How Long Should You Text Before Having A First Date? Experts Weigh In
If you've ever watched an episode of Catfish, you know how treacherous the texting waters can be. It’s so easy to fall into that grey area between meeting online and meeting up IRL. Texting builds an almost intimate bond that can sometimes make it harder to meet face-to-face, because now your meeting is fraught and full of high stakes. That being said, you should do some pre-date texting to check for deal-breakers, and more importantly, for safety reasons. So, the question is, how long to text before having a first date is the right amount of time? Is it better to move quickly into the first date, or should you take it slow and really get to know as much as you can about the person via text before meeting face to face?
To help figure out what the "right" amount of time to text is before going on a date, I reached out to online dating experts. They explain why the timeline between digital and real life contact may be shorter than you think, and how to know when and if you're ready to take that next step. Here is what they had to say.
How Long To Text Before Meeting In Person
When it comes to making the move from digital chat to real-life chat, my tactic was always to move slowly and really get to know the person well before moving on to setting up an actual date. Oftentimes, what would happen was either the conversation would dry up or, when we did finally meet up in person, there was an inevitable letdown. I figured that was just how online dating went. Turns out, that’s because I was doing it all wrong. According to dating expert and licensed marriage and family therapist Anita Chlipala, the timeline should be more in the range of “two to three days, enough to establish safety but not enough time to know important things about them via text instead of in person. You want to meet in person as quickly as possible because some people can have great texting chemistry but then aren't attracted to the person.”
Online dating coach and relationship expert Damona Hoffman agrees. When it comes to moving from texting to the first date, the sooner the better.
“You want to keep the texting light, playful and short-lived before the first date,” Hoffman tells Elite Daily. Why? Because texting creates a false sense of intimacy that may lead to oversharing, since “when you are getting to know someone over text, you inevitably end up sharing things that you would never say face-to-face.”
In my experience, the longer you draw out the pre-texting, the less likely you actually end up connecting in real life. But as online dating expert Julie Spira explains, it can often just be because online dating is a numbers game.
“Since singles are chatting with multiple people at a time, after a few days, or a few weeks, the decision to meet will lose its spark, or your digital flirtation might find someone else in the process," Spira tells Elite Daily. She does agree that “texting is a great way to ramp up your digital flirting with someone you’ve met online,” but says you should limit the amount of time and energy you spend on it before meeting in person.
The other risk you run, Spira says, is creating “a false illusion that you’re already in a relationship. Until you have the chance to speak with your potential date on the phone and go on a date, you’re in a stage that I call the 'digital pen pal' syndrome.” So yeah, basically every episode of Catfish, ever.
What You Should Know About Them Before The Date
So, if the timeline for texting is a week or less, how much should you actually try to learn about that person before the date? Should you try and cram in as much fact-finding as possible beforehand, or is less actually more? Spira says to keep it light in the pre-date text conversations, and suggests limiting it to shared interests and passions.
“Knowing their favorite band, what they studied in school, or where they’ve traveled to are light and easy subjects for a chat," says Spira. "Asking how their day is going shows you care."
Despite feeling like texting is a medium, Spira warns that it's an illusion. “You can’t get to know someone solely and in a meaningful way over texting,” she says. So, instead of trying to learn the person's life story, she advises, “Keep the texting as a flirting tool to send a good morning or good night text, but not in place of meeting on a date, where the physical chemistry and conversation can allow the heart to open up to the possibilities of forming a relationship.”
For Hoffman, it’s even more simple. “All you need to know before a first date is that the person is interesting enough to spend an hour with - that's it. One hour,” she says. Her advice is to save the major filtering and getting to know one another for the first date. She adds that no matter how much you get to know one another over text, "you cannot know if you have a true connection or not until you meet." By meeting fairly quickly, you don’t risk wasting your time spending weeks or months texting only to discover there is no chemistry in person.
Should you talk on the phone or FaceTime before the first date?
Since texting is a limited tool to get to know someone before meeting, should you consider other forms of conversation prior to the date? On this, the experts are split. Chlipala says no — head straight into meeting in person, safely.
“In person is the best way to gauge chemistry," she says. "If you're worried about your safety, have an afternoon date and have a friend check in with you or tell them where you will be and that you'll text them when you're home."
Hoffman, on the other hand, does encourage reaching out by phone prior to meeting. “I’m a big fan of the brief pre-date phone call," she says. "You can tell much more about how you will interact with one another by phone when you can instantly respond and banter with one another than over text in which the words are often more carefully chosen and an image is being cultivated.”
“Also, once you have spoken to one another, you become more real than just a face on an app or a name on a phone, and you are less likely to be stood up on the first date or ghosted early on," she adds.
How To Know You’re Ready To Meet IRL
Ultimately, the most important factor in deciding when to move from texting to meeting in real life is if you are ready. Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with, since that feeling of nervousness may actually be your subconscious mind throwing up red flags your conscious mind is missing. However, if you're just worried you're rushing things, the experts say not to worry about that — the sooner the better.
“Just do it,” says Chlipala, who warns that the longer you wait, the more the odds stack against you. “You don't want to know too much about them before you meet because you risk making assumptions and blowing things out of proportion."
“You are ready to meet them if you are curious how you would connect in person and if they seem to have your top three desired qualities and none of your top three deal-breakers,” Hoffman says. And she agrees that waiting too long to meet in person will make it harder for them to live up to your expectations
“If you wait too long to meet, you will have created an impression of the person in your mind that can never be real when you connect face-to-face," she says. "Better to move offline quickly and see if you're dealing with the real thing or just an endless flow of cheeky texts.”
But perhaps Spira puts it best when she says, “If you feel online chemistry, why wait? Schedule the date to see how you feel when you meet. If you don't, maybe someone else will, and life is too short to be filled with regrets.” Agreed.
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