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Gen Z is ditching dating apps to meet people in real life. Here are 4 top tips.

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Gen Z is tired of dating apps and would prefer meeting people in real life, but the tech-savvy generation isn't as experienced with navigating romance in person.

Dating apps have been losing their appeal amongst singles in recent years, especially Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012. Only 26% of online dating services users in the U.S. are 18 to 29 years old, while 30 to 49-year-olds comprise 61% of that same userbase, according to Statista data as of September 2023. 

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Dating apps are no longer cool to the younger generation because they're hyper-aware that these companies are solely focused on making money rather than building a good user experience, according to Jeff Guenther, a licensed professional counselor for individuals and couples and author of "Big Dating Energy."

"It feels like signing up for dating apps makes tech boys and Silicon Valley investors richer," Guenther told CNBC Make It in an interview. "They want to keep us on the app as long as possible so they can make money off of us and not really match us up with somebody so that we delete the app,"

Guenther pointed to the various app features hidden behind paywalls, and users experiencing frequent "micro-rejections" like ghosting which keeps them hooked.

"There's all these like little micro rejections that are happening that mess with your self-esteem, self-worth, mental health so it feels like it's not the best place to feel good about yourself anymore," he said.

At least 95% of Gen Z using the dating app Hinge are fearful of rejection and over half say worrying about rejection has held them back from pursuing potential relationships, according to Hinge's dating trends report published in February 2024.

As a result, Gen Z wants to ditch the apps, including going back to traditional methods of dating such as meeting someone in real life, according to a recent Eventbrite survey of 1,001 respondents in the U.S.

Almost half of Gen Zers are keen to meet life partners through their mutual friends and about a third are hopeful that it will happen in their day-to-day routine, Eventbrite found.

"They grew up with iPhones in their hands and they're such digital natives, they probably haven't had too much practice flirting with people in real life and taking risks and it's scary. It's a vulnerable thing to be in real life and go up and approach somebody or ask somebody on a date," Guenther said.

Guenther and Courtney Boyer, a relationship and sexuality expert, shared four top tips for Gen Z to meet people in real life.

Make your intentions known

It may feel impossible to find ways to meet people in real life if you've leaned on dating apps for a long time, but one easy way to speed things up is just to let your social circle know that you're looking to date, said Boyer.

"Be willing to be uncomfortable," she told CNBC Make It. "Just make your intentions known. Like there are a lot of friends out there who are just naturally good at putting people together."

Guenther agreed, adding that asking friends to set you up is an easy and approachable way to meet more people, especially as your friends know you really well and are aware of your personality and interests.

'Go be in the real world'

Young people are often glued to their smartphones and are opting to stay home rather than go out, but you have to be outside to actually meet people, Guenther said.

"Go be in the real world, go surround yourself with people," he said explaining that you can build connections by actually partaking in activities and events or going to bars and clubs.

"Maybe you can also do what we've been doing forever which is deliberately going to spaces that are interesting whether it's like movies or learning pottery or camping with friends or finding other people that share your values like at rallies and marches, and organizations that really resonate with your core beliefs," he explained.

Have 'open body language'

It's not enough to just go to places and expect to run into the love of your life. You need to have "open body language" if you're trying to connect with people, according to Guenther.

This includes making eye contact with another person for two to three seconds and seeing if they hold that eye contact. It's okay to then approach that person and just say 'Hi, how's it going?' Guenther said.

"You don't have to have an amazing one-liner or a super funny thing to say," he added.

He also suggests asking open-ended questions and seeing whether the person responds with longer answers.

"So, it's really about connecting, having a normal, nice, easy conversation with them and trying to see if they're open to being talked to in the first place."

He added if the person appears to be disinterested then it's important to "take that as a signal and move on."

Add value to other people's lives

Being hyper-focused on dating isn't a healthy mindset and Boyer instead suggests pursuing genuine connections and looking for ways to add value to people's lives.

She shared a story of when she was on a girls' trip to Paris with her friends and saw an attractive man.

"There was a beautiful man walking down the street in Paris and I was like 'Oh my gosh, can I just tell you that you have the best smile and he was like 'Oh my gosh, thank you.' And we just kept walking and then he stopped at the next light, turned around, and said 'Hey, do you have Instagram?'"

She explained that this interaction wasn't about seeking validation or trying to get the guy to like her but about adding some joy to another person's life.

"When that guy was walking down the street, I wasn't thinking 'Oh, my gosh, there goes my future husband, I need to get him to like me and see how amazing I am.' It was about paying it forward and I just wanted to him to know he had a really great smile," she said.

Boyer added that sometimes this might lead to something more, and other times it doesn't. Having the intention of "I need to find a boyfriend, I gotta go home with some guy," is actually really "gross and off-putting."

Focusing on enjoying yourself and having a good time is a more attractive and inviting energy to put out, she said.

Correction: This article was updated to better reflect the age breakdown of online users in the U.S., citing Statista data as of September 2023.

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