The very fact that Facebook is all geared up to launch a separate dating app within the name and aegis of Facebook itself (your dating and personal profiles will be kept separate, and so are your friends/contacts from the two sections) gives us a fair idea how big online dating has become in the space of last few years (let’s say, last 5, to be somewhat more precise?).
There is Tinder, there is OkCupid, and then eHarmony, Match.com, Amigos.com, EliteSingles (which has a great section on Latin Dating), and LatinAmericanCupid.com (geared specifically towards Latino/Hispanic demographic) and scores of others.
There is a change in people’s mindset, too, as it seems. Days are gone when we used to feel a bit awkward about having profiles on dating sites. Also, most people used to believe that dating sites were meant primarily for casual hook-ups, one-nighters, and so on. Fast track to 2018, we already have many couples admitting without any hint of embarrassment whatsoever that they got to know their partner online. So much so, that we already have a new abbreviation IRL (“In Real Life”) to refer to match-ups taking place through conventional means (or, as one friend put it, “the old fashioned way”).
And yet, for all that, meeting someone through online is still not the same as when you are going on a date with somebody who you came to know through friends or even family.
Meeting Someone Online
Let’s say you have come into contact with somebody through some online channel (it might be a dating app, through a video game—you’ll be surprised to know how many people have already gotten to know each other through the game Minecraft—or, by now, more traditional channels such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.), but what do you do next?
Do you decide on a date after a couple of chatting sessions? Ideally not, if your goal is to find a stable partner. In fact, most successful relationships that have originated through online contact, couples were engaged in exchanges—chatting, phone calls, personal messages/mails—for a relatively longer time, in some cases even for months.
And by all appearance, that seems to be the better idea since it gives you the opportunity to know the other person better and already helps to build a foundation of trust. However, sooner or later, you will still have to meet each other in person if you’re going to take things to the next level. That is to say, you’ll be going on a first “real” date with the other person.
That Daunting First Date
Now, at the very idea of a first date, many tend to have butterflies in their stomach. You’d think that feeling would be something we’d experience in high school, right? But, no such luck!
And as for meeting someone you’ve come to know solely via online, no matter how long you have been in contact, he/she still is—let’s face it—a stranger to you. And that certainly adds to the awkwardness of the situation.
However, we believe that it is best to put that out of your mind. Because a first date is a first date and there will always be that feeling of awkwardness when you are meeting up someone for the first time, with the thought always playing at the back of your mind that he/she could eventually be that special one for you.
This very thought often makes us a bit uptight and often prevents you from being your own self or feel comfortable in your skin. So, there is no need to make the situation even more difficult for yourself thinking that you have met online only, and so on…
That being said, you will still have to decide on some practical matters first. And arguably the most crucial thing to decide on is where you will meet. If you and your online friend (potential partner) live in different places, it is normally been widely expected that the man, rather than the woman, should take the trouble to go up to the city/town she lives and meet up there.
However, in our opinion, it is also a good idea that both persons meet the other half way, in which case it might be best to settle for a larger city such as Miami (or at least in that region) or Houston or Philadelphia for example than the small town you might live in 30 miles away. The biggest plus to this is that in a relatively larger city, you’ll have many different options to choose from as to what activities you would enjoy together.
A conventional dinner or a shortish coffee shop meeting is alright, if you so prefer. But normally, people tend to feel a bit uncomfortable and tightlipped (or, sometimes they end up talking too much which is perhaps even worse!) in these settings, if only for the fact that this sort of settings have for long been the norm for romantic dates.
Opt for Something Different!
Our suggestion, on the other hand, is that you go for something different. Some really good ideas that almost all my friends (whom I polled for input for this article) include a sports match (if you both happen to love that particular sport and support the same team), a concert or music show, or meeting up in a bowling alley perhaps (Thank you, Isabella, for that idea which I blocked from my brain for the last 15 years because of the humiliating loss I suffered when trying to impress the cutest kid in the league).
Quick note on the “Coffee Date” idea: Even though I personally nixed the idea when we were talking about this, one of my buddies was adamant about including this. The reason, according to him, is that if the two of you aren’t “clicking” within a few minutes of sipping the latte, you can look at your watch or whatever and say, “Hey, this was great, thanks for meeting me, but I’ve got to run…” So, fair enough!
Anyway, all of these are public places and there will be enough people around, so you’re covered on the safety front. And this sort of settings have an advantage over the conventional restaurant/coffee shop meet-up in that you will have a ready topic at hand for conversation but also you won’t feel the pressure that you would need to talk all the time (since silences are so awkward when you two are sitting alone facing each other across the table).
Depending on the time of year and where you live, there might be a county fair going on where you can meet. This particular idea never occurred to me, but one of the women at work told me that where she is from, these fairs are a big deal and EVERYONE goes.
Another friend said, “If you’re both the same religion, why not meet at church? You don’t have to do ANY talking there,” and if it doesn’t freak you both out that you met at the church, you could always head out for breakfast or lunch after, and since you likely arrived in separate vehicles, you just each drive yourself to the restaurant without worrying about getting into the car with the other person.
Similarly, if both of you take an interest in art, you may take a stroll through the museums and art galleries. Or maybe visit a zoo if you both love animals. The idea is that you should try to see the first date as a fun thing rather than as a challenge. And while you are engaged in some activity or enjoying something you both take an interest in, this helps you relax.
As a result, you should both feel far more comfortable on this momentous first date, able to be frank with each other and enjoy your time together and which is what, we believe, is important, no matter what the future may hold!