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For people like Amanda and Phillip, the idea of falling in love with a friend feels more genuine than taking up with someone new. "We're spending our time and energy on so many more people that it can get a little scattered," says Jessica Massa, author of The Gaggle: How to Find Love in the Post-Dating World. "The idea that there could be someone who knows you through and through and loves all your quirks is becoming even more appealing because it's lacking in the rest of our lives."
That appeal isn't lost on the matchmakers who sell friendship as a ticket for the love boat. Smartphone apps like Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel pair users through Facebook friends, while Grouper and the Dating Ring introduce singles by setting up group dates that mimic casual outings. These virtual yentas are onto something: a USA Today study found that 57% of 18-to-24-year-olds couldn't tell whether they were on a date or just "hanging out."
Of course, most friendships are platonic and destined to stay that way. That's good, because as much as things have changed, we still need our close friends to help us vet potential partners and get over bad ones. Mike says he always texts his friends pictures of guys he meets on dating apps so they can weigh in, because "they're like the referees coming in if you're not sure about the play." But his friends will probably have to ditch their own dates to spend five to seven minutes in the bathroom crafting the perfect response.