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By HANNAH SELIGSON To the untrained eye and ear, the scene of young professionals sipping cocktails with a steady stream of popular music playing in the background seemed like a typical Thursday night at Forum, a trendy Union Square watering hole for those born around, say, 1983.The only clues that there could be something out of the ordinary taking place were a bright orange sign that said "Ignighter" and a large supply of blue drink tickets that were cycling through the crowd.The groups often try activities a little more adventurous than dinner and a movie, perhaps because there is less one-on-one pressure to impress than on a traditional date.Participants go bowling, take a hiking trip or try a night at the Philharmonic. "There's been a long history of group-dating in this country," says Beth Bailey, the author of "From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth Century America." "In the 1920s, people went to 'petting parties,' where young people made out in the presence of their peers.No, this wasn't a corporate morale booster, an alumni gathering or a charity event. Group-dating -- think of it as double-dating on steroids or as Facebook in the flesh -- is making a noticeable blip on the dating radar, as a younger generation turns away from such courtship rituals as the blind date.
Ignighter.com, a free site geared toward 20-somethings (their median age is 24), was created in 2007 to solve these problems.
"Group-dating is the only kind of dating we encourage up until about the age of 20," says David Pack, the Pastoral General of the Restored Church of God, in Wadsworth, Ohio.