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Each is glued to a smartphone, scrolling through selfies and groupies and all the other photos you usually come across in online dating profiles. “It’s amazing how people in San Francisco do not approach each other or look at each other, and they just hide behind what’s comfortable,” said Merrill, picking up her phone for emphasis.

Megan Merrill has come across this scene countless times. Merrill, 30, is a dating coach who specializes in helping Bay Area professionals look beyond their smartphones and computer screens to make meaningful connections with other human beings.

Chuck Wagner, 42, took classes from Merrill about six years ago. He was a salesman, and his success hinged on persuading others to do business with him.For people recovering from alcohol, substance and other addictions, dating can feel overwhelming.For individuals struggling with the ambiguities of sex and love addiction and compulsive behavior, dating can often be a painful, discouraging endeavor.The Bay Area’s over-reliance on technology and the pervasive belief that everything — even romance — can be solved with an app or lines of code is often the biggest hurdle Merrill faces when helping clients.She views social skills as muscle — something that gets stronger with practice and weaker when neglected.

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