How Do You Meet Someone If You Don't Use Dating Apps? 18 Millennials On How They Find Dates IRL
It can feel like ~everybody~ uses dating apps. But, that's not true, as I'm sure you and I both know people (perhaps yourself!) who don't. Though being on dating apps may seem like the norm, that's not the case with everybody — people meet partners in real life all the time. For instance, I did Appless April, Bustle's challenge to take delete your dating apps for a month and ended up loving it. After all, meeting future dates in person, without the help of an app, is natural and faster — you omit all the back-and-forth, the matches who just want to be pen-pals, the matches who ghost...
"The biggest advantage to meeting potential dates in real life is getting to experience their vibe right away, which is something no online dating platform can deliver," Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, tells Bustle. "This increases your odds of making good choices on who to go on a date with. There's no better way to gauge attraction and chemistry than to be physically present with someone."
I definitely hear that! As efficient as some dating apps are — I mean, you can message someone one minute and literally be out on a date with them the next! — going to a friend's birthday party and hitting it off with somebody IRL is even more so. Not to mention that dating apps are often a dating Band-Aid or crutch for people, I think. An example? Recently at a restaurant, I started talking to two guys at the table next to me (one was reading a book and had a Powell's City of Books bookmark — I love that indie bookstore in Portland!). Somehow, dating apps came up and they said they had deleted theirs, since having apps made them approach women less in person, "because we can just go home and swipe later." So, they said their luck was much better IRL when they didn't have the apps to rely on as a back-up. Great point.
1. Jess, 29
"Mostly, not being on a dating app has to do with privacy and being happy every day with life as it is. Any moment I haven't met the 'man of my dreams' is a moment to take care of myself, friends, and family, and to do something to improve my own life. It has never felt right to me to cast a wide net and look to bring a person into my life. So rather than looking for someone to date, I practice being happy every day on my own, and it helps me see the incredible people who are already in my network of friends, neighborhood, and community. It helps me love the work I do, build a better home, deepen friendships, and be more creative. I won't put that vital energy into scanning through profiles of people I don't have any contact with. I meet incredible people through friends, while hearing live music, at coffee shops, etc. If you're willing to make eye contact and smile at people, it's sort of like swiping through photos in real life. You instinctively know who you want to talk to, who you want as a friend, and who you are attracted to."
2. Ryan, 32
"I have tried the infamous dating apps (Bumble and Tinder) and have gone on a few first and only dates. I found people very flaky on the apps. Meeting people in bars seemed so superficial and I felt like I was in a wildlife show, as a member of a pack of animals trying to pounce on females. I've surprisingly had the most success while traveling and meeting up with friends from years ago. My two most meaningful connections with women I dated happened with old friends; in fact, I'm currently trying a long-distance thing with a girl I knew in college, and it's going really well. I should note, both times I've encountered a connection, these girls and I had stopped speaking for years. Nothing happened, just different cities and lifestyles causes people to grow apart — I found that girl friends and I just didn't have the right timing. These happened with a random, 'I'm coming into town, what have you been up to?' And as we hung out, something clicked.
Dating someone you've known for years has the advantage of skipping over the initial small talk of meeting people, which is honestly the worst part of dating next to meeting new people. And, since you were friends for a while, you already have built-in, mutual interests. I have found that generally, already knowing the person can accelerate the relationship. This is good and bad, but if handled correctly, becomes an amazing tool to have even more fun and intimate times."
3. Marissa, 20
"A lot of the people I've ended up dating or having a romantic relationship with I've met through conventions, or through mutual friends that go to events like conventions with me. I go to a few different conventions, like Anime St. Louis, Anime Midwest, a Sci-Fi convention called Archon, and I've been to a couple Comic-Cons before. I do cosplay at Anime conventions when I go, and a lot of the times it's group cosplays with my friends or people I know. Sometimes it can be really hard to go out and find people with similar interests, so going to a con where we already have something in common (on at least that one interest or aspect of life) can make it easier. Being in a group setting with friends who also share these interests has helped a lot in the past, too, since it makes it a lot easier to talk.
Online dating sites are appealing because there's not as much stress as talking in person, but it's difficult to gauge the measure of compatibility through a screen that you can get from having a really good conversation with someone about something you like. It's nice to be able to go to a place where I can meet a lot of people I have stuff in common with."
4. Collin, 28
"I'm in NYC and I'm no longer on dating apps for the simple reason that I don't get any dates out of them. I assume it's because I photograph really poorly or dropped out of college to become an entrepreneur, but I NEVER get matches and never get dates out of it. In my most recent stint on and Bumble earlier this year, I swiped right on maybe 1,500 or so women over the course of weeks without a single match. It's terrible for my self-esteem. I'd generally get one response out of 75 or so messages sent out on OKC. So I stopped.
Meeting women in person is extremely easy. They're 50 percent of the population, after all. I meet them all over the place — at bars, parties, dating events like Social Concierge, etc. It's really as easy as introducing yourself and starting a conversation. If you go into it with the goal of having a fun conversation, there's no pressure. If we're both enjoying the conversation and feeling a connection, I'll ask for her number. I find it's really hard not to have a fun conversation if they're interested in chatting. For what it's worth, I start conversations with everyone, everywhere. Everyone has an interesting story to tell!"
5. Kaylyn, 30
"I'm not on any dating apps. In fact, I've never used any of them, not even Tinder. So far in my dating experience, I haven't needed an app to meet people. I think they are a great solution and can help two like-minded people start a relationship. I'm not opposed to dating apps in the future. Instead, I meet people through mutual friends and family, and also through different organizations and professional networking."
6. Julie, 24
"Meeting people online is definitely easier, but in my experience (looking for potential partners, as well as just friends), joining a sports team is the way to go for meaningful relationships — I am all about nature and being outside, and even blog about it at Our Beautiful Planet. In my hometown, Orlando, FL there are plenty of sport and social clubs where you can either join an existing team, create your own, or be paired with a group of other solo athletes. I am particularly interested in cycling, and there are loads of groups that go for rides on a weekly basis and I met some of my best friends through groups like that. This is really great for people who are just looking for friends (dating apps are a little awkward for finding friendships). Organized sports are a great way to spend a few hours with a group of new people who have a common interest."
7. Kevin, 32
"I meet future dates everywhere. Mostly, through friends, like at parties or group events. I'm vegan, and we have monthly vegan gatherings and potlucks — there's always new people showing up (i.e., more potential dates, if you're in that mindset). I think it's all about doing things you love, and the rest will follow."
8. Lindsey, 28
"I'm not on dating apps because I write publicly about vulnerable issues like eating disorders, PCOS, and recovery at I Haven't Shaved In Six Weeks, and I would prefer to meet people organically to explain that. I've tried dating apps before without linking my social media or mentioning my blog, but, the truth is, people know how to find you. Plus, I think it's human nature to 'talk' (text) to someone and want to immediately have more info at your fingertips. I don't enjoy feeling as though I need to put my writing — or my story — on defense before meeting someone. Most men were understanding, but it always left me feeling like we were at a disadvantage because my life story is on the Internet and they are not. I didn't feel it gave me the best opportunity to date.
Instead, I meet people loads of ways. I've gone on dates through volunteering for a nonprofit. I've gone on dates through friends of friends. My ex — I met at a friend's wedding. I attend a book club and writing class, and have met people that way. I don't attend Meetups or dating 'mingles.' I just live my life and people come along on planes or trains. In more interesting cases, I've gone on dates a couple times with men who have written to me off my contact page on my blog to thank me for giving them insight into their mother's/sister's/brother's/son's/whomever's eating disorder or addiction recovery — kinda like a You've Got Mail situation. I've hiked with a man and we had emailed back and forth for months prior. There's interesting ways to meet people, I'm confident of that."
9. Alyssa, 25
"I walked up to my now husband in a bar, trying to get him to buy me a drink. We wound up talking the rest of the night, and he hasn't left me alone since that night three years ago."
10. Erika, 26
"My parents divorced after 26 years years of marriage, both subsequently [happily] remarrying and finding their significant others on Match. My parents are in their late 60s! I've only been alive a little longer than they've been married, but never felt the draw to use an online or app based dating service. My general assumption (or hope?) is that I will meet people I like while I'm out doing the things that I like. Whether that's surfing or at a spin class or working at my favorite coffee shop — they're places where I trust I'll meet people that I'll be 'into.' Obviously, it takes more time getting to know someone and figuring out if it's a good fit or you're on the same trajectory for what you're looking for in a relationship... but, for me, the authenticity in that is worth it. And so far, so good!
Since moving to L.A., I've met a bunch of great people — some of which end up being a date and others just adding to new friends — at the gym, at baseball games, out surfing, in yoga, etc. When I'm meeting someone, if I'm looking for something 'real,' then I have to hope I'm not seeing this overly filtered, carefully curated depiction of only the best parts of their life. I expect the same of myself! I want the good, the bad, and the sweaty."
11. Alex, 29
"I'm a surf instructor, so I have to say that I meet women easily (sorry). Just to clarify: This is NOT why I do my job. I genuinely love my job! But it's definitely an added bonus!"
12. Holly, 29
"I tried apps but got burnt out (who doesn't?!). Now, I go to events I'm truly interested in, like comedy shows and book signings, and if I meet someone there, great. If not? At least I was out doing something I like to do! Also, I feel apps are too forced. When you meet someone at one of the above events, for instance, it's natural, and you don't have to do all the back-and-forth that apps require — not to mention, so many people flake or stop messaging anyway!"
13. Jake, 31
"Never underestimate parties. Chances are, your cool friends have some cool friends you've never met before, including someone you can meet in real life and ask out on the spot. In the long run, this saves you time, and you can avoid all those dead-end app convos. Plus, meeting people to date through friends is almost a guarantee that they're at least semi-normal!"
14. Clint, 31
"The gym. Just do a quick scope, then take the bike/weights/whatever next to them! In no time, either he'll talk to you or I'll talk to him — works like a charm every time!"
15. Missy, 27
"I meet people in real life a lot. Is each one Mr. Right? Not at all! But if you don't get out there and do stuff, from friends' parties (even when you'd rather stay home in your PJs!) to volunteer events, you'll never know and you'll never meet anyone!"
16. Anthony, 32
"Friends of friends are my go-to. If I don't meet women at a social event I'll naturally attend, like a birthday party, sometimes I'll just flat-out ask male and female friends if they have anyone to introduce me to. You don't know if you don't ask!"
17. Matt, 27
"When I'm not using dating apps, I meet women on other apps, of course — like Facebook, Instagram, Meetup, there are so many! I don't necessarily look on them for women, but if someone and I are having great messaging chemistry, it doesn't hurt to see if they're single and free this weekend!"
18. Nadine, 31
"I LOVE going to Meetup groups and other group activities, like a weekly hiking group. That way, you're in a group, so there's less pressure, and new people often attend. Easy!"
When you're stumped as far as where to find a prospective date IRL, remember this: "The best real-life situations are ones you already regularly experience," says Edwards. "From the moment you wake up until when you go to sleep, there are countless opportunities for you to meet someone — taking public transportation, at the coffee shop, at work, the bookstore, out at lunch, in the gym, at the bar for happy hour, getting groceries — the list goes on. All you have to do is take advantage of the opportunities that are already there."
If you just think of the 101 places you go each day, ~all~ of them likely have potential for meeting someone, aka your future partner. They biggest key is leaving the house and seeing what happens.