Internet dating has a lot to answer for. And yet, if the influx of advertisements this January from the likes of Match.com and eHarmony are anything to go by, Britons are increasingly choosing to find their mates digitally.
However, just as singletons are being encouraged to drop any bugbears they might have about describing themselves online, an emerging trend offers salvation.
Social dating is the new alternative to logging on to hook up, encouraging singletons to get out and meet like-minded single people, in the company of friends and under the guidance of a new band of companies that are setting up to help people meet people like them.
If internet dating is about assessing whether somebodys claim of possessing an athletic body is forthright or fanciful, social dating is all about going out to do something that you already enjoy, in a mixed group of 10-15 easy going adults, with the onus firmly having an enjoyable evening. No pressure, just lots of fun opportunities to meet like-minded people.
The social dating movement is being led by companies such as Butterflysocial.co.uk, set up last year by Jenni Regan, a former BBC television producer, who saw a gap in the market between internet dating and large scale, meat market-style singles nights. With Butterflysocial.co.uk she has developed a programme of events, ranging from gallery tours to rock climbing to cocktail making evenings and even regular volunteering afternoons.
She said: Internet dating can be so daunting and very hit and miss. I know plenty of people who have had terrible evenings they find hard to escape, despite finding themselves attracted to the persons online profile. Who cannot sympathise with the poor person who is left distraught when their date has to return to work at short notice? Internet dating can be so daunting, as can huge singles nights, which tend to be impersonal and dependent on physical attraction.
Butterflysocial.co.uk is all about getting people out in small groups for relaxed and easy-going evening or afternoon events. Its also an opportunity to explore London and do the things that we always mean to do but never get round to.
One of the main attractions of social dating is that people choose to do what they enjoy. An internet dater might clam to like art, but would they choose to spend Friday night at the Tate Modern? If they would, then they probably do like art. Similarly, somebody might claim to be sporty online, but would they give rock climbing a try? The ten people that we recently took wall climbing certainly would.
Social dating is all about taking the pressure out of the dating game and recognising that not everybody will meet their perfect match in the workplace or in nightclubs or parties.
Jenni continues: Most of us collect friends through online social networking sites without even thinking about it. Social dating takes this concept a step further by building friendships in the real world with groups of people who want to make friends and do interesting things. The focus is very much on the activity, so even if you come away at the end of the night without having had your heart strings pulled, you will have at least met some new people and done something interesting.
Butterflysocial.co.uk have plenty of events set up around Valentines Day this year so that people dont have to go for last ditch dates or sit at home feeling lonely. Other recent events have included roller-skiing, beer tasting, going to the theatre and touring the National Portrait Gallery.