For centuries humans built relationships based on face-to-face interaction - at school, at work, at the pub - but the last decade saw the birth and explosion of a whole new type of love. The love you find online.
But now dating expert Sarah Ryan, says she is now witnessing more people looking to take their search for love back into the real world. “I am seeing things such as online dating burnout, recovering from rejection, ghosting, singles misrepresenting themselves online, as well as the building of pseudo-relationships which aren’t real.”
“Traditional dating is ripe for a comeback,” agrees Relate counsellor Rachel Davies. “I wonder if there is going to be a bit of a backlash against online dating as people wake up to how addicted to digital they are - just look at the growing popularity of the digital detox.”
“I tried Tinder for maybe a dozen swipes and quickly realised it wasn’t for me,” said Jamie Smith, 29, from Leicester, who is now in a relationship. “I’m the kind of person that will obsess over the reaction to a Facebook post for days after it’s posted, so the idea of interacting with a potential date purely via messages was pretty alarming.”
Lydia Cronin, from Surrey, also used Tinder for a few months but disliked it and deleted it. The single 22-year-old said she felt swiping made her “hypercritical and unrealistic”. She added: “I found that I was viewing all the people I came across as quite disposable, as there was always hundreds of others available in one instance - I think this can make it quite difficult to really relate to everyone.” Not to mention she was constantly looking at her phone.
Others say that they never managed to successfully move digital interaction into the real world and found this frustrating. Olivia Russell, 26, from Chelmsford said: “I got asked on a date to the zoo by one guy, but trying to find a day to coordinate his shifts at a bike shop with my Monday to Friday job was more stress than fun. That was the end of the Tinder trial.”
Even when people did convert online into in person, they weren’t always impressed with the results. Jameela Raymond, 27, from London used Tinder, Bumble and Happn, and said: “The few app-generated dates I’ve been on have been absolute disasters. People lie about themselves a lot on the internet and then expect you not to notice or care when you eventually meet them.”
Raymond also reports an increase in inappropriate behaviour online. “In my experience the likelihood of someone blurting out something racist, sexist or generally insensitive in the first two minutes is way higher on the apps.”
Sara Sultan, 33, who used Guardian Soulmates, match.com and Lovestruck before she met her husband Samuel, 31, also encountered racial profiling. “I found I was meeting men of a certain calibre and there was racial profiling going on which was the first time it made me so aware of being Asian.”
It made me so aware of being Asian...” Sara Sultan
For those who have decided that they do not want to continue their online dating and move back into real-world interaction, dating expert Ryan said they should remember the rules of engagement are totally different. “Offline you have to think on your feet. Many singles have forgotten how to flirt, maybe because we’re are working too hard, or because we create a new personality when hiding behind dating app screens.”
Smith, who met his girlfriend Harriet, 28, at a party believes that taking his search for love offline not only stopped him obsessing over messages but allowed for that natural ‘spark’. “You can immediately detect that chemistry with someone else in real life. The forced spontaneity of face-to-face conversation is as natural as it gets,” he said. “Why spend hours trawling through digital profiles when you can just chat to people you’re introduced to at a party or start talking to at a bar?”
And if a drunken meet at a bar isn’t quite your scene, then there are other places to meet offline. Russell and her boyfriend Stuart Warbis met at work: “I think we first met in a chicken factory (nothing screams ‘I love you’ more than that) and it was a few months later, having drinks at the company’s AGM, that we properly spoke.”
Sara Sultan and her husband met on a London bus, proving that love can appear when you least expect it. “He approached me claiming he was new to London (a white lie) and needed directions to a store, we got talking after I gave him the directions and he then asked me out for a drink. I said no, but as we parted ways he said if you change your mind here is my business card.”
At the time she was already dating someone, but when her and her partner ended things she found Sam’s card and emailed him.
Although this may sound intimidating, Davies says that there are little things to try when approaching someone in person. “Everyday contexts can take the pressure away of a ‘big moment’ and the opportunities to connect offline are still there, if you look for them.
“People glued to their phones can make bars and clubs an intimidating place for some. And even though it feels like everyone is looking at screens they have to look up once in a while and do things like order a drink. Now is your chance.”
So if your search for love online is wearing thin, why not go old school and try dating offline again?