8 Things I Miss About the Days Before Dating Apps

Julia Millay Walsh

If you’ve used Tinder or Hinge or the slew of other popular new dating apps, you may have noticed that meeting people via the swipe of a finger is, well, nothing like real life. I applaud the new access these apps give singles to others in their area, but sometimes I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Today, I'm taking a trip down memory lane to the days before dating apps. Here’s what I'm missing in the digital age.

Seeing people in real life. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you just want your date to reach out and touch your arm, hold your hand, or pull out a chair for you. In this day and age, dating has devolved into a digital form of pen-pal'ing in which you never actually meet the person you’re seeing. Do you remember face-to-face contact? Is there something in my eye?

Not realizing we're all superficial. There’s no greater feeling than sheer oblivion. In this blissful state, all the world’s problems (or the realities of your doomed personal life) are just a blip in the sky. But in the era of dating apps, it’s pretty much impossible not to realize that you judge potential long-term partners on superficial characteristics—like how artsy their photos are or how defined their abs in their bathroom selfies are—rather than on truly important things like their intelligence or whether they have season tickets to the Giants.

Getting to hold people accountable (like a crazy person). Connecting with a first date online, rather than meeting through friends or in Whole Foods (as one does), means that you have little to no repercussions if you never want to speak them again. It’s unlikely you’ll bump into each other, so you can just do the shameless slow fade. Meanwhile, in the Old World, a girl could totally make the dude who just wasn’t that into her feel awkward by saddling up to his neighborhood bar or casually-not-casually dropping by his friend’s party… not that anyone would ever do that.

Laughing. In the good old days, a suitor might stroll up to you and crack a quick-witted joke to get your attention and make you feel all sparkly inside. You’d banter back and forth for a few days, and on the first date, even though he might turn out to be a total mama’s boy, at least you were guaranteed a laugh from the well-adjusted, pre-screened human being. Now, in the realm of digital dating, jokes and pick-up lines are actually crafted over a series of fortnights with a jury of comedians weighing in before they’re actually sent. If you make it to an app-driven first meeting, the illusion that your date has any sense of humor is sharply and swiftly crushed. God, someone just say something funny.

Law & Order SVU. In the pre-dating app era, I spent all my idle, lazy time watching SVU marathons, hoping that Benson and Stabler would finally just seal the deal. I miss you Olivia!

Not getting set up with exes or relatives. In the real world, if someone tried to set me up with a relative or ex-boyfriend, I would sure as the sun move to a deserted island and find my own Wilson the volleyball. In the dating app era, getting set up with an ex or relative is something that could (and has happened to friends of mine) and the thought frightens me.

Serendipity. It’s not every day that you encounter a butterflies-in-your-stomach moment. In the good old days, when it happened, you could reasonably tell yourself, “The stars have aligned.” In the era of dating apps, all that’s aligned is your zip code. But hey, they say the single biggest predictor of love is proximity.

Not having carpal tunnel syndrome. There was a time when we all could feel our fingers, and when there wasn’t a constant dull tingle in our palms. I remember it fondly.

What do you miss about old-school dating? Tell us in the comments below.

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