Do friends of friends really make the best partners?

You know the drill: you join a certain dating app, spend a few weeks chatting to potential dates, go on a bad one, then dismiss the whole shebang as ‘a total waste of time’.

The tale is always the same. ‘I always used to meet new people – now I’m lucky if the Deliveroo man even acknowledges my existence,’ we lament yearning for the days of dial-up internet and cheesy chat up lines.

The problem is, whilst online prospects are plentiful, they’re rarely worth the effort and, these days, it’s nigh on impossible to meet potential partners in real life. So much so, in fact, that according to the viral Ph.D. paper, Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend by Peter Backus, Londoners are actually more likely to meet an alien than someone they’d be happy to shack up with.

Not easily phased by a bad date with a midget suffering from halitosis, ever-resilient singletons have been extolling the virtues of a certain shiny new app that’s been doing the rounds recently.

Based on the premise of matching you with people you already have a second connection with, Hinge is the new ‘relationship app’ (‘dating’ has apparently become the F word du jour) whose mission is to set you up with friends of friends. Instead of the savagely superficial picture swiping culture we’ve become accustomed to, Hinge allows users to pick three questions or statements to answer as well as provide information such as political views, thoughts on starting a family and the all-important height figure. From favourite karaoke songs to go-to drinks orders and dream dinner party guests, each question is designed to get you talking and hopefully eliminate the dick pics and inane conversation that Tinder had us used to.

Hinge and its founder, Justin McLeod, have seemingly tapped into exactly what modern daters want, claiming to ‘humanise modern dating by connecting singles through friends’. Though there’s not much evidence to attest to its success rate as of yet, people are still flocking to try it for none other than the simple hope that someone they know and have deemed to be not-an-axe-murderer, happens to have a single mate.

This, it seems, is the crux of the dating friends of friends phenomenon, according to psychologist Rachel Hard.

‘Part of attraction is feeling in sync with someone which is why dating friends of friends is appealing,’ she explains. ‘Someone has already vetted them – someone you trust. So they aren’t total strangers’

After taking a poll of my own friendship group, seven out of the ten that I asked felt that dating someone’s pal was the ideal scenario, for the exact reasons that Hard mentioned.

‘It’s just easier,’ one friend explained. ‘If they’re normal enough to be in one of your own mates’ circles, you don’t have to worry about finding some weird skeleton in the closet four dates down the line.’

Recalling my own experiences of dating, I can attest to this sentiment. After all, there’s nothing worse than finding out the person you thought was a keeper is actually a sociopathic arsehole when you’ve already invested three meals out and a new outfit into the situation. But is this strictly true? Does mixing romance with friends really act as a get-out-of-jail-free card?

According to the other three mates who humoured my makeshift poll, it definitely does not.

‘You’re never going to like all of your friends’ friends,’ my mate Tom* reasoned. ‘Just because you’ve got mutual people in common, it doesn’t mean you’ll get on equally as well. We don’t necessarily act the same around our dates.’ The most common issues, according to Hard, are our own ‘preconceived ideas’ and ‘expectations’ – we project our image of our own friend onto the potential partner and end up disappointed when they don’t match up.

This, I certainly know to be true – several anecdotes involving odd fetishes, split personalities and latent sexism spring to mind. Another glaring problem that my more cynical pals pointed out, was the absolute social shit-show that occurs if you break up. The less said about that, the better.

It’s not our fault though. Having spent our impressionable youths being bombarded with stories of friends falling in love, is it any wonder that we see this as the pinnacle of partnering up? When Harry Met Sally, Clueless… hell, even The Lion King all fed us the idea that this was the ultimate romance story. It seems no matter how many crap politicians, fake news stories, and celebrity breakups our poor, battered hearts are fated to endure, we’re all still suckers for the fairy tale at heart, chasing after the ultimate meet-cute.

And if, in a few months, Hinge turns out to be just another one of those fads that we’ve had enough of, at least there’s always the powerful feeling of freedom that comes from being happily single – or that alien we’re bound to bump into on the street any day now.

It seems that Backus might’ve been onto something after all.

*name changed for anonymity.

Picture credit: main shot,  Hinge


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