It’s 8pm in New York and, as happens every Thursday, lots of single people are meeting in a bar. Tonight, the party is being held at Jake’s Dilemma, a pub on the Upper West Side, the wealthy neighborhood next to Central Park where Miranda, the character from Sex and the City, lived at the beginning of the TV show, and where some parts of the show Gossip Girl are set. This is the place that has been chosen this week by Thursday, an online dating app that was launched in New York and London in 2021 and has a new paradigm for how to find a partner.
Thursday is intended as an alternative for those suffering from dating app fatigue – even though it’s also an app. Unlike other applications, its focus is on promoting meetings outside the platform. “I only come to the parties the app throws,” says James, a 26-year-old investor. “And I always leave at midnight. I like to put a limit on myself to make an effort to meet someone.”
At Jake’s Dilemma on Thursday, there are only about 50 people at first, but within an hour the numbers have surged to 200 – pushing the bar to maximum capacity. It’s an eclectic, interracial group, with most between the ages of 20 and 40. Around 60% are men. “It’s like a gathering of ugly people,” says Marina, a 42-year-old Thursday user, as soon as she arrives.
But there’s a good vibe. It’s easy to start conversations because everyone at the bar is determined to meet new people and have a good time. After the isolation triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a growing desire for face-to-face meetings.
Thursday is not the only app that organizes these types of singles mixers – Lox Club, Bumble and Inner Circle also do so – but unlike the others, it is only available on Thursdays, which is statistically the ideal day to have a date.
Focusing on one day builds more interest and anticipation. App users have only 24 hours – from 12pm to 11.59pm – to get to know each other. After midnight, their messages and contacts disappear. Next Thursday, everything starts again.
Thanks to this dynamic, time is not wasted on endless cellphone messages that may never lead to a face-to-face meeting. According to the Center for Human Technology, the more time we spend on an app or digital platform, the less happy we are. According to the center’s rankings, Tinder and Grinder are among the top 10 apps that leave people feeling the most unhappy.
With Thursday, however, it’s all about immediacy. No conversations take place within the app: once you have a match, the idea is to swap numbers and plan to meet up. “You have to exit the application as soon as possible; seeing a person face to face is something else. You can focus on her energy, her voice, how she moves,” says Jeremy, a 33-year-old user.
Thursday not only helps initiate action, but also forces users to be more selective and focus on the person they’re most interested in. In this way, it tries to bring back the thrill of dating, something which other apps have lost.
Time is money
New York was one of the first cities where dating apps became a social phenomenon. While they were looked down up in Europe – as if they were only for people with relationship problems – in the US, they were celebrated as a solution to wasting time.
The belief was you were more likely to find a match on a dating app than in a bar, where you were entirely reliant on luck. And in a society where productivity and efficiency are top priorities, leaving something as valuable as love in the hands of chance could be considered fanciful or risky.
The first online dating service was Match.com, which launched in 1995. It was followed by OkCupid in 2004. Tinder didn’t arrive until 2012, and that’s when a new sexual revolution began to unfold. Dating apps began to multiply (Bumble, Hinge, Happn, Inner Circle, Raya...) and once their use became normalized, a new challenge arose: addiction. Many people confess to dating compulsively, several times a week, or even on the same day. But with Thursday, that story seems to be changing.