Scroll, judge, swipe – the quest for love has never been easier thanks to online apps. But one events company believes something is missing from the dating world: communication.
Alternative dating is the latest trend sweeping across London and the man behind it all believes it’s time to take dating back to basics.
Jordi Sinclair packed in his PR job to start Smudged Lipstick, an events company that encourages people to put their phones down in favour of a face-to-face dating experience. Sinclair was tired of going to dating events where everyone was given a name tag, with phrases such as “meet the one” and “love is just around the corner” being preached from every corner of the room. He saw countless people who were “amazing” at email, text or messenger, but when put in a room with a potential date “there would be no eye contact and their body language was horrendous.” Sinclair felt he had to do something about it.
The Shoreditch-based company have been running social events for the last two years, easing the pressure of dating for singletons across the city. A Smudged Lipstick event is simple: no phones, no pressure and certainly no name tags.
Many will be heading out to swanky restaurants and cocktail bars in a bid to impress their dates on Valentine’s Day, but there is an alternative option. An open mic night where people can go along and share their cringe-worthy dating stories in an ‘Anti Valentine’s Day’ night at The Basement in Shoreditch. This coming together of people sharing their stories comes from Sinclair’s own dissatisfaction with the romantic occasion. “I hate Valentine’s Day, everything comes out of my personality,” says Sinclair.
Aimed at 24 to 40-year-olds, the events encourage people to prioritise having fun over trying to find someone new. Life drawing, people reading their diaries out loud and spelling bees are just some of the activities people take part in. It’s unconventional, but it seems to be working.
The beauty of these alternative dating events, Sinclair says, is that “if you don’t find someone, the worst-case scenario would be you’ve played Jenga for seven minutes with a stranger you’ll never have to talk to again.”
Sinclair felt that basic communication was missing from dating events, he believed that people were not having fun, and this meant many were unwilling to relax and open up. People were not communicating effectively and therefore not experiencing the pleasure of meeting someone new.
Mobile phones, he believes, often become a pocket-sized shield for when people feel anxious – a barrier that people use to avoid any interaction with others: “Simple communication skills are becoming obsolete.”
A study revealed that in the UK, the average time spent a day using a smartphone is 2 hours and 9 minutes. This is a dramatic increase compared to 2012, when the average time spent on a smartphone was only 36 minutes.
Relationship coach and author Dr Elsbeth Meuth suggested that the rise of technology has hindered people’s ability to communicate and people no longer have to actually talk to each other. She even suggests that a lack of communication has influenced the use of new phrases such as ‘benching’ and ‘ghosting’, which refer to suddenly cutting off all ties and communication with someone. Consequently, our reliance on our devices to communicate has made it easier for people to get confused. It is harder to understand what people are thinking and feeling because it’s hard to convey meaning or emotion over text.
Dating apps have made it easier for people to meet each other, and digital love is clearly good for some people, but Sinclair believes alternative dating is the way forward.
Smudge Lipstick is an embodiment of Sinclair’s attitudes to the world of dating. He’s not anti-dating by any means, he just believes it can be done better. A quirky dating experience may be the perfect way to break the ice, meet someone new and simply have fun. Maybe this year, take off the name tag and put away the dating app – it could surprise you.