What I Realized About Dating Apps After I Deleted Them
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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.

With dating comes dating apps. Chances are, you've tried a dating app at some point. You vow to quit them, as though they're an addiction, yet you don't. You sneak in a swipe here, a swipe there. You tell yourself, and your friends, that you're about to get off of them once and for all — ALL of them. Well, for App-less April, that's what I did. As much as I dreaded doing so, it's been one of the best things I've ever done for my dating life.

"I'd say taking a break from dating apps is essential, whether you're on a dating break or actively dating," Camille Virginia, Founder of Master Offline Dating, tells Bustle. "Use this time to start connecting with people in the real world. That could mean making a new friend in line at the grocery store, flirting with the barista at Starbucks, or creating a brief but meaningful moment with an elderly person on a park bench. The next time you think to yourself 'I love that woman's red scarf,' say it out loud to her without hesitation. Or ask how someone's day is going when you step onto the elevator with them. Or flash a genuine smile to someone who looks like they could really use it. I say go for as long as you can without reinstalling the apps. Make it a challenge."

Though App-less April started out to be quite the challenge, I'm so glad for all it's taught me about about offline dating. Here are things I realized about dating apps after I deleted them.

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How many of you are ~addicted~ to your dating apps? Meaning, you can't go more than a few minutes without seeing who messaged you? Or seeing who all your new matches are? During App-less April, I've learned that dating apps were a nice addition to my life, but they don't need to be the be-all-end-all of my life once I reinstall them — if I do. Now that I've made time for so many other things in my life — new hobbies, old hobbies, seeing friends more, meeting future dates IRL more — where will the apps fit in? If I DO reinstall them, I'll have a lot more self-control. Sure, they're an additional way to meet someone, but they don't have to consume every waking moment of the day.

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Sure, you can have ~amazing~ messaging chemistry with someone. But, when it comes to meeting them in person, something's missing. Maybe they were a great writer online but barely speak in person. Or maybe they said they were into x, y, and z hobbies — and you are, too — but then you meet them and find out they really aren't. Or maybe they appeared completely single online, but in person they tell you they're "almost" divorced (for the last few years now!); plus, they have a kid, so can't meet up with you on weekends. However, when you meet someone organically, at the grocery store or a friend's birthday brunch, you can find out a lot about them in a short amount of time — and they can't hide behind their phone screens, so to speak.

"There's no better way to gauge attraction and chemistry than to be physically present with someone," Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, tells Bustle. "You get to experience their vibe right away, which is something no online dating platform can deliver."

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Without dating apps, you can date more efficiently. Like Edwards says above, in-person chemistry is the best way to experience someone's vibe, and I agree. Plus, you can learn a lot more in a few spoken sentences, faster, versus paragraphs of typed text from messaging. And, with messaging matches, there are lots of stops and starts, since you have to balance it with work, friends, time to yourself, etc. But with meeting people in person, you meet, you talk a while, you learn about them, and you two decide if you'll meet again — aka go on a date. So, you'll save a lot of time in the process. (Also, you may also have mutual friends at the place where you meet the person, so that helps vet them, too.)

TBH, with dating online, you can fall for someone before you even meet them — by messaging too much — only to meet and realize they're not the person you thought they were. "I'd say taking a break from dating apps is essential whether you're on a dating break or actively dating," Virginia says. "Dating apps aren't reality — lots of people don't even look like their photos, or completely lie about themselves, their interests, their relationship status, what they're looking for, etc. However, meeting people in person is fulfilling our basic human need for connection. Humans are social creatures — we need in-person interaction with each other in order to feel fulfilled and connected. Dating apps and social media give us a false sense of that connection; it's making us think we're being social when we're not — we're not experiencing other peoples' actual energy."

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When you use dating apps, how often do you find yourself out with friends, and it appears as though you’re listening to something your friend is saying, but you’re really composing a message in your head to "x," your latest Tinder match? When you don't have dating apps installed on your phone anymore, you can’t help but be more engaged in the here and now. Speaking of making conversation IRL, "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."

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I’m the first to admit it: The fact that I may not reinstall my dating apps once App-less April ends is a shock. As you know, dating apps provide another way to meet someone. However, now that I've had a break from them, I realize the value in not having them in my life — more offline time: for hobbies, for friends, for face-to-face conversations with people (not just potential love interests), etc. This doesn't mean I'm done with dating apps forever; but, a break from anything shows us what we missed (and didn't), you know?

April or not, I think everyone should try dating without apps from time to time. After all, they're only a download away if you ~really~ can't live without them. But, chances are, without them, you'll value some (or all) of the above, too.

Join the campaign and share your stories with #ApplessApril and ​by ​tagging @Bustle.