The virtual world can be a crazy place to live and love in. On one hand you have the whole world as a potential dating pool while on the other, you have no foolproof way on knowing whether your online date is actually who he/she claims to be. Likewise when the real and virtual realities meet, there is both a potential for dismay as well as the prospect of a lifelong relationship. In order to better negotiate these dating landmines, here are a few tips and suggestions if and when you decide to meet someone from online in real life.
When is the right time?
Anyone who has been on a blind date knows that such dates are always fraught with anxiety. And even though you technically know your online partner or even have been mildly flirting for a while, meeting him/her finally face-to-face does make for all the doubts and anxieties usually associated with the first date. As with everything else in life, romance and dating, timing is critical here too. Before you decide that it is time to meet an online friend in real life, assess the potential for a date. Ask yourself what you know about this person that is a verifiable fact and not merely guesswork or hearsay. What are the things that you like or dislike about your online chats with this person? Are absolutely certain you have a chemistry or is there a gut feeling that something is off? If it is the latter, don’t take any such reservations lightly. Bide your time till you can get to know the person a little more, especially of the person he/she is beyond their profile. It is important to get a sense of their conversational style and personality before you make the big leap in your relationship.
Where to meet
The first date should always be in a public, well-frequented place. No matter how well you seem to hit off with you online partner, do not fix a meeting in an isolated place or worse at his/her apartment. One of the drawbacks with online dating is that it is only too easy to fake a profile and you really have no way of knowing for sure that the person you are chatting with is not a pedophile or a sex offender. Other first-date safety rules apply in this case too – arriving in your own transport or having enough cash in hand so that you can call a cab in case you wish to leave quickly. Always let a friend, co-worker or neighbor know where you are going and when you expect to return. That way if something untoward happens, there will be someone to look for you and maybe call the cops. Also if you find a significant difference between the photo and the actual appearance, you can cut the date short. Lying about a photo or a profile is almost always a warning sign that the person is not trustworthy. Ideally you should have an escape plan for getting out of a bad date – arrange beforehand for a friend or a room-mate to call you on your cell phone after say fifteen-twenty minutes into the date. You can fake the call as an emergency relating to a family member or close friend and quickly skip out from the venue.
Keep it low-key
Once you have selected a time and place, try and arrange for the date to be casual affair. A first, real-life date is another kind of start and you both need some space to figure things out about each other. So don’t choose anything that entails a great expense of time or money. Ideally you should zero in on something that you both like but at the same time keep away from date ideas that are too activity-oriented since they can get rather competitive and may make for some discomfort. The point is not to beat your partner at mini-golf or win money off him/her at poker. It is to get to know each in the context of a shared interest. Also try and stay away from noisy bars and nightclubs playing deafening music – you should to be able to talk to each other in a sane environment, free from the haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol. At the same time avoid places where you know everyone since it would be rather unfair to put your date to the test on your turf. Instead go exploring an art gallery if you both are art-enthusiasts or drop in at the neighborhood comedy club if you both enjoy performances. The town zoo or a visiting circus can also work in a casual context while making for a fun-filled day. Local events like festivals and open-air music concerts are other ideas that can be great for a first date.
First dates are rarely perfect – the pressures are simply way too much for either person to be totally comfortable. Thus it would be better to rein in your expectations and use this meeting solely as a way of finding out whether you both would like to see more of each other. At worst, the perfect partner from the virtual world could turn out to be married, ill-groomed, unemployed or even a psychopath in real life - even if he/she is none of these, it is still possible to feel let down. This is once again because of the unreality of the virtual world where a great deal can be faked. Someone who is witty or passionate in his/her emails might still have ugly tics, a grating voice, ungainly looks, or any number of features that are turn-offs in real life. Even when a date is average, looks and personality-wise, you may simply find him/her lacking a spark and that chemistry missing in real life which you thought existed in your online interaction.
But then again, the opposite could just as well be true. Your online date may turn out to be the very person you have looking for or at least show enough promise to make you wish to go out with him/her another time. You may even be pleasantly surprised to find a brilliant chemistry with someone who had seemed just average in photographs or online profiles. Ultimately it is all about exploring more - both about the other person as well as chances of your own happiness.