- Associated Press - Thursday, July 22, 2010

NEW YORK | Looking for love? Got five minutes and some Ray Ban wayfarers?

Speed dating, a party where groups of people have micro-dates over the course of an evening in a sort of amorous musical chairs is being rebranded as a younger, hipper alternative to online dating.

In Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, an event called “The Internet Killed Your Social Skills” is drawing crowds every first Thursday of the month, filling a bar with a sea of 20-somethings in fedoras.

Julia Segal, 25, founded the event, nicknamed “hipster speed dating,” as a way to polish up the dating skills that online dating and social networking sites, such as Facebook, have helped to obliterate.


“I don’t think it’s better, but I do think it’s more fun,” Miss Segal said. “We do try to make it fun, lighthearted and for a younger crowd.”

Since it began six months ago, the event has gained enough momentum to warrant a second night. Soon hipster speed dating will come to nearby Park Slope.

And a slew of other dating agencies are offering specialized speed-dating services to clients. Speed Dating Connections, a Manhattan-based speed-dating agency, has hosted 10,000 daters over the past two years, with many daters looking for very specific kinds of dates.

Speed Dating Connections primarily focuses on ethnicity-based dating; the majority of their events are for Asian and Indian clients. But like many agencies, they also offer a variety of specialized services: Dates based on pet ownership, military service and athletic ability are common among of their clients.

Jacob Tanur, owner of Speed Dating Connections, said it only makes sense to whittle down the number of people in the dating pool.

“Everybody is looking for something specific in every person,” he said. “An athletic person doesn’t want to date a couch potato.”

The crowd at this month’s hipster speed-dating event is modest, but animated. A group of 20 daters line the far end of the darkened wood-paneled room, shuffling from table to table to the rhythm of Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug.” When the song changes, the next date begins.

After the last date, patrons turn in note cards to Miss Segal that tell her with whom they felt a connection. The next day, she will send out an e-mail informing the daters of their matches.

David Castillo, 27, the resident DJ and co-founder for hipster speed dating, thinks true matches can only happen face to face. He met his girlfriend of four years dancing in a club. He doesn’t think it’s natural to date online.

“There’s something really natural about whittling through that digital hurdle,” he said.

Ed Cadmus, 23, of Manhattan, doesn’t participate in the speed dating, but rather comes to watch. Spectators have as much of a chance of finding romance as do the daters playing. “I’ve seen people just meet up at the bar afterwards.”

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