Whether dating apps are causing a "dating apocalypse" or are merely the easiest way to get a date, there's no denying these tools have been total gamechangers in the dating scene within the last few years. And even though dating apps are most popular among Millennials, according to a recent SeatGeek survey of 1,000 singles, 95 percent would rather meet people IRL versus online or on an app. That's why for the second year in a row, Bustle is deeming April, "App-less April" and encouraging our staff and readers to delete their dating apps for 30 days and meet people the old-fashioned way: offline. With participants tracking their progress and tricks and tips from dating experts, we'll be helping you feel empowered to meet people IRL all month long.
Thinking about deleting your dating apps for Bustle's App-less April but you're legit scared to give up swiping? Totally get it. While Millennials are most likely to date online than any other generation — dating app usage has tripled since 2013 — we're also 22 percent more likely to feel that tech has made finding love more difficult, according to Match's 2017 Singles In America Survey of over 5,000 U.S. singles. And we're not just frustrated — 57 percent of Millennials report being lonely. Even so, dating apps feel like the norm now.
But did you know that only eight percent of couples are meeting on dating apps today? That's less than how many meet at work, bars, sports teams, religious groups, or through other hobbies. So as much as it may feel like dating offline is hard AF, it's definitely working for a lot of people out there, and if you're feeling frustrated, bored, or angry with your dating apps, it's worth giving offline dating a shot, at least for a month. "I suggest a break to my clients all the time," says Ravid Yosef, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Sometimes our energy is what's attracting others and if we don't have enough self-care in our life or get obsessive with our notifications, we start looking for validations outside of ourselves. Which in turn attracts the wrong kind of attention."
- Stare At A Stranger For 3 Seconds
"Locking eyes with someone, especially when you’re constantly looking down at your phone, can feel intimidating and requires confidence," Millennial Love Expert Samantha Burns, a licensed mental health counselor, relationship counselor, and dating coach, tells Bustle. "Eye contact allows you to determine if someone is safe, attractive, and whether you want this person to approach you. If you spot someone you’d like to chat with, make sure to glance over and make eye contact three times and flash a smile, which gives the green light signal that you’re interested."
- Take Yourself On A Date
"Challenge yourself to get all dressed up and take yourself out to dinner the way you'd like to be treated at a date," Raeeka Yaghmai, CEO of Dating With Confidence, tells Bustle. "This is a great exercise for confidence building and not giving any power to the fear of being judged. Both skills needed when you are out there in the dating field. While you might feel awkward at the beginning, you are giving yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfy, cozy comfort zone which is an important skill to develop when dating and creating your love life. It makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin."
- Accept An Invite From Someone You Don't Usually Hang Out With — Or Extend One
"If you don’t expand your social circle, you won’t meet new people," Burns says. "Attend with the mindset of making new friends, rather than searching for a potential significant other. Even if no sparks fly with guests, you never know who these new friends can introduce you to in their extended networks."
- Try One New Activity
"People with successful dating lives have fulfilling lives rich with hobbies and interests," Burns says. "Sign up for a kickboxing class, take a guitar lesson, or study a foreign language. This will give you something to speak about with passion on a future date, which is a very attractive quality."
"Take a meditation class or sign up for an app, such as Calm or Headspace," Burns says. "The more you practice mindfulness, the more aware you are of your self-defeating thoughts that may make you feel cynical and disheartened about your dating life. You can also leave your phone at home and take a mindful walk where you focus solely on your physical sensations and the environment around you. Meditating and mindfulness can help you manage your dating and relationship stress, and reduce anxiety."
- Try This Confidence Hack
"Begin letting off the 'I am happy with who I am; I am just looking for someone to make me even happier' instead of that desperate 'I'm looking for anyone because I feel FOMO, hate being alone, or too accustomed to just having to swipe or text because it’s easier' Desperate is not sexy; confidence is," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of the relationship blog, You’re Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle.
- Take In Your Surroundings
"Don't be afraid to daydream or laugh in amusement as you observe things out and about," Jasbina Ahluwalia, founder and CEO of Intersections Match by Jasbina, tells Bustle. "I actually had a guy hand me his business card before exiting the train during the morning commute, explaining with a smile: "I normally don't hand out my card, but you just looked so happy I wanted to get to know you."
- Reassess Your Social Situations
"Think carefully about the social situations you put yourself into and what the likelihood is of meeting someone single, who you might be attracted to," Charly Lester, founder of The Dating Awards and SPEX app, tells Bustle. "If you're straight and surrounding yourself every day with members of the same sex, or if you spend all your time socializing with people who are in relationships, try to make time for opportunities to meet potential matches. And no, the supermarket and the gym don't count! Get out there properly!"
- Change Up Your Routine Slightly
"Challenge yourself to stop by a new cafe or grocery store — deviating from routine can increase possibilities of meeting new people," Ahluwalia says.
- Collect Data
"Treat dating like it's a social experiment," Silva says. "It really IS. When you are out in public, treat dating like you are collecting data on what you want and don't want. See what combinations of qualities and characteristics better complement you. Don't treat dating like it's a job interview or when in public treat it like you are online (approaching everyone to see what sticks or avoiding connecting)."
- Go To One Of These Places
"If you want to meet people in the real world, go to where the single people all are," The Dating Guru James Preece, dating coach and relationship expert, tells Bustle. Think about all the things you do when you have a little time to fill on your own. Great places are coffee shops, gyms, museums and my personal favorite, bookstores. Once you look around, you'll realize how many people are out there just waiting for you to say hello to them! The world is full of instant icebreakers. Just ask them what book they are reading, what they are drinking or how their day is going. If they are free, interested, and single then they'll want to chat back."
- Email 20 Friends
"Send an email to at least 20 people you know and ask them to set you up with a friend of the appropriate gender(s) who is single and looking," Pella Weisman, dating coach and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "Give them a brief outline of who you are and what you're looking for (this is not your extensive wish list, just 2-3 top criteria) so they can forward the email along. Make sure to include a recent head shot and offer 'amnesty'. (Tell them you promise you won't be mad if you're not into the person or if they break your heart down the road). You can even offer prizes for a successful match (e.g. a bottle of wine if you go on a second date, tickets to Hamilton if you move in together, etc.) Have fun with it!"
- Follow The 50-30-20 Lifestyle
"The key to meeting people IRL is by setting up your life to be more conducive to that," Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, tells Bustle. "When I work with clients, I help set their life up to follow a simple lifestyle structure:
50% doing what you love through experiences, events, and venues.
30% exploring new things through experiences, events, and venues.
20% going to singles-focused. experiences, events, and venues.This will make it virtually impossible to not meet anyone new who you could be interested in.
All you have to do is decide how many days or nights in the month you’d like to go out, and the structure will take care of itself. Of course, you’ll have to do some research so do it by checking out sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to find things to do."
- Open The Door For Someone
"Want to meet the love of your life? Just open the door," Alyssa Bunn, professional matchmaker at Tawkify, tells Bustle. "Seriously! That stranger I held the door for chased me down and has now been the love of my life for two years." Sounds simple enough!
- Challenge Your Dating Beliefs
"Take an inventory of your internal language around dating, love, and relationship," Yaghmai says. "What negative things are you saying about them. (hint: Your negative inner talk is taking you away from your dream love life's vision).Then ask your self the following questions to help you change them so they support your vision of love life. 1) How true is it? (do you have statistical facts) 2) Is this belief supporting your vision of your love life 3) If you believed the complete opposite of this belief what would that be."
- Go To Happy Hour Solo
"Find your favorite local watering hole and stop by a happy hour on your way home for a bit, a drink, and some fun conversation," Julie Spira, online dating expert, digital matchmaker, and founder of Cyber-Dating Expert, tells Bustle. "Steak houses are perfect to meet other singles who are hungry and are alone at the bar."
- Chat Up Your Waiter For Practice
"Chat up people in the service industries for practice," Camille Virginia, founder of Master Offline Dating, tells Bustle. "They're paid to be nice to you, and having you acknowledge them as a fellow human being instead of a public servant will likely be a breath of fresh air for them. Say "Thanks!" and flash a big smile to the bus driver as he's letting you off. Ask how your waiter's day is going and then genuinely listen to his response."
- Put Your Phone On "Do Not Disturb"
What does this have to do with your dating life? A lot, actually. I did this last year during App-less April and haven't gone back since. I realized not only how much my dating apps were distracting me, but my phone in general too. Putting my phone on "Do Not Disturb" got rid of the constant notifications and interruptions. It helped me break my addiction to my phone when I was app-less and then once I went back on dating apps, it helped me depend on the apps way less.
- Make Eye Contact And Smile
"Look people in the eye and smile," Erika Ettin, founder of A Little Nudge and author of Love at First Site, tells Bustle. "At a coffee shop, at a bar, on the street. You'll be amazed at how many smiles you get back."
- Do A Group Activity
"Plenty of singles groups organize hikes, so make sure you’re smiling and make a list of question to ask someone you’re attracted to," Spira says. "Anything from “Cool sneakers, where did you get them?” to “It’s my first hike up this hill. How about you?” If you're not into hiking try a group run or volunteering.
- Make 2 People Feel Good
"Before stepping out, think about who you’d like to meet and why," Virginia says. "It doesn’t always have to be “get a date” — maybe you’re just getting back into the dating scene and want to get your feet wet with talking to strangers. In that case, think of this as a practice run and set an easy intention like 'make two people feel good today'. That could involve giving a genuine compliment, asking how someone’s day is going, or just flashing an authentic smile to someone who looks like they could use it. Setting an intention will get your thoughts aligned so the universe knows what you intend to attract and will help make some magic happen!"
- Plan A "Bring A Rando Party"
I know the feeling of feeling like you've met all your friends' friends already. But what about their co-workers? Acquaintances? Neighbors? I've hosted a few parties where I've encouraged friends to bring someone (even someone they just met that day!) who doesn't know the rest of the group as a way for everyone to meet cool new people.
- Try This Eye Contact Hack
"One subtle way to master eye contact is just pretend like you’re looking around for someone," Virginia says. "Whenever I enter a new space (lobby, bus, store aisle, etc.), I always do a quick scan around it. Doing this provides me with two key advantages: One, I know what type of situation I’m walking into — a benefit for simple safety and awareness purposes. Two, it gives me a chance to catch a person’s eye just for a quick moment of acknowledgement — and that makes it ten times easier for one of us to approach the other because we're now clearly aware of each other.
- Sign Up For A Singles Event
If you're like me and enjoy the comfort of knowing that everyone (or hopefully everyone) on dating apps is single, then take that offline. Sure "singles events" may make you want to roll your eyes, but this doesn't have to be speed dating — although if you've never tried it, you should give it a shot before you knock it. There are plenty of dating services that throw parties, whether they're matchmakers or offline dating clubs like Social Concierge.
- Show Up 20 Minutes Early
"Twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time to show up early somewhere and have this happen to you too — whether in a bar, restaurant, lobby, anywhere people are. It gives just enough opportunity to either strike up a conversation with a random person, or — worst case scenario — allow you to enjoy a quiet moment to yourself. Best of all, you have a reason for being there. You just 'happened' to arrive a tad early."
- Go To A Networking Event
...or at least approach dating situations like networking events. Nana Wereko-Brobby, founder of Social Concierge, an invite-only dating club, compares her parties, which members attend solo, to networking events. "I used to go to networking events alone and get dates from it all the time, and with networking, you wouldn’t go with friends," she tells Bustle.
- Swipe Right IRL
"Practice making eye contact until it feels uncomfortable (this will only take a few seconds if you're out of practice), smiling, looking away and then looking back a few seconds later," Hogi says. "It's the real-life equivalent of swiping right!"
- Work On Your Conversational Skills
"Work diligently to improve your emotional intelligence to attract others to you," Monica Parikh, dating coach and founder of School of Love NYC, tells Bustle. "Although not a dating book, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People will make you a better conversationalist — a very helpful skill in the dating world."
- Take Your Headphones Out
"Headphones add an extra step (i.e. barrier) to someone who wants to engage with you," Virginia says. "I totally understand that on your train ride home after a long day at work, you just want to pop those ear buds in and zone the heck out. But try leaving just one of them out… maybe the one on the same side as the cute [person] sitting next to you who's reading the paper and sporting some awesome red socks. You just made it that much easier for [them] to engage with you!"
- Go To A Place Someone You're Attracted To Would Go
"Insert yourself into situations where you can attract your "tribe." Bourbon-swilling rock stars may not be at early morning yoga classes," Parikh says. "So, figure out what "type" of person you imagine dating. How would they spend their day? If you love animals, go to the dog park. If you want someone hilarious, sign up for improv class. If you love the outdoors, join a whitewater rafting club. The best activities continue for a few weeks, giving you the opportunity to get to know new people slowly over time."
Of course, not all of these will result in meeting someone new right away but if you can do one thing each week to step outside your comfort zone or change your dating behavior, you'll be well on your way to kicking App-less April's butt.
Join the campaign and share your stories with #ApplessApril and by tagging @Bustle.