What It's Like to Chat Online vs. IRL

What It's Like to Chat Online vs. IRL

For better or worse, the world wide web is a confidence booster. Whether you like to troll stranger’s social media accounts, yell at anyone who shares a political post or just share more videos of cats than you might in real life, it’s easy to be over the top online. For me, that also translated to the world of online dating.

When there was plenty of fish in the sea, so to speak, I could take a few more risks. Whether that be a flirty comment that was slightly suggestive or a joke that I really hoped would be funny, it didn’t so much matter when I perceived that my options were limitless. Aka, there were plenty of other men sliding into my DM’s. 

But something strange happened when it was finally time to meet – for real. That confidence turned into nerves. Not only for what this guy might think of me (would he like me?!) but also what I might think of him! The catfish threat is real and so is the disappointment of finding out that someone you connected with via text is not a connection when they’re across the table. 

I learned quickly that in the world of online dating, I still had to be me. Not just like, don’t use your hot model friend’s pictures for your profile, but like deep-down authentic me. Sure, I could be over the top funny, sexy or intelligent when I had time to think before texting. But in real life, I could only be real. No lifelines, no ask a friend - just how I would be if I were out to dinner with an old pal. 

And before you go judging me for what seems like an obvious way to be, you might be surprised how easy it can happen. What scared me was how subtly I could become someone other than that real self, depending on who I was talking to. If someone was funny, I’d be constantly trying to one-up them. If they gave off an allure, I’d take a mysterious turn too. Maybe that was a lack of confidence on my part, but I tend to think everyone wants to be liked. It’s a pretty basic human emotion, especially when you’re dating. 

Here’s how it all came to a stop for me one day when I was traveling for work. I’d been chatting with an insanely gorgeous guy who was a verifiable pro-athlete. I wanted to go out with him. Bad. But he asked for some pics – no, not the nudey kind – but in a way that made me uncomfortable. He pressed, and I didn’t like it. And yet, there I was, taking two dozen selfies (analyzing each) to try and fit the bill I thought he wanted. Could I have kept that up in real life? Definitely not. He was making me feel like a piece of meat before we ever even met! Like a lightbulb, it dawned on me. Be yourself. Don’t be insanely clever, funny, confident, sexy, etc. online. Be exactly the level of those things online that you actually are. When I suddenly ended the conversation and made the switch, the way I chatted aligned with real life. No less DM’s – no more. But better connections, conversations, and ultimately relationships.