The meet-cute is dying.
Technology has changed how people are introduced, and fewer people meet in public places that were once playgrounds for singles. At the same time, awareness of what is and isn’t sexual harassment has left people cautious about come-ons that were once seen as cute and now called out as creepy.
“Ten years ago, it was that random encounter,” said Maurice Smith, a 37-year-old consultant who lives in Philadelphia. “Now, people don’t want to do the traditional thing. They just want to swipe.”
It’s not that people don’t want to strike up conversations with strangers and fall in rom-com-style love.
It’s that they don’t know how.
“It’s a lot easier to make a move in a way that society says is acceptable now, which is a message,” said Philadelphia-based matchmaker Erika Kaplan, “rather than making a move by approaching someone in a bar to say hello. It’s just not as common anymore.”
In 2017, more singles met their most recent first date on the internet (40 percent) than through a friend or at a bar, according to Singles in America, a Match.com-sponsored survey of 5,000 people nationwide.
Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, who along with her husband wrote the book “Happy Together,” said opportunities for random encounters are fewer today when groceries can be delivered, you can exercise with an app and you can telecommute from home. That means less practice in striking up conversations.
For young people who have spent most of their dating lives courting strangers online, swiping feels easier than approaching the local hottie at the bookstore.
Thomas Edwards, a dating coach known as the Professional Wingman, said when singles don’t practice this, they “develop a lack of skill set and more fear of rejection,” he said. “And honestly, we become lazy.”
Edwards said the men he coaches are more confused than ever about talking to women. And since the MeToo movement has empowered women to speak about their experiences with sexual harassment, it’s forced men to reckon with how they talk to women.
“They don’t know where the line is,” said Edwards. “Is harassment talking to someone in the elevator? It could be for someone.”
But Jess DeStefano, a 28-year-old theater production manager, said using apps like Tinder and Bumble provides clarity. There’s no guessing if someone is interested. By matching with you, they have indicated they are.
“On Tinder, there’s at least a baseline,” she said. “You know what they’re there for.”
Kaplan, vice president of client experience for the matchmaking service Three-Day Rule, said men are “afraid to approach women for fear of being too aggressive or forward.” In turn, women “have been conditioned to be surprised and almost confused or put off when a guy makes a move to say hello at a bar.”
Kaplan said clients in their 40s and older feel comfortable with a call before the first date. Those in their 30s and younger are “totally spooked” by it.
Amber Auslander, a 20-year-old student who identifies as queer and prefers polyamory (being in multiple relationships with the consent of everyone involved), said dating online takes the guesswork out. Her profile says she prefers polyamory, so someone who matches with her is fine with it. In person, “there’s this disclosure” that can be uncomfortable.
Auslander has never seriously dated someone she met in person. Ditto for her friend Thyo Pierre-Louis, also a student, who identifies as bi-gender. Pierre-Louis said he’s never approached someone for a date in person. “There’s this innate defensiveness [like] ‘Don’t talk to me, stranger.’ ”
On the internet, that doesn’t exist. “It’s a completely different standard of privacy,” he said.