Meeting someone on a dating app is quite different from meeting someone in real life.
That gives the first date a different meaning — and can even make a difference in a relationship long-term.
The rise of dating apps means there’s virtually endless ways you can find and connect with potential partners.
It also means it’s less and less common to go out with someone you meet in real life.
Meeting someone on a dating app is a different experience from meeting someone in person, and knowing what to expect in each case can help set the stage for a successful first date and a successful relationship beyond.
Meeting on a Dating App vs in Real Life
Dating Apps and Sites
When using dating apps, you can specify preferences and requirements for the type of people you’re open to matching with.
Online dating platforms use algorithms to help match people based on common interests, geographical location, and comparable attractiveness. Some popular dating apps and sites known for using these types of algorithms include Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, Match, OkCupid, eharmony, and more.
As you swipe through a deck of other users’ profiles or browse a list of potential matches, you can view a seemingly endless supply of people on a dating app.
Once you and another user express mutual interest in one another, you become a “match” and can message one another. By messaging each other through the app, you can to get to know each other and eventually progress to setting up a first date to meet in person.
Dating in Real Life
Dating in real life means meeting people organically in the real world, whether through friends, family, social events, or anywhere out in public.
This type of dating can tends to be more based in bonding over shared experiences and personal connections. Common ways to meet people in real life include attending parties, through hobbies, or simply by striking up a conversation at a café, park, or grocery store.
Traditional methods of meeting someone in person like this start off with face-to-face interactions that can quickly lead to stronger emotional connections, which two people bring with them into the first date.
In real life dating, first impressions are mostly based on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, rather than curated online profiles. With this richer set of information, you can form a better understanding of the person's true character, vibe, and compatibility with you.
No matter whether you choose online dating or dating in real life, it's important to keep an open mind, to communicate effectively, and to be authentically yourself.
First Date Experiences: Comparing Dating App vs Real Life Meetings
Initial Conversations and Chemistry
When meeting through a dating app, initial conversations happen online. This means that you can get to know the other person’s personality, interests, and background before the first date.
You’ll likely spend a few days messaging on a dating app to gauge each other's interests and personality before even deciding to go out in person. This initial messaging can provide a sense of familiarity, safety, and connection that allows the conversation to flow more naturally when you finally meet in person.
At the same time, a person’s dating profile on an app can sometimes be misleading, as people have the tendency to present a more polished or idealized version of themselves online. It’s important to keep an open mind as you meet a match in person, as it’s only then that you’ll come to know who they truly are and whether you’re compatible.
When meeting someone in real life, meanwhile, these initial conversations occur in person. This goes a long way in helping you immediately gauge the chemistry between you and your date. While online conversations over a dating app might reveal interests and preferences, they don't allow you to feel out in-person chemistry. Sometimes, the chemistry you feel with someone online might not translate into real-life meetings.
Meeting someone in real life presents a unique experience. There's the spontaneity and excitement of connecting with someone in person and feeling an attraction. This shared experience can lay the foundation for an authentic connection from the get-go. However, because you don’t have access to a formal profile about this person, you might not know basic information about them, like their age, interests, hobbies, job, education, religion, or family life.
Safety Concerns and Measures
Safety is an important consideration when it comes to planning and going on first dates, especially when meeting someone from a dating app. Since you're likely only familiar with your date virtually, it can be a good idea to choose apublic setting for the first date and to inform a friend of your whereabouts.
When going on a first date with someone you meet in real life, you might feel less safety concerns and greater trust. However, it’s still a good idea to stay in a public place and follow standard first date safety measures.
Common Interests and Activities
When meeting through a dating app, you usually have the advantage of knowing certain interests and preferences of your date beforehand from their profile and from your online conversation with them. This information can make it easier to plan an ideal first date and come up with first date conversation topics ahead of time.
Meeting someone in real life, though, takes it a step further. When you can observe someone’s quirks, likes, and personality in-person, you can better gauge common interests and activities and what type of first date would be ideal. Plus, since you and your date have already had some conversation in person, you can skip the small talk on your first date and build a deeper connection more quickly.
The Pros and Cons of Meeting on a Dating App Versus in Real Life
When it comes to finding a date, and a long-term partner, meeting through a dating app vs. in real life each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Meeting on a Dating App
Using a dating app can offer several advantages:
Wider Range of Possibilities: You have access to a large pool of potential matches, giving you a higher chance to find someone who shares your interests and values.
Less Pressure: Interacting with someone online can be less intimidating than approaching them in person, allowing you to get to know them more comfortably and less vulnerable.
Time-Efficient: Swiping through dating profiles can be done at your convenience, fitting easily into your schedule whenever you’d like.
However, dating apps also come with some drawbacks:
Physical Attraction vs. Personality: Swiping based on photos can lead to a focus on misleading physical attraction, limiting the chances of connecting with someone you’re compatible with on a deeper personality level.
Misrepresentation: People may present themselves differently online than they do in person, leading to misguided expectations and disappointment on the first date.
Safety Concerns: Although dating apps are extremely safe, there is still potential for encountering scams or dishonest users.
Pros and Cons of Meeting a Date in Real Life
Meeting someone in real life has its pros:
First Impressions: You can immediately get a feel for someone's personality, energy, and appearance when you meet them in person, and then can decide whether or not to engage with them accordingly.
Authentic Connections: In-person interactions can lead to more genuine connections that are harder to create through messaging someone online.
Mutual Environments: Meeting in person allows you to see how someone interacts with others, navigates their space, and handles social situations.
However, real-life dating has its downsides too:
Limited Opportunities: Depending on where you live, your social life, or your interests, you may have a limited pool of potential partners to choose from.
Unexpected Encounters: Meeting someone in person is usually unplanned and unexpected, which can be nerve-wracking for many people and make it harder to just be yourself in the present moment.
Rejection: The fear of rejection can be more intense in person than online, and that fear may prevent you from approaching someone you find attractive or make it hurt more if they turn you down.
Long-Term Relationships and Marriage
Surveys show that 54% of American online daters believe that a relationship from a dating app can be as successful as a relationship initiated in-person.
On dating apps, you have the opportunity to selectively connect with people who share similar interests, backgrounds, goals, or personality traits, which can lead to more harmonious relationships, with each partner sharing the same values and long-term goals.
Short-Term Relationships and Meetups
Meeting someone in real life at a bars or club may be more conducive to forming short-term relationships and hookups. These situations also come with a higher risk of misunderstandings or mismatched expectations. With dating apps, users are more explicit and clearer about their intentions, which makes it easier to evaluate potential matches thoughtfully.
Tips for Navigating Online Dating and Dating in Real Life
Effective Messaging and Communication
Developing rapport and exchanging engaging messages with your matches on a dating app is key for successful online dating. Aim to have at least three to five solid messages exchanged before considering a real-life meeting. Ensure your conversations cover common interests so you can feel out compatibility and become more comfortable with meeting a match in person.
Here are a few tips for effective communication on dating apps:
Be honest and authentic
Send a good opening message (here are tips for writing openers on Bumble, Hinge, and Tinder)
Respond in a timely manner
Find common interests to discuss and focus the conversation on those
Ask open-ended questions to get to know your match
Relax and have fun with it; show a sense of humor
How to improve your dating profile and land more first dates off dating apps
Hopefully these tips give some insights into the differences between meeting someone on a dating app vs in real life.
If you’re on dating apps and want to improve your dating profile so you land more first dates, we have you covered.
We at The Match Lab offer professional services to create dating profiles that attract high-quality matches.
If you’d like to find out which are your most attractive photos to use in your dating profile, give our dating photo analyzer a try. Just upload some photos of yourself, and our algorithm will reveal which photos you should be using in your profile and the ideal order they should go in.
If you’re looking for help with writing your dating profile, then check out our professional dating profile writing service.