This has been my experience with the evolution of dating.
Dating Before the Internet (late 80s to mid 90s)
It’s hard to remember such a time, honestly. Life seemed simpler.
Back then, people seemed to be more open to meeting new people… or maybe it was simply just my stage in life. I was in my late teens/early 20s and was in college so it’s possible that alone made it exponentially easier. Meeting new people was nearly constant and my social circle was expanding rapidly. I’d meet guys on campus, in classes, at concerts, on the bus, at clubs and bars, through friends, at the grocery store, etc.
I’d meet a guy “in the wild” and we’d exchange numbers. I’d wait for him to call me and, since I was a working college student, I was rarely at home so he’d have to leave a message on my answering machine. When I got home at the end of the day, I’d listen to my messages on the answering machine, write down the messages, then return all my missed calls right then and there.
We’d make a plan for a first date. Usually dinner. I’d usually meet the guy at the restaurant, but sometimes he would pick me up at my place.
If I met a guy at a club or bar, I’d sometimes go back to his place with him. Sex wasn’t guaranteed, though.
Back then “hook-ups” were called “one night stands”… and no one blatantly asked for it like they do now.
Dating During the Dawn of the Internet (mid 90s to early 2000s)
The first online dating service, match.com, was created in 1995. I joined during a free trial offer right after I moved to the bay area in early 1998. Online dating was a new frontier and I was a pioneer.
As this was a time before digital cameras, most profiles didn’t include a photo unless you were super high-tech and owned a scanner. I didn’t own a scanner when I created my first profile and so I didn’t have any photos in my profile. Most guys didn’t, either.
All first dates were arranged either via email or on the phone. Texting didn’t yet exist. We’d describe what we looked like and then, on the day of the date, we’d exchange details of what we were wearing so we could locate each other at the meeting place.
Without photos, it was a blind date.
We’d usually meet at restaurants for lunch or dinner. Sometimes we’d meet at a sports bar and play pool.
Mars was one of the first people I met on match.com. He owned a scanner and therefore had one photo in his profile. I liked the photo. It was taken of him looking backward over his shoulder while sitting on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of the Arts. He had a familiar look about him and I was instantly drawn to him.
Fun fact: Mars and I were featured as an “online dating success story” on match.com, on the national daily morning talk show The Today Show, and on local news stations.
Online Dating Now
Online dating is now popular and common. There are many apps and websites devoted to pairing people using various formats, features, and interests. You can choose a site based upon your religion, your age, or even your marital status.
Thanks to cameras on smartphones, everyone has a profile photo… even multiple photos. Some even include photos with silly filters that make them look like a magical deer or a zombie. (WTF!)
Texting makes it easy to arrange a date. Texting also makes it too easy to send drunk messages at 2 am, say inappropriate things, and send inappropriate photos. (Where is the humanity?! Alright alright, I’m starting to sound old….)
First dates can be dinner, coffee, a drink at a bar, or even at someone’s house although I still maintain it’s too risky with someone you don’t know. But hey, I’ve done it and luckily lived to tell about it.
99% of the time we meet at a designated location so that we don’t have to give a stranger our address.
It’s always ideal to meet for the first time in a public space so that you won’t get murdered or raped.
With all these technological advances, do people meet organically and without the internet anymore?
When I was on my one and only date with Irish Spaniard back in May, I was shocked to hear him say that he asks women out organically often and was not used to online dating. I gasped and asked incredulously, “People still do that?!”
I think it’s unusual. I, for one, haven’t been asked out while out & about “in the wild” since the mid 90s. I don’t even know how I’d react if a stranger approached me, started small-talk, and then asked me out.
A couple years ago, a cute guy in a restaurant complimented me on my shoes while I was on my lunch break… and I froze. I stammered out a “thank you” and then quickly left because I was so flustered. In hindisght, I wish I’d handled it differently, maybe complimented him on his nice shirt or made other small-talk. I may have had my first non-internet date in almost 20 years!