Here’s a question for you: does having dating apps mean we’ve become fully evolved dating creatures now? We have endless options and algorithms tailored to our preferences…but we usually just end up with decision fatigue and a string of “likes” and messages that never end in real life romance. Hey, we’re not saying that dating apps don’t have their place, and don’t lead to a lot of relationships, but you might be feeling like you want to take a step back from all this high-tech evolution and see if maybe you can meet someone the old-fashioned way: in real life. Shocking, we know! But believe us, it still happens – and we have some tips for you to give it a try.
The Advantages of Looking for Love IRL – And Is It Still Possible?
There are a lot of reasons why some people just aren’t feeling the whole swipe culture. Some have become tired of sorting through endless profiles of people who don’t end up looking like their photos, are totally flaky, disappear after two messages, or are just looking to boost their ego with likes. Some people end up feeling rejected if they have trouble matching, and others get tired of strings of “Hey, what’s up?”-style messages that bore them to tears. And for others, dating apps aren’t appealing at all, maybe because of the above complaints, or maybe because the prospect of showing your whole city that you’re out there looking just feels…icky.
Whatever the reason you want to take a break from dating apps, if that’s how you feel, that’s what you should do. But if you’re thinking it’s totally impossible to meet someone any other way these days, that’s not really true. According to Amber Kelleher-Andrews, a relationship expert and the CEO of Kelleher International, “Statistically speaking, the number of successful people meeting someone special on dating apps is very similar to those meeting someone on their own. In fact, it is surprisingly close, with 54% saying they met a significant other on a dating app.”
And there could be some advantages to meeting your dates IRL. For example:
- Online dating can create a “catalog” mentality –.This cataloging mentality often leads to people never really focusing on one person at a time, and can lead to dating FOMO, meaning you’ll always feel tempted to keep swiping. You’re probably not going to feel the same if you meet someone at a party or a museum – you’d never even consider dating everyone who walked past you in those situations!
- You might feel more anxiety when dating in this catalog culture – You have endless choices presented to you when you head to your dating app of choice, but so do your prospective dates. You could end up feeling anxious and competitive as you race to snap up that match. Meeting someone in person might mean feeling like you can slow down and get to know just them.
- You’ll see more of the real person- When you meet someone IRL, you can observe how they treat people around them, the tone they use when talking, and other important characteristics and potential red flags that might be missed on an app. All this before you even go on your first date!
- You’ll have a more natural connection – Meeting someone in person means you’ll know right away if you’re genuinely attracted to them. You’ll also develop a more natural connection since you don’t have to craft every response to make yourself shine – the other person will already have a sense of the wonderfulness of you! That means even when the relationship does move to texting, you’ll be able to be yourself more, and let the relationship develop, since you already know you stand out from the crowd in their eyes.
- You might feel less guarded or jaded – If you’ve been online dating for a while, you’ve probably been burned at least once, right? And that leads to a lot of people putting up walls around themselves. Going back to the old-fashioned way of meeting some could be the remedy for that. Not that you’ll never get burned when dating people IRL, but meeting someone organically might feel less like a competition and more like just two people who are interested in getting to know each other.
So, like we said, dating apps can be great, especially if you live somewhere where it’s hard to meet people, you want a lot of choices and are looking to date a lot of people to find the right one for you, or if you’re, say, living through a global pandemic. But it is possible to meet someone in real life if you want to give it a try.
Tips for Finding Love IRL
Ok, so it’s possible – but where and how should you start? In most cases, you’re probably not going to have love fall into your lap: dating IRL is not as easy as it is online, unfortunately. You could wait for the UPS driver of your dreams to come along – after all, they’ll already know a lot about you – but that’s probably not the best course of action. So what can you do to up your chances?
Put yourself out there, with one caveat
As we already said, you’ve got to get out there to meet people. Buuuuut…the one caveat is that you have to put yourself out there only in authentic ways. Don’t just head to places that you think will be filled with eligible singles – make sure they’re places you want to be and that align with your interests. Don’t head to a jazz club because you heard it was filled with cuties if you hate jazz. Don’t join a hiking club if you’d rather be inside watching movies, or don’t join a sports league if it gives you flashbacks of being tormented by gym class. Instead, explore your own interests and what makes you happy; show up where you want to be, radiate your true self, and you might just attract a bird of your feather.
Leverage your real social network
You know how a lot of people met before dating apps? Through friends and family! And that can still happen, especially as we come out of the pandemic. Now is a great time to expand your IRL social network, by planning group outings and encouraging friends to bring along other friends. You can also be more direct about it, and ask people you know to set you up with someone they know who’s also looking. Just make sure to be really clear about your expectations, standards, and requirements.
Give your heart to a cause
Yes, volunteering should be done out of the goodness of your heart, but there’s no rule that says you can’t get something out of it, as well. In fact, there are many documented personal benefits to volunteering – and hey, you never know who you might end up volunteering next to. Just remember to choose something that’s important to you, and not just something that you think will have the most dating prospects. Again, you want your interests to align right from the start.
Relearn the art of chatting
The British have a great phrase for talking to someone who’s caught your eye: chatting someone up. We might have all collectively forgotten how to “chat” with strangers over the last few years, but now it’s time to revisit that fine art. Remember that connecting takes effort, whether online or offline, and you have to be willing sometimes to just talk to someone, even if it’s just to get your connecting with humans juices flowing.
Dating experts will sometimes recommend that you challenge yourself to talk to one new person every day, and not with the intention of meeting your soulmate. Rather, this exercise is meant to sharpen your skills for connecting…and maybe even doing a little networking. As Erica Cramer, a licensed clinical social worker with Cobb Psychotherapy in New York City says, “It doesn’t have to be a prospective match, but they could know someone, and once you get yourself talking, it’s a great exercise in learning to ask the right questions and when to be a great listener.”
And if it is someone you’re attracted to? Don’t let the opportunity pass you by, even if it’s just making a cute comment about a snack in their grocery cart or asking someone what drink they recommend at a bar.
Change up your routine
Similar to the above, where we suggested putting yourself out there and doing new things that you love, doing this will also give you the opportunity to be around people you wouldn’t normally be around. The odds aren’t in your favor of meeting someone new if you never go somewhere new! If you’re looking for new experiences, including meeting new people, it’s a good idea to say “yes” to as many things as possible.
But changing things up doesn’t have to be a big life change, or even joining a bunch of new clubs. It could even mean taking new routes to places you go every day, or going to the other coffee shop. And remember, rejection in real life can sting a little more than rejection online, so be prepared with some positive self-talk if someone doesn’t flirt back or says no when you ask them out. Try to tell yourself, “At least I tried, and I won’t wonder what might have been!” You’ll only get better and better at chatting and connecting as you practice.
Put out some signals
Open to meeting new people? You’ve gotta look like it, and act approachable. Having your head constantly down, looking at your phone, or always having your earphones in sends the signal that you don’t want to be bothered (and if that’s the case, then by all means, do your thing). But if you are in the mood to connect, don’t let opportunity pass you by by putting out the wrong signals. In addition, when you’re saying “yes” as we suggested above to going to parties and group outings, talking to only your friends is going to put out signals that you’re not interested in others, so try to mingle when you can.
On a final note, we’ll remind everyone who’s trying to get out there and do this crazy thing called dating to have fun! That’s why we’re doing it, after all, right? Sure, it can start to feel like a job, but that’s only if you go into it focused solely on the outcome – and after all, as all the songs tell us, “You can’t hurry love”. Try to enjoy the process, with all its ups and downs, and remember that even the weirdest and worst dates make for some great times talking and laughing with friends. Let us know if you’re trying to meet someone IRL, and how it’s going – we want to hear all of your adventures in dating!
Co-written by Joanna Bowling