Did you know that more than one-third of American couples who married between 2005 and 2012 met online? * In the age of digital media, online dating gives us ever more choices, to the most choice spoiled generation ever to exist. We’ve grown up in an information tsunami, spending hours getting lost on the Internet from browsing Facebook, traveling down YouTube rabbit holes and looking at pictures of cats. Thus, it’s no surprise that we also crave a myriad of options when it comes to choosing a mate. Thanks to dating platforms such as Tinder, Happn, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, Okcupid, Match or eHarmony, there are more first dates happening than ever. Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2016 to find that 80% of Americans who have used online dating agree that it’s a good way to meet people. *

However, let’s not forget that too many options can also be a disadvantage. As a society we have a bit of a decision-making crisis. Let’s be honest, how long does it take you to decide on where to eat a meal? I usually browse through half a dozen reviews to locate the ‘perfect’ venue. Then, before I know it, fifteen tabs are open, two hours have passed and I’m still without a reservation. And this is just for ONE meal. Therefor, it could be a little overwhelming when you’re choosing between so many matches. Online dating also doesn’t have the best reputation. Pew Research Report’s feedback listed that 23% of Americans agree with the statement “people who use online dating sites are desperate,” however; digital dating is much more culturally acceptable than it was a decade ago. According to New York Times, within two years, Tinder was said to have about 50 million users and claimed responsibility for two billion matches.*

Meeting people organically is quite limiting for those with a high priority on accessibility and convenience. We’re an independent, selfish and career-driven generation so choosing the ‘right’ partner is extra important. Thus, it’s no surprise that like almost everything else, we lean on our screens to guide us through a limitless number of potential dates because we just don’t have the time or interest in meeting people at bars anymore. Also, let’s be honest, what’s the likelihood of meeting an eligible partner at a bar? Online dating is an easy way to engage with singles. It’s also the easiest time in history to fall in love with someone across the world. Tinder Plus has helped users 10 to 10,000 miles apart connect making the digital application an Irish hopping hotspot. In turn, we get the opportunity to chat with people from multitudes of backgrounds and personalities, which we rarely encounter at the local bar. It serves as a mutual form of physical attraction (despite the horror stories we’ve all heard) so the fear of face-to-face rejection has disappeared. With just a few swipes, you’re connected with a potential date from the convenience of your own home.

However, let’s be clear, the online dating platform only serves as a conversation starter before the first face-to-face interaction. The rest is up to you. I’ve listed a few takeaways to help you connect before and during that first date.  

#1 Match Chat

Boring conversations are the worst. Most people seem fed up with the same old bombarded one-liners. “What’s up? Where are you from? What do you do? How much do you weigh?” Just kidding on the last one. Sure, those questions are important, but this is very basic copy and paste chat. For all you know, you could be having a conversation with a robot. The better conversations, though, are the ones that throw around some flavor.

I once chatted with, and subsequently went on a date with, a man who suggested playing a game of 21 questions. He asked me things like “What song would you play if your father-in-law was in the car? And what do you do when you first get home? What’s your favorite childhood memory?” The conversation was much more playful and engaging than the other, as was the date.  

#2 Pick Up the Phone

The application has served its purpose. At this point, you’ve had good conversation and digits have been exchanged. Now it’s time to take the first step to ensure that the first date is successful. To all my male readers: I encourage you to pick up the phone and dial that number you’ve been so eager to receive. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Chivalry is Alive: A quality man feels comfortable enough to hold an unscripted conversation before the first face-to-face interaction. According to Okcupid, women receive 17 times as many messages than men so stepping up the computer communication will show her that you’re both courageous and mature. *
  2. Be Distinctive: 2013 survey conducted by Match.com asked single Americans, “Which method of communication would you be most likely to use to get in contact?” Responses found that only 23% of men under 30 will make that initial phone call. Calling your match will separate you from the pack of other texters.
  3. Comfort: Do you feel more connected through an email or phone call? It’s the same with dating. From my point of view, I would have always been more comfortable, not to mention safe, going on a first date after a phone conversation than after only a scripted conversation of text messages.

#3 Plan a Special Date

We all get nervous on first dates, but make this one unique. Instead of the casual bar ordeal, suggest a fun activity for you and your date to partake. Some examples include visiting a museum, outdoor picnic, walking, and rock climbing, exercising, or going for coffee. Make the date memorable and if it doesn’t turn out well, at least you will have enjoyed the experience and tried something new.

#4 Lose the Backup Plan

Yes, the date could go wrong, or it could go right. However, the fact that you’ve already scheduled a plan B means that you’re only half invested. Or you’re expecting it to go badly, another thought killer. Think about how much time you’ve already spent asking questions about the dinner menu, now it’s time to actually order. Life is too short to constantly question your decisions. Enter the date with excitement, joy, and forget the backup plan.

#5 Be Confident

First dates are always a little awkward, making it an easy time to slouch and be guarded. However, take into consideration the fact that he or she will be just as nervous so there’s nothing to worry about. I find that it helps to imagine new people as long lost friends that I haven’t seen in years. This way you’ll treat them that way instead of seeming awkward—and being comfortable around someone is the best way to start a new connection. Your body language is key as well; make sure you have a good posture (straight back, head raised) so your match will automatically feel more relaxed. Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on powerful body language tips before your next date.

Overall remember to have fun! It’s been reported that the average human spends 5 years dating before finding a partner they’ll settling down with. * First dates (online there’s and offline) are really just about two people meeting in the same space for a few hours to see if there’s a connection. Be your extraordinary, vibrant, true self and enjoy your time. Who knows? You might actually have fun.