McGill students value efficiency. With the pressures of midterms, internship applications, and extracurricular commitments, many students lack time to date regularly. For many, the answer to time constraints is the quick swipeability of Tinder. For others, an approach that combines the ease of apps and the importance of social interaction is speed-dating and matchmaking. For Valentine’s Day, several student groups at McGill have strived to show students how more traditional forms of blind-dating are done.
The McGill Chinese Students’ Society (MCSS) had its own take on matchmaking this year with a blind speed-dating event on Feb. 11, Be There or Be Square: Valentine’s Party. Participants ranked their top five choices of partners after several rounds of quick chatting, and a computer algorithm identified matches from the choices selected.
To shake things up, participants were given mysterious Venetian-esque masks and a number at the door. With that digit as a sole identifier for each participant, the hopeful hearts in attendance were free to express themselves however they liked. In the same way that dating app users can control their appearance online, this anonymity enabled attendees to converse with their partners without feeling self-conscious about their looks.
“We wanted to provide a mysterious atmosphere to this event so people could blind date without judging others’ appearances right off the bat,” Tony Ye, U2 Engineering and project manager of MCSS, said. “One of the perks of blind speed-dating is the release of dopamine and endorphins from anticipation and excitement from talking to someone with a mask on.”
For participants, the climax of the event was the removal of the masks at the end. The anticipation was akin to what online daters might feel before meeting a date in person, although their nerves were somewhat alleviated by the participants having already met in disguise.
“There [was] a grand reveal in which everyone [took] their masks off,” Ye said. “That moment [was] full of joy and laughter, or perhaps a little disappointment.”
This event delves deeper than superficial first attraction based on looks. A primary attraction of speed-dating is found within the light-hearted freedom of mingling with many equally hopeful participants.
“This type of event [attracted a] large crowd because it is interesting, and [speed-dating with masks has] never been done before at McGill,” Ye said. “It takes in the philosophical art of blind speed-dating fused with the mysterious science of a computer algorithm.”
Gamifying the pursuit of soulmates, the McGill Students for Think Pink’s matchmaking event on Feb. 10, My Funny Valentine, had participants trying to find who Think Pink had matched them with based on their answers to an online quiz. Among other fun tasks, the quiz asked participants about their ideal study methods, their favourite Pokémon, and to write a haiku addressed to “the one.” After being handed the quiz answers of another event attendee, deemed their “ideal partner” based on response compatibility, participants were tasked with locating their ideal partner themselves. Couples who successfully found each other received prizes, which were mainly gift cards to finance their first real date.
“Everyone got along so well that we all wouldn’t stop talking long enough to get directions out for some of the activities,” Sam Wunderlich, U1 Arts and Science and vice-president of Think Pink’s Financial Implementation and Sponsorship Committee, said. “Two couples hit it off and walked out hand-in-hand with each other, even before the event was halfway done, so hopefully that was a good sign! There was [also] one match that just sat and talked in the middle of everyone, absorbed in their own little world.”
Speed-dating creates a positive, energetic environment for participants. Even if they lack romantic chemistry off the bat, people tend to enjoy the opportunity to meet each other, and engage in opportunities that can’t be found online.
“There is never a lull in conversation because you have limited time with that person before you move on to the next,” Wunderlich said. “It’s a really relaxing way of meeting people […and you’re] surrounded by tons of others in the same situation as you, it’s almost comforting.”
Speed-dating is a great way to interact with someone new in a candid way that is not present on dating apps. The Valentine’s Day events while kept the search of love light, emphasizing what it really should be about in the end: Fun.