Parks, a University of Washington communication researcher and author of Personal Relationships & Personal Networks, has determined that 75 percent of the people who dated extensively the year before said they had help from a friend. In their corner is what Parks calls "the social proximity effect," which holds that the probability of two people meeting is directly proportional to the number of contacts they share. In other words, more friends means more female referrals. "Our research has shown that two-thirds of people who initiate a romantic relationship had met at least one of the dozen or so members of their partner's closest social network prior to meeting their part ner for the first time," says Parks, "and nearly half had met two or three." If you know Tom, and Tom knows Betty, then there's a greater chance you'll meet Betty. And if Tom also knows Susan, Heather, and Kimberly . . . well, then you owe Tom a fruit basket.
Let your friends know that you’re open to meeting people—if you don’t, many will assume you’re happily single—but don’t ask them to set you up on completely blind dates. “Ask for a phone number or an email address so you can make the plans and feel her out a bit,” Van Kirk says. “You want to be sure that going on a blind date is worth both of your time.”
Researchers note that shopping trips are fueled by social motives, including the desire for new communal experiences. Big-box stores are socially fertile: More than 10 million people pass through Ikea every week, and U.S. consumers spend an average of 2 to 3 hours each visit. And at Ikea, traffic moves one way, creating a natural movement and pacing that makes it easy to stroll and engage. Think about store or mall flow the next time you're shopping, and patronize spots, like the Apple store, that make kibitzing part of the experience. If you're the active type, L.L. Bean or REI might be a better bet.