We all have them. Friends who met the love of their life through a dating app. Colleagues always nipping out for drinks with people they discovered (or even rediscovered) via the internet. Recently, dating apps and websites have become truly mainstream, with thousands of relationships sparked every day through connections made online.
And with this embrace of such a great cultural movement comes the start of a new one - taking away the meaning of a 'date' at all.
Some dating apps are offering specific functions to help you find friends instead of romance, a 'social' extension of their existing offerings. But the real movement will be removing the pressure of a formal 'date' altogether. The online dating sphere's next great revolution will be blurring the lines between meeting people socially or for dates, and instead focusing on the "meeting" experience itself.
Why? Because it's not until you meet someone 'in real life' that you can tell what type of relationship you'll have - no matter how much you've messaged or spoken virtually. Moving these conversations into the real world more quickly helps people discover what kind of relationship they might have with a new connection - whether romantic, platonic or even networking.
Removing the label of a date also removes the weight of expectation - which makes for a much more comfortable meeting. And without that expectation, I think we'll meet more people.
Perhaps you're not sure from someone's dating app profile if they'd be a romantic interest, but maybe you can grab a coffee anyway and spark a friendship, or perhaps their job is really interesting. And perhaps you'll be surprised to discover that there is something romantic you could explore after all.
Dating apps are starting to recognise that you need to meet, socially, before deciding what kind of relationship you'd like to move forward with, if any at all.
One way is getting rid of algorithms that match people based on perceived compatibility - being told you're a great match with someone before even meeting someone certainly sets up those romantic expectations - and instead helping users meet all sorts of people around them.
Without the pressured label, people are free to use this amazing technology which connects us for whatever kind of interaction they feel - and especially to let a relationship develop from one thing into another.
This blurring of the lines all starts with encouraging people to meet in real life more easily - the less time we leave before meeting someone, the less expectation there is.
In this way, dating apps are evolving to remove expectations of romance and to simply solve the problem of introducing people. We are witnessing the start of the next evolution in the way society interacts with the internet - welcome to the world of 'meeting apps'.