I'd rather get thumb strain from swiping than ask a stranger out. Over the past five years, my online dating CV looks like this: I downloaded Tinder in during my final year of university, because I was ready to find a boyfriend. Back then, the dating app world felt new and exciting. Sure, we knew about matchmaking sites where people spent hours filling out pages of specific read: But using our phones to simply swipe our way to potential love?
Well, that was game-changing, and millennials everywhere, including me, signed up, adding a couple of selfies and an Arctic Monkeys lyric to our bios.
But first, I needed a plan. Speaking to a few experts to work out how to go about making myself look "available", dating coach Hayley Quinn told me to not look "busy". In other words, ditch the headphones and put my phone away. And how would I know if somebody was single? Watch them for a few minutes to make sure they're definitely on their own, then go say, 'Hey'. James suggested I try talking to guys in bookshops.
I love books and, as he pointed out, bookshops offer a calmer space to start a conversation than a packed Tube. What online dating looks like in real life it was terrifying. What online dating looks like in real life even though a couple of guys responded positively, I was unable to transition smoothly from "off-hand comment" to "breezy flirting".
I left the shop with zero phone numbers and more titles to gather dust on my shelves.
Outside of shops, I felt just as lost with conversation starters. And although James suggested I ask for directions or pay them a compliment apparently men get less, so they mean moreI seriously struggled to compliment a guy on his shorts. Not only did the energy to make the first move zap the follow-up conversation, the lingering awks factor felt far worse than a no-swipe back.
I found myself walking through London "mentally" swiping yes or no to everyone who sauntered past me. Undeterred, I moved on to my next challenge: I took my housemate, Charlie, to a boozy mini-golf night. Our inevitable unsuccessful attempts had us all in hysterics.
Although I was still nervous, after that initial approach, chatting to Rob note not Harold, as I'd guessed quickly felt as easy as talking to a mutual friend at a house party. We exchanged numbers and have been chatting ever since.
I pictured professional, like-minded Londoners who'd signed up because they were too busy to go looking for dates, or perhaps even people who had "app fatigue", too. The awkward atmosphere of a party dedicated to the unlucky in love was downright painful. And while I tried chatting to another guy stuffing a burrito, he seemed more interested in the buffet than cracking on to me.
This also meant I had to openly admit that I needed help with my love life, which was almost as scary as approaching strangers. After hours of double-blue-tick anxiety, one friend finally came through.
She gave me his first name Toma photo, and told me to head to a bar that night at 7: Of course, I really wanted to look him up on every social media site in order to prepare, but then I reminded myself that this was supposed to be real life.
Tom was slightly late no biggieand we immediately got chatting about American politics. I remembered the advice James had told me when meeting someone for the first time: What online dating looks like in real life want them to be intrigued about you and want the chance to find out more. Not knowing anything about each other meant Tom and I discovered things on equal terms, which was refreshing. He was funny, asked interesting questions, and showed me that dating IRL can be fun.
I guess therein lies a downside to dating apps. Swiping yes or no against hundreds of people fuels the need for perfection, which actually doesn't exist. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and actually looking at men outside of a screen has shown me just how many opportunities there are to meet people day to day.