. If you put 30 women in front of a guy, he’s going to choose the wrong person.”
But the sense of innocent fun persists at hipster speed dating.
Emmanuel Cruz, 25, with a septum piercing long piecey bangs, is simply giving his luck a whirl.
His first and only speed dating event was last month, and he was sporting a black eye from a recent mugging. He thought his chances might be better this time.
“I’ll give it one more try,” he said. “I really came in with no expectations.”