I Tried Crowdsourcing a Party Entirely Through Dating Apps

Smartphones and beer
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

If you were of drinking age (or close enough, with a serviceable ID) in New York in the mid-aughts, you remember the crazy notion of a relatively deviceless nightlife experience. You dated people you met in the bathroom at Don Hill’s, waited with a mix of terror and excitement for photos to be posted on Last Night’s Party (a full 24 hours after the fact), and may still have friends you made on the fire escape of a random person’s apartment on Avenue C.

Today, apps have streamlined this process so we can set controls to only find eligible bearded men, Ayn Randian bootstrappers, farmers, Ivy Leaguers, or the already attached. Look around a crowded bar on a weekend night, and eight out of 10 people will be swiping, double-tapping, and charming their way through the evening. While one can argue that it vastly increases the odds of success, it’s overwhelming, and can engender some nostalgia for a bygone era of consensual stranger danger.

In an attempt to recapture a little bit of the spontaneity that we seem to have permanently left behind, I decided to see if I could generate a party using just dating apps.

To crowdsource a party, get your apps in line

About an hour before I intended to go out, I downloaded Tinder, Happn, and Bumble; threw up a few pics, and posted the following message:

“Trying to populate a party at a bar tonight using just apps. It’s for science (I am attached). Swipe and message me for bar location and to participate in my bad idea experiment! Bring your friends, lovers, strangers, and enemies.”

Side note: that I am not single was definitely an obstacle here, as was my geriatric status. I didn’t want to wreck anyone’s night by luring them there on false pretenses so decided on transparency, knowing full well it would likely be a handicap.

I recruited said manpanion and a single-ish lady friend to also swipe. We set our parameters to maximum inclusivity and started liking/charming everyone who didn’t seem overtly creepy and seeing who took the bait.

Basically standard dude protocol.

Crowdsourcing parties requires more than being BFFs

On Bumble, I tested out the new “BFF” feature, which was definitely very limiting -- the no-creepers app design assumes you’re only interested in besties of the same sex, and it seemed like Saturday night was not the time to be trolling for new platonic pals. Happn fed me a steady stream of nearby singles, but the slightly more complex nature of the platform made it difficult to drum up potential party-goers without giving the app my full focus. Tinder was by far the most fruitful: we were able to swipe at a steady clip and message bar details just as easily.

One hour and 100 or so matches in, I was starting to panic that I had severely underestimated the potential of this idea. About a third of the people who messaged me hadn’t bothered to read my description and bailed. Another handful interpreted the post as a coded group sex invite, leading me to add an explicitly worded “not an orgy” disclaimer to my profile.

Lady friend and I continued to rack up matches at a steady clip, while manpanion’s apps were brutally quiet; evidently pretty par for the course for the male dating app experience. Another hour went by, and despite plenty of non-committal “Cool idea. Maybe I’ll swing by”-type messages, it was still just the three of us furiously swiping away in near silence at the crowded bar at 11:15pm. We stuck it out, assuming that people’s propensity for questionable choices would increase in accordance with their bar tabs.

Finally, the attendees arrived

Finally, as the clock approached midnight, two whole people seemed to commit to actually attending our sad little “party,” and promised they were en route. By 12:30am, we had our first attendee: David*, a 34-year-old Iowa transplant just getting off his shift at a nearby bar. After a little preliminary awkwardness, we were soon chatting like actual friends, which then morphed into a pretty intense conversation about love and relationships typically reserved for the wee-est of wee hours.

As it turned out, David had been on Tinder for a year, but this was his first Tinder meet-up. He said he was interested in finding The One after a lifetime without any serious relationships. David was affable and handsome -- his solitude was largely self-imposed, most notably by a romantic-but-rigid definition of love that entailed “willingness to die for that person." It did turn out that David had missed the “attached” part of my profile and felt a little duped but was generally a good sport and stuck it out for an hour and change.

Our next “guest” arrived within 15 minutes of David, rolling up on a very cool custom Harley and hightailing it to the bar. Stephen* was a 36-year-old music and tech guy from East Africa who looked like the Getty Image result for “bad boy,” which was later semi-confirmed when he told lady friend that he “doesn’t believe in rules." Stephen was en route to a rave, and in our follow-up conversation explained that he had micro-dosed on mushrooms before heading our way, hence his chattiness. He and lady friend talked at length about attachment theory (duh) and his motorcycle, and apparently how I’m not a match for manpanion (based on having read our energy, clearly). He, too, stuck around for quite a while, revving his Harley hard for a full minute before peeling out into the night, presumably to his much cooler late-night plans.

Once these two arrived, it was challenging to continue swiping and chatting without being total assholes, so the invite streak slowed down quite a bit, with new prospects claiming they’d swing by every so often and then not showing up. Our group hang felt pretty much like any other group hang, but with less familiarity, and oddly enough, more intense conversational themes.

Party stragglers were shrouded in regret

I woke up the next morning to a flood of messages from men and women expressing disappointment at having missed out on the Tinder Party and urging me to do it again. Our two party guests both admitted to feeling a bit bait-and-switched -- Stephen said he’d do it again (though not for the internet to read about), while David said he would not (although we made plans to hang in a normal capacity at his bar). Despite our relative lack of success, the concept seemed to pique people’s interest and reignite a spirit of adventure.

While we didn’t quite conjure the spontaneous bacchanal of the pre-iPhone years, we did manage a decent stranger hang and actually spoke to other live humans for a change. If you’re single and extremely ready to mingle, the Tinder Party might be worth a try.

*Names changed to protect the adventurous

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Pinky Guest is a writer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to the Village Voice, and her weird-stuff Instagram feed, @ebayshopofhorrors, has been regrammed and tweeted by several kind-of-celebrities. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found sweating over ill-conceived DIY projects or digging around the grimiest local thrift stores. Check her out on Twitter: @PinkyGuest.