The Best New Dating App Of 2016 Is...

by Laken Howard

It seems like every day, a whole host of new dating apps become available for us singles (or non-monogamous folks) to try out. While it's a little impractical to download every single one — trust me, I've tried — there are definitely some that stand out from the crowd and are worth our precious time. So how do we know which new dating apps are the best? Luckily, the awesome dating experts on the panel of the first-ever US Dating Awards took the time to carefully review five amazing finalists, and declared Squad, an app where you can swipe with friends, the best new dating app out there.

Squad's shtick is simple: Choose a few friends to join your own squad, pick another squad that looks like fun, and all go out and have a great time together. It's a nice break from the often lonely world of online dating, where you can spend hours messaging someone, only to later be let down or underwhelmed IRL. With Squad, you're always surrounded by your friends, so even if the other group you meet is full of duds, you have your own friends to fall back on.

"Traditional swiping apps are focused on creating a higher volume of what we call 'the bar interaction,'" Adam Liebman, founder and CEO of Squad, tells Bustle. "That is, the night out where you meet someone new/random at a bar, have a good time, but then wake up the next morning and realize the only thing you have in common with them is you both chose the same place to go out. This leads to interactions that end up feeling shallow, and while it can certainly be more efficient, it can also leave people feeling like they want something more."

Unlike other apps that center around one-on-one interactions, Squad aims to make dating a more social activity, and lets you set your own pace for how the night plays out. "We focus on creating a higher volume of what we call 'the birthday party interaction,'" Liebman says. "That is, the feeling when you go somewhere that feels comfortable/safe, with your friends, and meet other people who you don't explicitly know, but know through other people in your social circle. Interactions like this feel comfortable, and allow us to be the best version of ourselves."

If you're looking for a change of pace — or maybe you're just obsessed with trying the next big thing before everyone else — here are seven reasons to check out Squad and see what can happen when you let your friends tag along.

1. It's Low Pressure

"[Squad]... let[s] [you] meet people without the immediate pressure of romance, which... lets us get to know one another before going home together," Liebman says. When you're meeting someone from Tinder or Bumble, chances are you're super nervous because you've built up all these expectations prior to the date. While it's not always a bad thing to have high hopes for a first date, those jitters can make you nervous, and even cloud your judgment — if you're so worried about whether your date will like you, you might forget to think about whether you really like them. Squad makes everything one big party, so there's less pressure on everyone to see fireworks.

2. You Always Have A Wingman (Or Woman)

When you're on a more traditional date, it's all on you to be your best self and woo the person you're with. With Squad, if there's an awkward pause or bad joke, you at least have a few of your BFFs around to dispel the tension. When there are more people around, the energy will be higher, and you'll be able to feed off of your friends and showcase your true sense of humor. On the flipside, if things are really going poorly, you'll also have people around to bail you out, unlike on a one-on-one date, where you have to get creative to come up with ways to bow out of a bad date.

3. Your Friends Can Be A Fly On The Wall

There have been so many times when I've wished that my friends could be a fly on the wall on my dates, and Squad could make that dream become a reality. Instead of sending your friends screenshots of every last conversation with someone you like and letting them read between the lines, Squad lets you all go out together, so afterwards you and your BFFs can all pow-wow and dissect what went down.

"With Squad, not only are you able to form an opinion on your matches, you're also able to get your squad's opinion on all the matches as well," Liebman says. This is a serious advantage, especially if you're the kind of person who needs a friend to keep it real every once in a while.

4. It's The Best Of Both Worlds

If I had a dollar for every time I've regretted passing up on a night out in favor of a date that turns out meh (or worse), I'd be a slightly-less-poor woman. "People are tired of having to choose whether they should go out on yet another date from a dating app, where they could meet their soulmate (but probably won't), or whether they should go out with their friends and have a guaranteed good night, but not meet anyone new," Liebman says. "That's a shitty choice to be faced with, and that's why Squad exists! We let you do both: go out with your friends, *and* meet new people."

5. You'll Be More Confident

There's something about being around your friends that just brings out the best in us. When you have someone around who is guaranteed to laugh at your jokes and compliment your perfect cat-eye, it's bound to make you more self-assured and ready to flaunt what you've got.

"When our friends are around, we're always more confident and comfortable, knowing they have our back, no matter what the situation may be," Liebman says. "When we're alone, it's easy to feel awkward and uncomfortable." Bringing your squad out might make you more likely to meet someone special in the *other* squad, because you're surrounded by cheerleaders who can help you in the moment.

6. It's Just Plain Safer

I've been online dating for years, so I no longer really feel pre-date panic like some people who are less experienced with meeting strangers. Nevertheless, it's super important to make sure you're safe whenever you're going out with someone new.

"At the end of the day, you're still meeting a stranger!" Liebman says. With Squad, there's no more "drop me a pin so I know where to look for the body" before a first date. Now, you can go out and mingle with people, and still be surrounded by people who will always make sure you get home safe and sound.

7. You Get A Glimpse Into Their Real Lives

You've probably heard the old saying, "you are the company you keep," and it's actually super true. When you go out with another group and find someone you're interested in, you'll be able to see what kind of friends he or she has right away, which gives you an intimate glimpse into what they're really like. No more waiting until the six-month mark to find out your SO's friends all love fart jokes — on a Squad date, you know right away. If your BFFs and the other squad all hit it off, it might be a sign that things are meant to be.

Images: Fotolia; Courtesy of Squad; Giphy (7)