Checking a person's social media has become, for many, a very normal ritual before a date. You might scroll through their Twitter to check for “red flags” such as lengthy threads wading into discourse or excessive cry-laughing emojis. You might peruse their Instagram to see if they have a stylish aesthetic, or whether they use Boomerangs unironically. You might even check to see if they have TikTok, or – if you've really lost the plot – their LinkedIn profile. Everything is there. Before you've even met.
But then there are those very rare times in which you find... nothing. No Facebook with folders of flash-on freshers’ candids dating back to 2009. No tagged photos of them in Greece with their ex. No Twitter account to speak of. Maybe just a private Instagram account, or six blurry photos of things like car number plates and surreal road signs. Or perhaps nothing but a plain website, with an email address.
When the aforementioned happens, it is – and a lot of people I've spoken to are in agreement about this – weirdly very sexy. The “zero online presence” person is the crème de la crème of the internet. The diamond in the rough. A mystery in an un-mysterious world. But why is being offline so attractive?
There are probably a few reasons. Many people I spoke to for this piece pointed to the fact that being offline suggests inner confidence. You are presumably not bothered about being “seen”. You are not bothered about the opinions of others. You do not need their likes and follows. You are just out there, living your life. This points to self-assurance, a solid sense of self esteem – all attractive qualities.
“It shows someone is very comfortable doing their own thing, which is a kind of confidence that’s really attractive. Like they don’t need to do what everyone else does,” says Sarah Murray, 23.
“As someone who does get FOMO and follows trends and feels the need to keep up online, I respect and admire the choice to ignore the usual expectation in that way. Also it means you’re not going to find cringe pics of them, so they have the element of mystique.”
Daniel Boydon, 29, agrees. He says he's attracted to people with less online presence “because it gives off a much more centred 'I don't actually care' type of vibe… and it keeps my neurotic trust issues at bay. The whole mysterious factor comes into play, too. It's like 'Oh wait, we have to actually talk to get to know each other'.”
Tom Rassmussen, 30, believes that a lack of online presence often indicates that a person has a rich inner life, career and social life. Have you ever had so much fun that you've forgotten to take any pictures? For the offline person, this is what life must always be like. “I think it's chic to be unbothered about meaningless things that the rest of us get bothered about,” says Tom. “In this world of social media, it's kind of wonderful.”
James Preece, a dating expert, explains that people are often drawn to mystery in general when it comes to dating – and this extends to social media. “If you can't be stalking somebody and find out what's going on, then you're going to be intrigued,” he says. “Any sort of mystery or unavailability is immediately an attractive quality.”
Dating expert Hayley Quinn says a similar thing. “Often mystery can do a lot more for you than someone (mistakenly) thinking they know everything about you,” she says. “Without social media, or by having a private account, you can prompt someone's curiosity to get to know you better in the real world.”
When someone is offline, there is also a lot less to judge. Has someone ever given you the ick because they keep doing things like using the “vintage camera” filter or posting angry tweets about different companies or going a bit gung-ho with the sticky-out tongue emoji? It feels horrible to be judgemental, but that’s what happens – even subconsciously. Having zero, or very little, online presence means that there are less opportunities to feel that way.
“Often people look for reasons not to date someone,” explains Preece. “So when you go on someone’s profile, you might see some really good pictures, but then the sixth picture is a ‘little bit odd’ so it’s like ‘no, I don’t like them – goodbye.”
“When you can’t do that, all you can do is give them a chance. You’re not being forced to reject them.”
If it seems superficial to judge someone based on their online presence or lack thereof, that’s because it probably is. Realistically, the amount of selfies someone posts or whether they make TikTok dance trend videos at the grand old age of 27 probably isn’t going to impact your actual chemistry, in the flesh. It just might mean you don’t give them a chance, which could be a shame.
“The bare minimum you need to progress forward with any kind of romantic experience is someone who is open and willing to invest their time in you,” says Quinn.
In other words: A person being mysterious or absent online might draw you in to begin with, but it’s likely irrelevant when it comes to long-term compatibility. It is fit, though.