What Happens When You Stop Using Dating Apps and Meet People IRL

"I plucked up the courage to ask for his number. He said, 'Maybe I should take your email and we can share work suggestions on there.'"
Nana Baah
London, GB
Couple in a pub by Emily Bowler
All photos by Emily Bowler. 

Dating apps are garbage. I say this as someone who has dated everyone worth dating on Tinder and then deleted every dating app I ever downloaded.

According to research by trend reporting agency Fullscreen, I’m not alone. Sixty-one percent of 18 to 34-year-olds would rather remain single than rely on dating apps. Meanwhile reformed dating app users cited damage to self-esteem and loneliness as the reasons for putting them off the platforms. Instead 76 percent of them would rather meet someone organically, inspired by the 'meet-cute' film trope in which two romantically linked characters meet for the first time.


But for a generation of people who have only ever known dating with the help of the internet – from a teenage declaration of love over MSN Messenger to the Instagram DM slide – finding The One without the ease of swiping through a buffet of prospective new partners can be daunting.

I spoke to single millennials who have recently deleted their dating apps about all the things that come with dating offline. Mainly fear, singles events and face-to-face rejection.

A couple by Emily Bowler


I’ve been on all of the apps – Hinge, Bumble, Tinder You name it, I’ve been on it. I deleted them because I thought the grass was greener on the other side.

So about a month ago, for the first time – and for now the only time – when I saw a guy I fancied in a bar, I approached him. We spoke for half an hour and then I plucked up the courage to ask for his number. He said, “Maybe I should take your email and we can share work suggestions on there.”

Although it didn’t go well, ever since hearing about a girl from uni who managed to pull a guy in a really interesting way, I’ve wanted a fun real life meeting story of my own. They met at a club night in Brighton called ‘Cat Face Night’, where you have to draw a cat face over your own face for entry. She walked up to him, pretended to be a cat and started meowing. They ended up being in a relationship for eight months!

I do really want to meet someone in real life – we both reach for the last Pret banana cake, like it’s some sort of fairytale. But instead, I’m too nervous to be set up with friends of friends, and I can’t meet someone at work because I’m the same age as most of their children.


I find dating apps boring and I haven’t had much luck on them either. Even if people say, "Let’s see where it goes", they could just mean that they only want to have sex. I didn’t meet anyone with their ‘green light’ on from a dating app, so it never ended up as anything more. When it comes to meeting someone face-to-face, I think it’s more likely that they’ll be clearer about what they’re looking for.

A Couple by Emily Bowler


I have only downloaded Tinder twice, and had to delete it pretty soon after. I really don’t think I can use dating apps. The idea of meeting people online just feels really inauthentic to me. I really want to meet new guys, but I get really uncomfortable on dates and dating apps don’t help to make me any less anxious.

That being said, I don’t approach people often in real life – it’s too daunting. So my dating life is pretty much non-existent in real life too now! Depending on my alcohol intake, I could potentially consider approaching a man in real life, in a bar or something.


Dating apps got really boring. I used Grindr for shagging which sometimes led to dating, but it’s so much hassle and so time-consuming using Tinder. It’s so much more exciting meeting someone in the flesh. If I’m drunk or on drugs, then approaching someone isn’t scary at all. I mean I’ve never done it without, but I reckon I could.

Meeting someone in real life eliminates the uncertainty around whether you’ll actually fancy them or whether you’ll have any chemistry when you do finally meet. People are less likely to fuck you around when you meet in real life, they either fancy you or they don’t. You’re more likely to get a direct yes, or you can tell it’s a ‘no’ from the vibe.


When it comes to rejection, I think it still hurts whether it’s the outcome of messaging someone or them doing it to your face when you approach them. You might be able to delete the message but you can’t delete the shame.

Photo of a couple by Emily Bowler


Deleting my dating apps all came down to being really bored of trying to have conversations with men on Tinder. I was talking to a straight guy friend of mine recently who said a woman had stopped replying on Hinge mid-conversation. He showed me the conversation and he had just been berating her pizza topping choices. I tried to explain that isn’t cool, but he didn’t get it.

I find that that’s how most men I speak to on apps will try to open a dialogue. They have terrible chat, all they do is ask you a question and then tell you how wrong your answer is before asking you out for a drink. It’s really weird!

So, I’ve started dating friends of friends who I meet when I’m out. There have only been two and I’m not entirely sure I want to pursue anything with either of them, but the conversations have been more fulfilling – a lot better than a drawn out three-day pizza topping debate on Hinge!


Although I don’t go to them exclusively, I have been to a singles event before. I’ve also deleted my apps, but I can safely say that both routes are rife with disappointment. I actually asked someone out through Twitter DMs once and was rejected, so I would not recommend that at all either.

I definitely have reservations about asking women out face-to-face, I always feel as though I would be being creepy by doing it. But I recently met a man, really organically actually, at a music festival.

But I still feel as though it’s the internet or media that has the potential to fuck up even real life meetings. He gave me his number and was really enthusiastic about me messaging him, he asked me about three times. So, after the festival, I did send him a text and he just left me on ‘read’. So, I really don’t know whether between, online and offline, one is better than the other.