Old School in an App-Obsessed World
Gigi advises a letter writer afraid the days of the “meet-cute” are over.
Q. I’m in my early thirties and feel like THE ONLY way to meet people is through dating apps. All my friends tell me to use them, and I do, but I feel like I’d rather meet someone in a more “natural” way, like through work or even out in public somewhere, like in line for coffee.
My friends think I’m crazy and that I have a better chance of getting eaten by a shark than meeting someone in person at my age. Look, I get it, it gets hard to meet people when you’re out of college or your early twenties. But doing all the back and forth of talking to people on dating apps gets really tiring. I feel like when I meet people in person, I know instantly if I’m interested in going out with them.
So I guess my question is, do people even TRY to meet people in person anymore? Or should I just forget that notion and focus on the apps?
Katie, 33, Seattle, WA
A. That’s a very interesting question and one I think many of us have pondered as dating apps have become the norm for finding relationships. I remember when meeting on dating apps was the weird thing to do. No one wanted to talk about how they met their SO online. I even have friends who made up IRL stories to tell their families. TBH, I even considered doing this with my partner. So, I know I’m not alone.
Now, every single person’s mom tells them to get online and meet someone (and give her some grandchildren, already!). I’m a hop, skip, and a jump away from being engaged, and I met my partner on a dating app. My sister is engaged and she met her fiancé on a dating app. It does appear that meeting online is the best way to get a boyfriend or girlfriend in 2017. In fact, 89 percent of men and 84 percent of women looking for a partner say they use dating apps regularly. By contrast, only 28 percent of men and 33 percent of women say they rely on “in real life encounters” to meet people.*
I think what you have to do is stop putting so much pressure on yourself to meet someone in real life. Instead, keep yourself open to many ways of finding a relationship. Maybe choose one or two apps and only spend fifteen minutes a day using them. You can then spend time at bars, concerts, playing sports or whatever it is you love doing. There is no reason to write off one thing over another. I think that’s where people get it wrong.
People definitely DO try to meet people IRL. Are more people meeting on dating apps and do dating apps produce more dates? Yes. Just think about it.
89 percent of men and 84 percent of women looking to meet a partner say they use dating apps.
People who are on dating apps are specifically looking to meet someone. When you chat with someone in line at the grocery store, they may not be looking for something romantic. On dating apps, you know they’re single, and you get a picture of what they’re interested in: their hobbies, interests, etc. When you meet someone at a concert, you don’t have access to this information. Statistically, meeting someone online is easier.
That being said, it is possible to meet someone in real life — it just takes a bit more work. Even in our post-app world, 44 percent of men and 43 percent of women say they’re “actively looking” for people to date when they’re out in the real world.
The problem? Many of those in that same survey think what you think — that no one is looking or wants to be approached IRL.
“I would love to meet people in real life, but people seem too caught up in their phones and are constantly looking for perfection through apps,” said one survey respondent. “They don’t seem interested in meeting strangers outside of apps.”
I’m sure you can relate. At bars or coffee shops, looking at your phone is the default “I’m alone” stance — not exactly approachable body language. Real-life interactions have taken a hit, despite a desire by many app users to have more IRL interactions.
You can do yourself a favor by making yourself approachable in daily life — headphones out, phone away — but don’t worry so much about how you meet someone, and instead focus on finding someone you actually like. And stop listening to your friends. At the end of the day, it’s your life. Whether your future SO came to you via a setup, through an app, or through a chance meeting at bar won’t matter. It isn’t about how you meet someone, it’s about MEETING them at all — so keep your eyes and your apps open.
*April 2017 survey of Hinge users
Gigi Engle, aka Ask Auntie Gigi, is a sex writer and educator living in NYC. Her work has appeared on Elle, Teen Vogue, Bustle, Glamour, Allure, and Men’s Journal, Elite Daily and Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @GigiEngle. Send questions to Gigi at firstname.lastname@example.org.