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He’s had only one real relationship with someone he met in person: Justin Bettis, his podcast cohost. It’s not that people don’t want to strike up conversations with strangers and fall in rom-com-style love.Bettis, a 31-year-old lawyer who lives in Francisville, said he wants to feel the “magic-making” of a serendipitous meeting. “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.This is dating in 2019, when young people have never courted in a world without Tinder, and bars are often dotted with dolled-up singles staring at their phones.Technology has changed how people are introduced, and fewer people meet in public places that were once playgrounds for singles.A bit over a decade ago, online dating was viewed by many as the last resort for those who hadn’t found a relationship the “normal” way.These days, it is often the first option for someone looking for romance, not the last.“And, honestly, we become lazy.” Will, a 26-year-old CPA who lives in Fishtown and asked to use only his first name so he could speak freely about his dating experiences, said about 80 percent of the first dates he’s been on since college were with women he met on dating apps.He said it’s not rejection that stops him — it’s about avoiding making the other person uncomfortable in denying him.
Instead of meeting people in a fun social environment first, and using all the social tools we have to figure out if you like somebody’s company, technology arrived to help you make a decision about someone without ever even needing to meet them in person.
“They don’t know where the line is,” said Edwards, who added that he doesn’t want to excuse unacceptable behavior, but said the difference between flirting and harassment can be different for different women. It could be for someone.” 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.” One woman, a community organizer from West Philly who’s in her early 30s and frequently goes out with people she meets on dating apps, said she likes to bring up #Me Too early in conversations with men as a litmus test of respect.
She said since the movement took off in 2017, “it’s not like men are any better or different, it’s just they’ve learned more what they are and aren’t supposed to say.” The woman, who asked to speak anonymously to talk about her exes, said sometimes she “screens” potential dates with a call.
And it’s not just digitally native twentysomethings.
A single male lawyer in his 50s who asked for anonymity to discuss his dating life said he’s met women both online and in-person.
“There’s this innate defensiveness,” he said, that can feel like, “Don’t talk to me, stranger.” Edwards, the “Professional Wingman,” said easy access to information about potential mates gives people the ability to create the ideal person in a way they can’t at a bar or at Whole Foods — to swipe, Google, and message until they find the perfect match.