Thanks to Online Dating the Zero Date is the New First Date

A couple smiling as they're on their zero date after meeting online .

There are two types of online daters. The first follows the more traditional online dating path—he finds someone he likes, reaches out and says hi, starts talking, maybe exchanges emails, moves the conversation to the phone or Skype, and then (after he knows the other person fairly well) he and the other person both decide to meet up for a first date. The second type of online dater moves a little faster—she matches, she chats a bit, and she decides to meet up with the other person to see if there’s chemistry. The first type of online dater goes on a first date, the second type goes on what I like to call the zero date.

What’s the Zero Date?
The zero date is a date where people who meet online see if the online chemistry transfers to real-life chemistry, and if there’s any real interest between them. It’s a sort of check-in date that takes place before they’re ready for the real first date.

Zero dates are casual, usually after work, and not on a popular night out like Thursday, Friday, or a weekend. They tend to be a quick meeting for drinks or coffee, sometimes they include a walk with ice cream or some kind of snack at a food cart or truck. They do not take place in venues reserved for first dates such as museums, sit-down restaurants, music, art shows, or other larger events. Overall, they involve very little effort or planning.

Why is the zero date becoming so popular? While meeting and getting to know people online a lot of things can happen… Sometimes you can hit on the perfect conversation topic and end up chatting on a dating app all night with someone. As a result, you create a feeling of intimacy very quickly. Other times while chatting with someone, you’ll find that you have a lot in common, but the conversation isn’t especially exciting. Maybe you’re just not great at texting, or you’re at work and distracted. Either way, you could get along great with this person but the online chemistry just isn’t there. Then there are the times where you’re so attracted to someone’s profile that you barely talk at all before deciding to meet up. You’re already interested and you don’t feel like chatting on the app. You’d rather cut to the chase. These are the types of situations where the zero date can be your best friend.

Just because you had one great online conversation, doesn’t mean you’ll have anything to connect about in person. On the flip side, maybe you weren’t the best at chatting online but when you get together something clicks. If you’re not interested in jumping on the phone and investing a lot of time or energy with someone you haven’t met in person yet, the zero date allows you to meet quickly and find out if you like someone enough to learn more. There’s not a lot of pressure and it’s easy to walk away from if you find out you’re not interested.

The zero date, more than anything else, is a sanity check. You’re meeting up with someone to see if there’s anything there, anything at all. If the two of you can talk without being awkward, and you’re at least a little bit attracted to each other, it’s time to move on to the first date and take it from there.

So is the romance that comes with the traditional first date lost? Is online dating ruining the first date? Not at all. When you meet someone in real life it’s the little things that bring you closer—the way someone holds a drink, the sound of their laughter, the way you do or don’t interrupt each other while talking, or the things you both notice about a room or the people you pass on the street. All these things still exist in the zero date. And the traditional first date—the kind that may or may not include things like flowers, reservations, someone picking someone else up, mini-golf or or a movie, or a kiss at the end of the night—is still taking place. It just comes after the zero date. 

Now more than ever, there are no real ‘rules’ to dating and different people approach dating different ways. Real connections can be made online and there’s nothing wrong with talking on the phone or chatting for long periods of time before meeting someone in person. If that’s what you’re comfortable with, then go for it. But if you’re the type of person who doesn’t enjoy the back and forth banter of chatting on an app, or who just wants to see what things are like when you’re face-to-face with someone before you invest a lot of emotion and energy into them, the zero date could be just the thing for you.

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