Couple on a date behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Some singles in Philly are turning to Facebook groups to find a mate, swapping in advice from other people for the sterile environment of dating apps, which can leave many feeling burnt out or disappointed.

“Everybody wants to present the very best version of themselves,” said Courtney Thomas, a member of the Philaqueens FB group. “So you’re not necessarily getting the most real parts of who they are, and the most fundamental parts of who they are.”

A private group with over 15,000 mostly women members, Philaqueens often turns its collective abilities toward helping its members find the best. The best weekend getaway, the best wedding stylists, the best doctors, vets, therapists. And, in its many set-up threads, the best potential mates.

The group is filled with messages encouraging members to share info about either themselves or their single friends, and to set each other up. A November post declaring dating apps just weren’t cutting it anymore garnered over 400 comments.

Profiles on Philaqueens can be more honest and charming than those found on most dating apps.

“He’s a union tradesman who will assemble your Ikea dresser with ease then take you out to celebrate” or “[He’ll] be so nice to you, you’ll forget about all of your childhood trauma.” Members endorse their friends, relatives, and colleagues, adding a human touch to what can feel like a vacuum-sealed process.

Even as dating apps’ usage and stock prices soared through the pandemic, users reported feelings of exhaustion. People described feeling like they’re wading through a sea of profiles that’s been fished out.

Matchmaking companies are taking note. Last fall, the Match app added the option to hire a trained team of “dating coaches” for $4.99 a week.

Molly Weinberg, who recently started YentaBe, a matchmaking subscription service for Jewish singles, sees burnout as a natural consequence of the way people interact on Hinge, Bumble and Tinder.

“What’s the Einstein quote?” Weinberg said, of the saying often misattributed to him. “Imagine doing the same thing all the time and expecting a different result? That’s essentially what’s happening on dating apps.”

Thomas, the Philaqueens member, took the group’s process of vetting and recommending a step further than most: she decided to try to set up her ex-boyfriend.

She chose a photo that, while flattering, accurately represented what he looked like — a common pitfall on dating apps, Thomas said. She posted it with a note about his interests and character.

When people began messaging her with their interest, she put her firsthand experience to work.

“A fundamental incompatibility between him and I in our relationship was … he always wants to be going,” Thomas explained. “I work a lot of hours. I’m not always ready to be like, ‘Yes, let’s go out until 2 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday.’”

So she looked for someone who might be ready for that late-night life, and then made the connection. The couple is still dating.

South Jersey resident Amber Karichner’s younger brother was ready to give up on the dating process altogether, she said, until she posted a profile of him in a busy matchmaking thread on Facebook.

She felt it was more honest and insightful than something he might post himself. “He’s over 6 feet tall. My brother is jacked. And that’s all people see,” Karichner said. “He doesn’t tell people that he’s got three dogs at home … he doesn’t tell people that he lets one of our cousins live with him.”

Her inbox was flooded with messages of interest. Using her sisterly knowledge and the character judgment she credits to the “perks of being a teacher,” she sorted through the conversations to find a lasting match.

Indeed, Karichner’s brother and one of those sister-approved women have been seeing each other since November.

Karichner herself has never been set up, but emphasized she’s not opposed to it. “I think that might be one of the only ways that I finally find somebody. Because I am just done with the dating apps.”

Maya Kassutto is a writer in Philadelphia. She has spent a lot of time thinking about love and relationships, public education, environmentalism, and books.