You’ve been texting back and forth for days, and you’re already smitten by their flirty remarks and sharp wit. “Could this be the one?” you ask yourself, blushing by the glow of your phone screen — that is until you meet your date in person and your dreams are instantly crushed. Now, you’re wondering: Do I have chemistry in real life, or only over text?
I’ve witnessed this dating debacle firsthand.
“I don’t get it,” my girlfriend Angie* told me, as she lamented about yet another disappointing Tinder date. “We had this amazing back and forth banter going all week, he was super confident and funny. Then we finally meet up and it was awkward AF.”
It’s no secret that our phones play a massive role in dating nowadays — not only are we using them to meet people, but we’re also using them to get to know someone and assess whether they’re a good match. The problem with this is that our communication over text isn’t necessarily a solid indicator of our actual chemistry in person. By the time we meet up with someone, we’ve often already built up an understanding of who they are, based merely on the messages they’ve been sending — and that picture isn’t necessarily accurate.
“I have clients who spend two weeks texting because they want to get to know a person — but the only way you get to know a person is by meeting face to face,” Fran Greene, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, tells Elite Daily. “It creates a sense of false intimacy, which can lead to a huge disappointment. The only way to gauge chemistry is to meet in person.”
Wondering whether your digital chemistry doesn’t quite translate when you’re face-to-face? Here are some signs that the sparks are flying on your phone screen, but not IRL.
You feel like your texting partner and your date are two different people.
You can’t count how many times your date’s texts had you sending the heart-eyes or smirk emoji. Undoubtedly, they have some serious digital game. When you meet in person, however, it’s a whole different story. That flirty charm is nowhere to be found.
“It can go from very affectionate texts to a very reserved and even distant feeling,” says Greene. “This can happen if the ‘vision of your crush’ is nothing like what you imagined even if you have exchanged photos.”
Sometimes you may have to be the one to make some moves to knock down your crush’s walls a bit. You can try breaking the touch barrier by putting a hand on their shoulder or knee while you’re laughing, and see how they respond. Still, if you feel like they were pretending to be someone they’re not, there’s a chance you fell for your texting partner and not your actual date. Maybe over time, your date will be able to open up and show their true selves, and you’ll finally be able to tell whether that chemistry is still there.
You’re doing far more of the conversational work in person.
Over text, your convo felt like a tennis match, with thought-provoking questions and clever responses being tossed back and forth — easy, natural, and equal. In-person, your conversation feels like throwing a tennis ball into the abyss, only to get nothing back. What gives?
“The conversation just flowed over text and when you meet in person, the silences are agonizing,” says Greene. “In-person, your anxiety can influence your spontaneity, and having a warm body in front of you changes everything — it becomes real!”
If it’s the first date, try to keep in mind that your date’s lackluster responses may be a matter of nerves. There’s a chance they might open up over time as they become more comfortable with you, and your in-person convos will match the ease of your texting ones. They could just be a little shyer when it comes to face-to-face interactions — or, of course, you could just have better texting chemistry than you do IRL.
They took their sweet time texting back.
When you’re texting, you have the advantage of taking a long pause to craft the perfect response. That’s not the case IRL — which is why you may feel like the chemistry that was explosive over text simply doesn’t exist in person.
“It’s often easier to text than talk,” adds Greene. “You can add and delete words and use emojis when texting.”
If your conversation is lacking in person, think back to when you were texting. Did it seem like there were some pauses in between their responses? They may have been editing their texts to perfection — and now that you’re making eye contact, they don’t have that luxury. Keep in mind that many of us can’t summon quite the same witty responses on the spot that we can come up with over text. The reality is, however, that your perceived chemistry may be rooted in their ability to edit their messages, which they can’t do IRL.
If you suspect that your texting chemistry isn’t quite matching up IRL, don’t stress. First of all, this is a super common conundrum.
“Because your expectations are off the charts, the likelihood of being disappointed even just a little is the norm,” explains Greene. “The best thing to do is to take a deep breath and don’t be so hard on yourself or your date. You both may be a little nervous because you thought you both found a match — and maybe you did!”
This common dating debacle is why Greene recommends waiting no longer than a week to meet up after you begin texting with your crush. While there may be extenuating circumstances sometimes that delay your date, it’s best not to wait weeks before you hang out IRL.
“It is a huge waste of your time to spend days texting as if you were long-lost lovers,” she added.
Remember: It’s a lot easier to be the best version of yourself over text. Not only do we tend to be more confident behind a screen, but we have plenty of time to weave together smart, quippy responses. The best thing to do is not to make any snap judgments on a first date, as there are lots of factors (mainly nerves) that can come into play and throw off your chemistry. Give your date a chance to relax, and time will tell whether or not the chemistry is still there IRL.
*Name has been changed.
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