The fact that we even say "meet someone in real life" when we talk about dating reveals a lot about modern relationships. Firstly, the fact that we have to distinguish how we're meeting someone nowadays signifies how ubiquitous dating apps and sites have become. Secondly, it reminds us that when connect with people online, it's not always real, whether you never end up meeting or they aren't representing themselves accurately (or worse, they're catfishing you). Not too long along ago, meeting IRL was the default and meeting someone online was the method you sought tips and expert advice for. But now, with 15 percent of Americans dating online and dating site and app usage having tripled since 2013, meeting someone offline can feel like a lost art — even though research says it's still the number-one way couples are meeting.
I'm more than halfway through App-less April, Bustle's challenge to delete your dating apps for one month. I started the initiative to take a break from the dating technology I've used for three years after realizing it had become the only way I was dating. When I started using dating apps in 2013, I looked at them as a supplement to meeting people IRL. But somewhere along the way, I lost the balance between online and offline. Maybe the dating scene changed, maybe I was too distracted on them, maybe I was on too many apps, or maybe I just got lazy. Either way, I knew it was time for a change in my dating habits, and I found some other singles who were up for the challenge.
I'm not swearing these apps off forever or saying they're bad for everyone, but just like with clean eating detoxes or Sober January, I'm reevaluating my relationship with them. Are they toxic for me? Do I need to change my behaviors on them? Should I be on different apps? Stay off them ~forever~? That all remains to be seen, but for now, I'm feeling good about my break.
Dr. Ashley Arn, lead matchmaker for eH+, eHarmony's premium matchmaking service, has worked with thousands of people over the last decade and is responsible for countless successful couples. She explains that online dating isn't for everyone: "Even a short break can be a great way for you to force yourself into connecting with people a different way, and even figure out if you want to continue down the online/app path at all."
While I definitely feel bored at times (sorry Snapchat, you're just not as entertaining) without my dating apps, I do feel more positive about being single, less distracted, and definitely less overwhelmed by my phone. I'm also kind of excited. I'm not sure what I'm excited for, exactly, but this feels like reinforcement to be the outgoing Aries I know I am.
But what about dating without apps? I didn't do this challenge to take a break from dating, but I think a natural side effect will be fewer dates (I have been on two dates this month, and they were both with people I had met on apps in March). And that's OK! But I should start to adopt new dating habits during my break. So, uh, how do I do that, exactly?
I went out with Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, last November to get tips for meeting people at bars, so I consulted him for App-less April advice. He tells me that people become more aware of themselves and other people around them when they start dating offline. "They see their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to socializing in various environments," he says. "They realize where their comfort zones are and where they should push themselves. Most valuable is how they appreciate the spontaneity and complexity of how relationships are formed, which leads to a greater appreciation when connections happen, even if it doesn't go in a romantic direction."
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Whether you're participating in App-less April or want to focus more on meeting someone IRL, here's the best way to do it, according to the experts.
1. Change Up Your Locations
Diversify where and how you find someone to potentially date. I have no issue with online dating, and in fact find it incredibly useful for my clients. BUT, so many people that resort to only online dating because they say that they can never meet anyone worthwhile outside of it. When I ask them how they put themselves in a good position to meet potential matches, I hear the same two answers every, stinkin', time! The bar or a club.
First of all, while there is nothing necessarily wrong with these locations, we know, for the most part, what people's intentions are in these locations, especially when compared to others. I tell people to go bowling, go to wineries, stroll in a walkable area that has good window shopping and little cafes to stop in. And, in line with this one piece of advice, quit acting as though every time you are 'out with friends,' you are not open to being hit on. Open your mind. At a minimum, allow someone to approach your space and, if nothing else, give you their number. — Chris Armstrong, Relationship Coach and Owner/Operator of Maze of Love
2. Have An Action Plan
Just like if you were searching for a job, dating is no different! You need to have an action plan. Make sure that you plan to go to events that are the right age group and are not just labeled for "singles." Make use of a Meetup account to find activities beyond just April when you've deleted your apps! If you are under 40, join a recreational sports league. It's a great way to repeatedly meet people and do something that's not focused on being in a bar. — Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert and owner of Stef and the City.
3. Create A Magnetic Personality
Strive to create a magnetic personality. This is accomplished by reducing judgment of other people and opinions. The least judgmental people tend to have the most magnetic qualities that people want to be around. The tendency to blame or point out the faults of others, insist on being right, be overly picky, see the world as owing you something, get annoyed by small inconveniences,and act like a victim are qualities that repel people. Show kindness where others don't. Overwhelm people with your generosity. Strive to be the greatest listener people have ever experienced. Avoid being self-referential when people are sharing. Reduce how much you complain out loud. Take your gratitude practices to the next level. These are behaviors that promote a magnetic pull toward you. — Gregory Kushnick, Psy.D, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of Techealthiest.com
4. Stretch Your Social Muscle
No matter how old, educated, or popular you are, you can work on your social skills. Most people assume "I have a good job and people seem to like me," so it doesn't occur to them that there's room for improvement in their social habits. But I guarantee that most people are stuck in a rut and operating on limiting beliefs when it comes to what they do, where they go, and who they do it with.
When was the last time you talked to an absolute stranger for no reason at all? Or followed up by trying to build rapport with that stranger? Or asked your friends to go somewhere, they said they couldn't, and you went anyway? Or asked your friends, 'Introduce me to the most random, unlikely person you can think of?" (Mr. or Ms. Unlikely could be the dot that connects you to Mr. or Ms. Amazing! Stranger things have happened ...) No matter how in demand you normally are, you can push yourself socially and it will open up a whole new world of contacts and connections — for friendship, romance, work, or something else. — Suzanna Matthews, Dating Coach and Matchmaker
5. Use Meetup
Schedule social events that have to do with meeting singles so you practice in person interaction. Meetup.com is a great place to start, as well as speed dating. Look for activities that you are interested in like hiking, dancing, wine tasting, meditating, etc. and then find a singles event around it in your area. Meetup offers a variety of events. — Raeeka Yaghmai, Certified Dating and Relationship and Founder of Dating with Confidence
6. Expand Your Horizons
Break out of your routine! I always tell my friend and clients: If you go to the same coffee shop every day or the same bar with your girlfriends every Saturday night, and you’re not meeting the types of people you want to, you need to expand outside of your comfort zone. Take every opportunity to put yourself in new situations so that you can meet new people!Maybe that involves going to as many singles groups and events as possible. Tap into your hobbies — hiking groups, wine tastings, cooking classes, etc. Want to learn a second language? Go ahead and sign up for a class. Expanding your horizons not only exposes you to new people, but you have the added bonus of becoming a more interesting date for Mr. or Mrs. Right. If you feel like you could use a little help, work with a relationship coach or hire a matchmaker to make the dating process low pressure and fun! — Annie Mayo, Elite Matchmaker at It's Just Lunch Denver
7. Pay Attention To Your Body Language
First impressions are extremely important. And the “first of the first impressions” is your body language. Body language is read mostly in the subconscious, but it’s still very important for attracting another person. Someone with the right body language will be instantly more attractive than someone who lacks it. For example, if your body language is weak (e.g. head down), you’ll come across as lacking in confidence. On the other hand, strong body language (e.g.. head up, walking with an open posture) will tell others that you’re confident and independent.
In fact, a recent study showed open body language was very important for coming across as attractive on a date. If your body language is closed (e.g. arms crossed), potential dates might consider you stuck up or not wanting to meet anyone at that moment. But if you show open body language (smiling, legs uncrossed), then you’ll be judged as friendly and easier to approach. — Jonathan Bennett, Certified Counselor, Dating and Relationship Coach
8. Smile At 20 New People A Day
Smile at 20 new people a day. Not those you already know — new, cute guys [or girls] who might be potential dates. If you have to keep a counter in your pocket, then do that! Seriously. It sounds daunting because you’re not used to doing it, but it’s a great way to engage others, and flirt! You’ll be surprised at how many new [people] you meet without Tinder or Match! It’s also using a different “dating muscle” besides the internet. Many people tend to get flabby in the personal socialization department because they’re so reliant on internet tools for dating. When you turn off your apps and rely on your personal charm, you may see better results! — April Masini, Relationship Expert
9. Get Your Friends To Fix You Up
Send out an email or Facebook message to at least 30 people with a short description of what you're looking for and a bit about you (in case they want to forward it to other friends, with your permission). Offer amnesty (meaning you will not hold it against your friend if you think your date is unattractive or if they end up breaking your heart) and incentives. Lots of people are afraid to fix up their friends because they're worried someone will get mad at them if things don't work out. You've got to promise that you won't do that (and keep that promise). Incentives can be anything from a bottle of wine if you go on a second date with the person to tickets to a show if you end up together for more than six months. You know your crowd, you can create the tiers of gifts that would delight them and inspire them to set you up. — Pella Weisman, Dating Coach and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
10. Study The Qualities You Want In A Partner
Ask yourself, "What is appealing to me about these particular traits in a potential mate?" Some qualities we look for in a mate represent a fantasy of what we believe will fulfill our unmet needs based on early, problematic family experiences. Assess whether the search for these traits in a partner keeps leading to the same negative dating outcomes. — Kushnick
11. Say "YES"
Say "Yes" to every event you are invited to. If it sucks, you can leave. But by checking it out, you give yourself an opportunity to meet people you wouldn't ordinarily. And once you get there, stand tall, make eye contact, smile, say "Hi," and keep your phone in your purse." — Suzanne Casamento, Founder of Fantasy Dating
12. Get A Wingman Or Wingwoman
Have a wingman or wingwoman — someone to help you and be an objective third party to help you validate choices and boost your confidence in a live situation. — Dr. Ashley Arn, lead matchmaker for eH+, eHarmony's matchmaking service
13. Say "Hi" To Someone You Don't Know
While running your daily errands, at a cafe or on your morning commute (whether it be on a train platform, parking your car, or even waiting to cross the street), force yourself to smile at the intriguing stranger next to you and simply utter the word "Hi." You really have absolutely nothing to lose except an opportunity. — Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO of Cheekd
14. Be The Person You Want To Date
Be SUPER responsible about the way you show up and what kind of energy you are broadcasting. Be aware of any negative story you are telling about dating or yourself, and work on it before you go out there. Remember that we can't fake our way through our beliefs and core feelings. The way you show up and present yourself is so important, and dating offline is a great opportunity for you to practice that.
Be aware of your body posture. When we are online dating, we don't have to be aware of our body posture and language but in the real world it's SUPER important. If you want guys [or girls] to come and talk to you, make sure you are creating an opening with your body angle so they can feel welcome to come and start a conversation with you. Make eye contact and smile, smile, smile. Be yourself — your authentic, kind, awesome self. When dating, people wanna feel welcome and safe. My best advice is: Be the person you want to date. — Yaghmai
15. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact can symbolize a "green light" for someone looking to approach you. If you're looking to date offline, making sure that you send messages of availability through eye contact can be a way to ensure that more people are aware you're looking to date and likelier to approach you. — Denise Limongello, LMSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
16. Dare Yourself
Break out of your comfort zone and spend some time in places you never visit/attend. Most of us are stuck in a rut of doing the same thing with the same people at the same places and getting the same results. So think about what you love doing, or are interested in but haven't done, and dare yourself to show up there! You'll get new and different results, meet new people, and break through barriers you didn't know existed. Even do it with someone you don't usually hang with. You'll be amazed at the outcome! — Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
17. Be Present
It's way too easy to go on a date consumed with a script, agenda, or preconceived judgement. At very least, your week. Learning to set all of that aside and be fully present in the moment, allows you to see who a person is more readily and more fully enjoy the experience of your company. You'll be grounded, joyful, focused, and ready to respond to anything, having a better date experience all around. — Tracee Dunblazier, Relationship Expert and Author
18. Catch Up With Your Friends
Is to make an effort to catch up with all your real-life friends you have neglected while online dating, go out with them and do some fun stuff together. Take up a new hobby, like sailing, rock climbing, trivia nights, yoga, etc., to put yourself in contact with new people and new singles. Join singles groups that go out and do like-minded activities. Time to get out and mingle! — Amira Celon, P sychic Medium, and Relationship Expert
19. Do Something You've Never Done
Spend time with friends, enjoy your current passions, and explore interests you never had time to do before. Go to a happy hour by yourself and see if you can meet new people. The best way to put is: If you want an experience you've never had, you have to do something you've never done. Do that thing. — Thomas Edwards, Founder of The Professional Wingman
Studies show that people who take the initiative to organize and bring others together often report receiving more social invitations in return than people who do not. Having friends over can lead to your friends including you in more future events where you might have the opportunity to meet new people. Organizing dinner parties, movie nights, book clubs, or any social gatherings in or outside of your home can be a great way to put yourself on the social map and lead to a great many more invites by others. — Limongello
21. Follow Your ABCs
Always Say Yes. Be open, and say yes to new opportunities, first dates, and anything that happens to come your way. Saying yes can open the door to the relationship you’re looking for. It also lets you do things you might not normally do on your own and not miss out on opportunities. By saying yes, you’re opening yourself up to a potential future relationship or fun experience.
Be Confident, Positive and Kind to Yourself. Remember that your demeanor and what you put out into the universe is what attracts others to you.
Create Opportunity. Put yourself out there in the right way! Let people know you’re single, in a good place, and ready to meet someone. Whether it’s through a matchmaker or a setup by your friend, the more you’re out there, the more opportunity you will have. Put your best foot forward, always, and put yourself in places where you can meet the types of people you want to date. Remember, when you are out, even putting your smartphone away creates opportunity. When you are in your own world, you shut yourself off from everyone else. Be present in the moment, and focus on what’s in front of you. — Sarah Patt, a matchmaker at It’s Just Lunch Houston.
Want to join App-less April? Share your stories with us by using the hashtag #ApplessApril and mentioning @Bustle.
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