Geek Advice – Going From Online Chatting to Dating IRL

Dear Pink Hair Girl,
I’ve been on a couple dating websites, and so far I’ve had more success than I do when trying to meet girls in real life. There’s one girl who I met through a dating sight that I’ve been chatting with for a few of months now. We flirt and make each other laugh and I feel comfortable sharing personal information with her, and she feels the same way. So we decided to meet up in person finally. I’m nervous, obviously, but everyone tells me that’s normal. Except I can’t help feeling like she’ll realize I’m not as cool in person as she thinks I am online. The whole reason I do online dating is because I’m kind of awkward in real life. So what if we don’t actually get along?  Am I overreacting? Is there something I can do to make the transition easier?


Dear GeekIRL,

I’m hoping you’ve read up on safety when it comes to meeting internet strangers. I know, you’re convinced that she’s a sweetheart. But you never know, she might be a serial killer who’s actually a middle aged man that likes to dress as a clown, just waiting for you to agree to enter his house before introducing you to an untimely demise. So y’know. Meet in public places and all that jazz.

"No, no, come on in. Sit down. I just need to go upstairs... and finish my makeup."

But after you’ve taken care to make sure she’s not going to murder you, you’ve got even scarier things to think about: what if she doesn’t like you after meeting you in person? To be honest, there’s no way to completely protect yourself from this. You just have to accept that meeting non-compatible people is a part of dating.  And yes, you seem compatible online, but a lot of things are obscured behind that monitor. Some recent studies about communication mention that upwards of 90% of all the information we gather from a person through conversation is non-verbal, like their facial features, body language, tone of voice, and so on. Without these things present in your chatting, your brains have been filling in all the missing pieces with how you imagine each other to be. And since you like one another, it’s possible that you’ve been filling in those gaps with positive stuff. This is great for continuing a chat-based relationship, but not so great when it comes time to compare what your brain is fantasizing about to what’s really there.

I highly recommend that if you continue to use dating sites to meet people, you don’t allow online chatting to continue past anything casual. Do it for a couple weeks at most, until you’ve established some common interests and topics you feel comfortable discussing with one another–then take the plunge and invite him/her to meet you in person. (If it’s long distance, this is where phone calls and video chat come in.) It’s not a good idea to invest too much energy into a relationship if you don’t know how you will both react to one another in person. But since you’re already in this position where you’ve got some serious expectations for one another, I’ve got a few tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.

  • Admit to any falsehoods now. Are your dating profile pictures 5 years old, and taken when you were 30lbs lighter and had more hair? Did you once let her think that you’re some sort of super-expert at sword fighting? Do you act a certain way online but know you don’t behave that way in person? Well then, it’s time to fess up. Tell her the ways in which you’re different from how you come off online now so that she has time to process this information. Surprising her with it in the hopes that your emotional connection will trump it is bad for a number of reasons. For one, you’ve been lying–and waiting to reveal it until it’s inevitable is tantamount to “getting caught” in the lie. Coming forth with it sooner than the absolute last moment is better than nothing. Second, you two should be spending your first time meeting each other having fun, not dealing with the mental and emotional strain of reconciling what you said you are and what you really are. That’s not good for either of you. Get all that stuff out in the open ASAP.
  • Tell her right now that you already feel nervous, and why. It’s not a bad idea to just be straight-forward about this. You can tell her honestly that you haven’t had much luck dating, and that in person you get very shy/nervous/quiet/excited/over-talkative or whatever other social faux pas you’re guilty of on dates. Assure her that this behavior passes after you get comfortable in face-to-face settings, and ask her to just excuse the odd behavior at first. After that, it’s up to you to do your best to calm down. Be zen about it. Try not to get so worked up. Being a calm and collected version of yourself is he best thing you can do when you meet her.
  • Try phone calls or video chat first. If you’re that nervous about meeting in person, ease into it a little. Try calling one another on the telephone. That device you have that browses the internet and sends text messages also has a function for exchanging voice conversations. It’s not even an app, it comes as part of your device. Crazy. I know. If you’re really feeling brave, even a video chat might not be a bad idea. These are good options because you get to hear one another’s tone of voice when you speak. You get to see if your jokes with each other come off just as funny when said out loud, but you won’t have to deal with the stress of in-person issues, like whether you should hug her when you see her or if you should try holding her hand.
  • Do not hound her afterwards, asking how it went. At the end of dates, I’ve had people ask me how they think they did. Over the years, I have grown brave enough to actually tell them, truthfully. And usually, if they have to ask, it means it won’t be a good review. So if I could give you a personal bit of advice, do not ask. Avoid at all costs the urge to ask her what she thinks of you from your first meeting. It shows a complete lack of confidence in yourself, first of all. But second, it puts her on the spot to review her first impressions blatantly and to form them into words. Allow her to just feel how she feels about it, without asking her to solidify a stance on it. Because if her feelings on it aren’t entirely positive, an amorphous feeling is easier to change than a concrete decision that x, y, and z were wrong. Instead of asking how you did, ask her out for a second date. Her answer to a second invitation is as much info as you should fish for.
  • Allow yourself to accept that this girl might not be the one. I know this is hard. You’ve put the last few months of heart and soul into conversations with her, and now your hopes are up. That might not have been a good idea since half of the things that determine your compatibility with her were entirely absent. But it also doesn’t change the fact that you’ve already got your hopes up for this one. You’re putting a whole lot on the line and you’ve built this up so big that of course you’re nervous about it now! But it’s time to face reality. Dating is hard, and it takes time and patience to come across someone who you can feel comfortable with in person. I don’t blame you for giving yourself a head start by chatting first; it’s a good idea for people who are shy or have a hard time meeting new people. However, dragging it out too long turns it into a crutch. You need to get over the fear of getting to meet people in person if you want to meet someone who clicks with you, and the best way to do that is to do it a lot.  Right now, accept that this girl may or may not actually have good chemistry with you. In fact, it’s just as likely that you’ll meet her and realize that there are things that don’t mesh with your projections of her, either. And this is ok. Yes, it will be sad to let go of something you had high hopes for, but it’s still going to be ok. It won’t be the end of the world, it will just be the start of you going out on more dates and learning how to get more comfortable meeting people.

I wish you the best of luck on meeting this girl at last!  Do look on the bright side: you already know you’ve got a lot in common with her, and you won’t have a hard time finding things to talk about or sharing things that get you both excited. You’re one step ahead of a lot of folks on that one. Try to look at it like you’re just going to meet a good friend and that there’s nothing to be nervous about. Because in reality, there isn’t anything to be nervous about. Either you guys will mesh, or you won’t. Embrace that either scenario is an acceptable outcome, because life goes on no matter which one it is. You’ll feel much calmer after you accept this. That is, as long as she doesn’t turn out to be that clown serial murderer we talked about before. Be safe.

Pink Hair Girl

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Pink Hair Girl

After her DNA was spliced with that of a jelly fish, Olivia became known to all as Pink Hair Girl. She also gives advice to geeks all around the world.

One Comment:

  1. I think that pinkhairgirl is right but some thoughts I had to go with it:

    * Have fun. If you do this and nothing else comes from it at least you had fun. Also if you are having fun its likely she will too so this is good.

    * Be confident in you. You already talked to this girl for a while, things seem good. Don’t discount this. She already likes you in some way so let that help you through your doubts. Keep being you and if it was meant to be then it will be. Also confidence, not arrogance, in yourself is sexy.

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