Social Media Isn’t Killing Romance…Your Expectations Are


You’re getting ready for a first date with a cute somebody. But this blind date ain’t your grandma’s kind of blind date. Thanks to social media, you know what your date looks like (at their best!). And the two of you have already talked. A lot. I mean, hell, the two of you were a 89 percent match on OKCupid. You practically already know the two of you are compatible. And, using their collection of OkCupid/Tinder/Instagram photos, you have begun to dream of a potential future the two of you could have.

You choose a cute coffee shop in a cute neighborhood where you feel comfortable. But, when you meet the special somebody, though they are cute and the two of you have a lot in common, you feel disappointed. Still, you might keep trying to find the spark you had dreamed of.

But why? If you knew so much about each other before the first date, then why were you so nervous before the date? And, if you were really so compatible according to OkCupid, why did they not live up to your expectations?

This is a situation I have been in at least a dozen times. But don’t be so quick to blame technology. Tinder doesn’t do anything without an actual human to swipe left or right. There is a few layers to this problem:

1. First, Excitement should increase, not decrease.

The most important dating advice ever is this: your love for someone should grow rapidly in the beginning, never shrink. Sometimes our unrealistic excitement and self-created expectations lead to disappointment. When you first meet someone you actually like, your excitement will continue to grow as you get to know them. If you leave your first date disappointed, or unsure if you like them, that is a bad sign. Still, sometimes we continue going on dates, trying hard to like them.

And in the world of Tinder, one reason you might leave the first date disappointed is because your date presented their “ideal self.”

The “ideal self” is the self-curated, public persona we present on social media. When you “untag” yourself from an unflattering photo, you are curating your “ideal self.”

But, in-person your date cannot untag unflattering angles of them in-person. Their humor is less intentional and inconsistent. They are their complete self, flaws and all.

And the feeling of disappointment when you first discover that your date is a little less good looking and a little less interesting than on their profile might ruin the date. At the same time, this disappointment might cause you to work even harder to like the person.

On the flip-side, your personal “ideal self” increases your own nervousness. Had you first met your date in-person, versus virtually, they would have already heard your voice, seen how you look in-person and thought you were interesting enough to date. But living up to your curated selfies, jokes and interests adds to the pressure to impress.

2. The Advice

I once met this really cute guy on OkCupid. I’m talking dimples, million dollar smile and a great ass. We were very compatible according to OkCupid (89 percent, I believe) and our predate conversation was great. He was funny, charming and interesting. Our first date was good… but the spark wasn’t there. Still, I tried. For multiple dates. Our interests were so similar, and the conversation was great. So why did I try for so long?

Firstly, I probably didn’t want to accept that he was not his “ideal self” that I had been dreaming of. But secondly, and mostly, OkCupid (or any virtual dating tool) can never assume romantic or sexual compatibility (or logistical compatibility for that matter).

Attraction and desire go beyond what you think you are looking for, likeness or measurability. Be willing to realize that though they are cute, your alikeness might serve better in a nonsexual, nonromantic friendship.

These apps can help people find love and partnerships. But social media profiles are created by humans. You have all the agency. Be authentic, and you should avoid many of these problems.

So, here’s how to date smart with social media: 

    1. Limit pre-first date conversation. You don’t want to continue to get too excited about the ideal self being put forward. Stay away especially from conversations about sex before the first date.
    2. Be honest. It might be easily to lie on your profile, or during pre-date conversation, but your date will discover the real you eventually (and feel disappointed when they do).
    3. Don’t get too hung up on compatibility scores, or having the same interests as your date during pre-date conversation.
    4. Unless you are absolutely sure you are the kind of person who can have a one-night-stand, and that they are too, don’t have sex on the first date. If only one of you are a one-night-stander, the other person will get hurt. But be careful, your date might be so interested in having sex with you that they might lie (or be dishonest with themselves) about their willingness to have meaningless sex.
    5. Don’t be overly desperate for a partner. I know what it is like to want a significant other so badly, but when you really want a partner you might try hard to like somebody you just don’t.