This new social networking site links groups of guys and girls living in cities through Facebook. You meet at a bar, you drink, you talk, you connect.
With the rise of Tinder, Yoke.me, and now Grouper, college students are beginning to rethink and engage with online dating applications which, up until recently, Millennials dismissed as something for desperate divorcés. Although matchmaking apps are steadily becoming more mainstream, a certain discomfort with the uncertainty of anonymous dating still lingers in the heads of many Millennials. A relatively new online company, Grouper Social Club, is working to shed the uneasiness that comes with anonymous get-togethers, and Tufts students are starting to notice. Attending college in the Boston area is usually associated with constant inter-collegiate mingling. However, by the end of freshman year, many Tufts students realize they spent much of the year constraining their social life to the Tufts campus. By deflating the pressure to use online matching sites for dating, Grouper can provide an appealing resource to get the off-campus college experience that many Tufts students keep in the back of their mind.
Grouper accesses its users’ Facebook profiles to match two users for a potential date. From Facebook, Grouper gleans information from five main categories: age, educational background, profession, interests, and general lifestyle. Grouper pays close attention to users’ Facebook friend lists to prevent matching two users who already know each other. In addition, the site pulls from “likes” and tagged photos, both of which give Grouper a sense of the ways in which users enjoy spending their free time.
Once Grouper has matched two users for compatibility, these users then invite two friends each to join in on the date. Grouper refers to these two people as “wingmen” and “wingwomen” on its website, but Tufts senior Anika Ades is quick to note that the date more closely resembles a group of friends hanging out rather than an awkward set-up complicated by irrelevant friends who attend for moral support.
In her experience on Grouper dates as a Tufts student, Ades noted that her matches often attended schools of a similar caliber. “On our first date we were matched with three guys from Harvard,” she said, “and the second time we went with a bunch of Brandeis guys.” In this way, Grouper tries to ensure that users feel comfortable and well-matched by placing college students with not just other college students, but college students with similar educational backgrounds.
This is not to say, however, that Grouper prevents its users from expanding their horizons and comfort zones. One of the major draws of Grouper for Tufts students is the chance to get off campus and meet students who attend schools just down the road. Ades said, “Grouper allows Tufts students to get out of the Tufts bubble.” Venturing off campus to local dives, clubs, and bars gives Tufts students the opportunity to mix with people who may study a wide variety of subjects, engage with the community in different ways, and socialize differently than Tufts kids do. Junior Ariana Nestler, who has never used Grouper, said that, “thinking about it as a casual social experience makes me more inclined to use it and get to meet some people outside of Tufts.”
For the most part, students are using Grouper for just this reason—to meet and get to know different types of people off-campus. Because Grouper dates involve six people, most of the infamous first-date pressure and anxiety disappears. Further, because of its young, online dating-averse client base, Grouper does not necessarily market traditional candlelit “dates.” Instead, the site caters to a wide variety of users—some who are looking for a one-night stand, others for a serious relationship, and still others who just want to make more friends in an unfamiliar city. Ades commented that the site “would be best for young professionals who have just graduated and moved to a new city.”
Another Tufts senior, Alex Suarez, agreed that most Tufts students seem to use Grouper in a platonic way. The user’s intention “definitely depends on age,” he concluded, “but for the most part, college students are going on Groupers to meet new people and have fun.” He added, “I’ve never heard of anyone who was expecting to fall in love on a Grouper.”
Of course, Grouper’s user-focused interface keeps the possibility of finding a serious relationship very real. Ades commented that “Grouper is really designed in a way that allows users to choose how they will use it.” In addition, if a user chooses to take advantage of Grouper for more serious dating purposes, she believes that “Grouper empowers you to make an informed decision about who you are dating, but the actual site does the bulk of the work in directing you to that potential person.”
By conceptualizing the Grouper experience as a social one instead of a deliberately romantic one, Millenials—and more specifically, Tufts students—seem more open to engaging with the app. This isn’t to say that users don’t go into it with romantic expectations, but the uncomfortable burden of hooking up or dating is not nearly as present as it is in similar apps like The casual atmosphere promoted by Grouper gives the app a lot of potential to grow increasingly popular on college campuses.