I'm 20 years old. Like most 20-year-olds, I "like" Instagram pictures posted by my crush to make sure he knows I exist. My "best friends" section on Snapchat is usually a good indicator of who I'm currently interested in.
I like to think I've mastered the art of modern dating with all of its social media-infested nuances.
But there’s one thing that makes me a little old-fashioned: I love going on dates.
When I talk to my friends, stereotypical twenty-somethings who binge watch Netflix and talk about guys, I find it sad that I'm one of the few who has ever been on a date. Not a "Come over to my place and watch TV with me" kind of date. I can do that by myself. I do that by myself A LOT. I mean an "I like spending time with you. Let's go out into the world and do something we both like together" kind of date.
Some would argue that, in a world where you can learn almost everything about someone without spending much time with them in person, that dating is out-dated, no pun intended. Who needs an awkward dinner when you can text getting-to-know-you questions and react awkwardly in the privacy of your own home? But I would argue in an age where you can send 10 second photos that disappear into thin air ad nauseum and creep on someone all the way back to their "scene" days, we need dating more than ever.
My first date was in high school. He took me out to a nice dinner, opened my car door for me and found my love of sci-fi intriguing. Even at 15, I learned that it's easier to get to know someone from across a table, at least at first.
Dates are a safe environment where you can put forth what you want the other person to see; an opportunity to be your most charming self. Even though a date can be high pressure, you'll get a feel for your compatibility and if a second date is even worth it for either of you.
Dates add to the "dating" experience, and I think it's time we were reminded of why:
1. You can tell if you like the person without having to text for five days first.
If you're getting to know someone primarily over text, it could take many conversations to establish if you're interested at all, or if they're the kind of person you think they are. Maybe the texting is interesting for a while, but after weeks you hang out and the chemistry is non-existent. On a date, chemistry (or even potential chemistry) becomes more evident because it's just the two of you with your hearts on the line over a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
2. Things can come up on a date that are deal breakers.
Out in the real world, small situations arise that can show a person's true colors. How do they treat the waiter? Are they attentive listeners? How often did they check their phone? These are things that come up organically over a date, but simply don't arise during a virtual conversation. You can play 20 questions over Facebook Messenger all you want, but a message will never tell you if the object of your affection holds doors for strangers or is truly interested in what you did at work that day.
3. It’s easier to be judgmental virtually — and that could limit potentially great people.
One of the main arguments against the traditional "pick-you-up-at-8" date is that it breeds judgmental behavior. What if you have spinach in your teeth for .2 seconds and he is forever turned off? What if you talk about your mom for too long and she thinks you're a mama's boy?
I would argue, however, that virtual "get-to-know-you" behavior is much more judgmental. How many times do we look at a profile and immediately make assumptions about that person? Their profile picture is a picture of a car. You automatically think, "What are they hiding?" It's so easy to make snap judgements over social media, or worse, over text. Even I'm guilty of judging someone based on how long they take to answer a text and assuming they aren't interested if they forget to respond, or, God forbid, send me an "okay."
Going on traditional dates reduces the chance of these virtual snap judgements from happening. In person, you'll have the opportunity to learn if their profile picture of them surrounded by women is a red flag or just the only picture they thought they looked attractive in.
4. You're forced to put your guard down.
It's so easy to get comfortable hiding behind a screen. Technology can become a defense mechanism that keeps potential love-interests at arms length, which hurts both of you. It's important to remember that whether you're looking for some fun or a serious commitment, you need to leave your comfort zone in one way or another. Dates force you to drop your guard (or simply put down your phone) and put yourself out there.
5. Dates are fun.
People, at least in my generation, seem to have forgotten that dates can be a lot of fun. Sometimes nerve-wracking, yes, but over-all, fun.
Last weekend I went to a swanky dinner followed by gelato from an Italian market so I could indulge in practicing my awful Italian. Was I nervous? Sure. But spending a few extra minutes on my make-up than usual and having an excuse to go out on the town with the guy I like was well worth the inevitable jitters, and it sealed the deal that he's worth a second date.
It's so easy to become absorbed with the concept of someone that it's easy to forget that there's a person behind the texts.
So, maybe next time your crush suggests ordering a pizza and watching Friends reruns with his 5 fraternity brothers, suggest a fun night out instead. You may be surprised what you can learn when you leave the texting, and your spot on the couch, behind.
Cover image via iStock / ViewApart.