Fifteen dates in two hours: Putting London’s virtual speed dating scene to the test

By Johnny Percival
April 23 2020, 14.00

Tinny in hand, green and yellow checked shirt on, and sat in the kitchen I was good to go.

As the days grow longer and the need for human contact grows deeper I started to notice how much I appreciated speaking to anyone other than my housemate, whose stories about Manchester United’s transfer prospects can quickly grow thin.

So when the opportunity to go virtual speed dating arose, I was excited and curious in equal measure. 

DateinaDash, the company I used has been operating as a speed dating company for ten years and like most industries is facing an uphill struggle to stay afloat.

Founder Rob Ryall, 35, was brutally honest with me regarding the tough times ahead for the company.

Rob said: “Traffic has dropped 75% since lockdown, I’ve gone from 1,500 visits a day to 300 visits, its been tragic for me.”

Speed dating outside of lockdown is not something I have done but it’s a concept that has worked for many. 

DateinaDash has seen three marriages and even one DateinaDash baby. So never one to turn up the chance for a new experience I began to prepare.

What to wear? What to drink? Where to sit?

A shirt seemed appropriate and wanting to make an impression I went for a particularly bright one to make sure if my chat wasn’t at least my outfit would be memorable.

Next, what does one drink on a virtual speed date? This one was fairly easy. Cans of lager were on deal at Costcutter so Carlsberg became a straightforward choice. 

Now, where to sit? Home office? Bit formal. Bed? Bit seedy. Kitchen? Correct, bingo.

THE BEST DATE IN THE WORLD…? Ready for online speed dating

Once the zoom meeting commenced I found myself in a meeting room with 27 other single 25 to 35-year-olds, a nervous mosaic of lonely single people staring back at me.

We were given a short enthusiastic intro by Rob and told that once all the dates had finished we would then meet back up and receive our matches contact details to continue any conversations.

Four cans in at this stage my nerves had calmed and I started thinking about how regularly I might hear the phrases unprecedented and lockdown in the coming hours.

My overriding feelings looking back on the dates were one: the blistering pace at which speed dating happens and two: how much fun it really is.

Throughout each date, I found myself genuinely having a good time, and I was expecting the exact opposite. 

I don’t know if it’s because I have been starved of original face-to-face conversation in the last month but I found myself being absolutely fascinated by what each person had to say about their lives and how they were handling these ‘unprecedented’ times.

There was a wide range of individuals from comedians to bankers and each her their own take on speed dating and what had brought them here. 

Some were lonely, some were curious and some were like me, gagging to chat to anyone they didn’t live with.

You are quickly cycled from room to room and the dates seem to pass in the blink of an eye. And while this is tiring at times, the pace which is set keeps everything feeling very energised.

You really try and get as much out of your ten minutes as you can.

Once I had been moved through each of the twelve different rooms and had my dates, we were finally all once again staring back at each other slightly more pissed than we had been two hours earlier.

This was where the night got slightly confusing for me.

I had particularly enjoyed chatting to one girl in particular and in an effort to continue the chat we had, I tried to private message her in zoom for her number.

She replied with her number and I jotted it down on a piece of paper before the meeting room closed.

Eager to see if she would like to continue having a chat that night I pinged her a message and waited with bated breath.

What I received in return was not what I had hoped for.

I found myself talking to Hannah from Wales and not who I had taken a liking to in my date.

My first thought was, ah maybe this was a joke and she had given me a fake number.

However after 40 minutes of chatting to Hannah I realised not even the best jokes last this long and maybe she had given me the wrong number on purpose.

Downtrodden and disheartened the fear began to creep in. Maybe the shirt was rubbish, maybe Carlsberg out of a can wasn’t a great idea, maybe I am just bad at dating.

However just as Jesus rose at Easter I was about to experience a miracle of my own.

Ping! my phone went off, could it be?

It was! the girl had got my number from the website and messaged me.

All was not lost and my first foray into online speed dating had been a success, who knows what the future holds for us.

To summarise, I would highly recommend speed dating to anyone looking to find love or even a night of escapism and entertainment in isolation. It provides a service that is as close to real life as we can get now and who knows maybe you will meet someone special.

To book an evening yourself go to http://www.dateinadash.com

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