Browsing on dating apps can be fun, but the chat box can also be intimidating. How much is too much small talk? What’s a good way to make your intentions clear without being too direct? How long do you have to keep up the digital banter before you can just go on a damn date?
The answers are different for everyone, but there’s some guidance to be found about how long to chat pre-meetup, at least.
This process is different for everyone
Steph Nazi, a 26-year-old New Yorker who’s used Hinge in the past, is “never worried about meeting up too fast.”
She says she’ll talk to someone on the app for a week or so before diving into an in-person date, and she thinks that’s plenty of time to determine if someone is a safety hazard for her. “If they can joke and be funny, then ‘potential murderer’ is crossed off the list,” she said, adding she’s even met up in shorter timespans than that.
She’s “leaning more toward consistency” and isn’t interested in one-time flings, so face-to-face interaction helps her identify people who have potential and avoid wasting time chatting with people who don’t.
That’s the case for one person, but you might be the opposite, looking for a quick hookup with little interest in getting to know someone. As long as you make that clear and take the right safety precautions, you can meet up the same day you match with someone. There’s no rule that says you can’t.
On the other hand, you might be into text-based chit-chat and value the ability to hold a conversation like that with a partner. You might be nervous about your safety, hesitant to jump back into dating after a long-term relationship or the pandemic, or just busy. You’re allowed to drag out the text-relay stage as long as you want! Hell, you don’t ever even have to meet up if you don’t want to. Just don’t be surprised if the other person’s intentions or interests don’t align with yours. Ghosting is never cool, but people have been unmatched for less.
Evaluate your comfort and safety
Kate MacLean, a relationship expert who works with Plenty of Fish, said you should consider your safety and wellbeing when planning a possible meeting with a dating site match.
“The important thing is to go with your gut and meet in a public place if you’re comfortable and ready,” she said.
Let’s be real here. It’s not unheard of for a particularly spontaneous person to schedule a meet at someone’s home or plan to carpool to a date. Most of us have friends who’ve done this, if we haven’t done it ourselves. But just because you know someone who made it out of a spontaneous meetup safely doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work out perfectly for you. We can’t advise you to do something like that in good conscience, no matter how long you’ve been chatting on an app.
If you still plan to, have a safety plan in place. Text details about the other person to your friends and tell them exactly where you’re going, as well as what time you plan to leave. Snap a photo of the person’s licence plate and forward it to your most trusted pals. Share your location with them using Find My Friends, Snapchat, or another app. Whatever it takes to prioritise your safety, do that. In fact, do all that stuff even if you’re meeting in public. If a date is worth it, they’ll understand you concerns. If they protest, move on to the next match.
Advance the connection incrementally
You don’t have to stick with the app’s chat feature. Steph gives her phone number to matches after about five exchanges on a dating app. If you’re comfortable giving out your number, texting could be a slightly more intimate way to communicate.
Remember, though, that your number is tied to you pretty closely. Reverse searches can bring up more personal information about you than you might realise, and even your area code is a clear indication of where you’re from. Consider a third-party texting app like Google Voice if giving out your real number makes you a little nervous.
You can also connect on social media. Add each other on Snapchat or follow each other on Instagram, so you can chat there and get a peek into each other’s lives before meeting face-to-face. Seeing how someone presents themselves on their socials is a great way to feel out if you’ll actually vibe.
“Over the past few years, dating rules and norms have evolved dramatically,” MacLean said, citing a 2020 survey of 1,500 POF members. “The pandemic led to the rise of virtual dating, with 60% of singles reporting they are more comfortable video chatting with a match now than before COVID-19. With the rise of video dating, singles now have the opportunity to ‘vet’ people more thoroughly before meeting IRL, so this is a great option for those with busy schedules or who may be a little timid about meeting a stranger for the first time. It also makes first dates less awkward!”
Most importantly, do what feels natural and safe to you. Don’t let anyone pressure you into meeting up or giving out your social media handles if you’re not into it. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, unmatch them and move on. If you haven’t noticed, there are plenty more people on the apps. One of them will have an ideal timeline that matches up with yours, and having one thing in common before you meet up is always a good sign.