They are all at it. Yeah, you bet. Swedes are among Europe's most prolific users of internet dating sites: with hundreds of sites offering to hook you up with the man or woman of your dreams, practically every single (and some not so single) Swede is online.
There is absolutely no stigma attached to internet dating in this country as almost everyone knows somebody who actually hooked up for good with someone they met online. However, even the virtual meat market can be tough going, especially if you are a reserved Swede who is a teeny bit scared of actually meeting up in the flesh.
This is why dating site meetic.com has started to arrange special members' events in a bid to lure them away from their screensavers and into the dating arena. On a balmy Thursday evening in early May, Meetic sponsored their first cinema dating event together with Fox, showing an exclusive preview screening of the Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher vehicle “What happens in Vegas”.
The film's title is rather apt, all things considered. It echoes the saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. This couldn't be a better reference point for a group of singles out to mingle on a warm spring evening in central Stockholm.
Rosé wine is the tipple of choice at the Östermalm Park cinema near Stureplan where about 200 people crowd in for a drinks party before the film. TV crews move around as people pour into the foyer.
Patrik Ericson, PR Event manager for meetic.com takes a minute to tell The Local that “dating events are a thing of the future. It is an honest forum for meeting someone, and it is a good thing to do between chatting on Meetic and going on a date”.
In other words, it is safety in numbers, something many Swedes subscribe to. Because the fact is, even though online dating is huge in Sweden, people often find it difficult to take the first step and actually go on a date. Ericson explains: “Because of this, Meetic have started to arrange live dating events, to facilitate the physical meetings. Online dating is going offline.”
As I mingle amongst the crowd I chat to a few people and am pleasantly surprised by the number of people hoping to bump into someone they have chatted to online. Needless to say, I scan the room for any potential prey of my own. I meet a young man who goes by the screen name of Hushmand. He is there with his mate and says he has been online dating for a couple of months.
He soon gets upfront and personal. At 19, Hushmand is looking for an older woman, as, apparently, is everyone else he knows. In Hushmand´s eyes “older woman” is someone aged 28-35, so that just about puts me out of business.
But his dark brown eyes light up considerably when I ask him for his mobile number. Maybe it is his lucky night? The day after, I call Hushmand to find out how the evening went and whether he continued socializing after the film. “No”, he says, “although there were a few yummy mummies there, but it was difficult to chat to them”. Instead, his next plan of attack is to start babysitting more so he can chat up mums in the playground.
Back to the people actually hoping to meet someone they may have chatted to online. One is Camilla, a good-looking willowy blond in her mid 40s. Camilla admits to slacking online, she hasn't been chatting much lately.
The recent bout of sunshine in Stockholm has lured her out on the town to try and meet someone in a bar. So this type of live event is ideal as it manages to combine online and offline dating. She is a little hesitant to talk about what she is looking for but lights up when I ask her whether she actually wants to find luurve. “Yes. Do you know someone?” she laughs. Well, yeah I do, and no he is not the man I am married to, but that is another story.
Mike is in his early 50s and loves online dating. Being a member of meetic.com has been most “fruitful” he says and smiles widely. He has met several lovely ladies and grins again. In fact, he is actually meeting up with someone he met on the site later in the evening. She will join him after the film. Like many other people at the event Mike also feels that live events are a trend that will grow, mainly because it is a better way to meet people compared to bars and clubs.
And, according to Patrik Ericson, who organized the event with Fox, “another benefit of live events is that people know that everyone else is there to meet someone, so there's more straightforwardness.” One man filmed on camera says that “the combination of chatting with someone on Meetic and then meeting them here is great”.
The popcorn queue is diminishing and people file into the cinema to watch the movie. Afterwards, there is more chatting and about 50 people have to be shown the door by cinema staff as they don't show any intention of leaving afterwards. One woman says that she has “seen at least one guy tonight” that she would like to get to know better. So the evening has been a success.
It's called hitting many birds with one stone. Just like tapping in your username on various dating sites.