I am constantly faced with this Million Dollar Question: How do I meet people IRL (in real life) instead of relying on dating apps? And I sure do feel that! In a culture that has been bombarded with technology, getting our needs met online has become the new normal. Although this may be convenient for having your groceries delivered, it leaves some people unsatisfied when it comes to finding love.
We have seen a rapid shift from eye contact to screen contact. A shift that has people saying to themselves, “will I ever meet someone who I can build a healthy relationship with and who is not distracted by dating FOMO?” You are not alone with this feeling. A change in mindset leads to more intention around why you want a partnership and what kinds of risks you are willing to take to get there. A change in mindset also sets you up to take different actions towards finding connection. But it has to start with you wanting to experience life differently.
If you find yourself frustrated with online dating, here are some creative ideas to get out into the world IRL and off your phones. Remember, the intention of engaging differently is to expand yourself and meet new people in a different and creative way.
1. Join an Advisory Board. If you are passionate about planning, fundraising, and giving back to an organization that has a mission you care about, then an advisory board may be a great fit for you. This will put you in contact with other people who have the same passions as you do and boost your social engagement. Chicago has a long list of advisory boards to join, ranging from the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Auxiliary Board to the Little Brothers Young Professionals Advisory Board.
2. Get Physical. The great thing about Chicago is that it offers year-round intramural sports leagues. And you don’t have to be athletic to get in on the fun- there are competitive leagues for that. Everything from kickball and shuffleboard to volleyball and soccer is available. There are options to build your own team, join a league or you can sign up to be a substitute. Whatever you chose, have fun with this! Engaging in play is a great way to connect with other people. And don’t forget about dance and fitness classes!
3. Talk to People. Like really engage with people in the everyday. Instead of checking Instagram while you’re waiting in line to check out at Trader Joe’s, talk to the person ringing you up. Chat up the barista at your favorite coffee shop. This may not lead to a lifelong friendship or relationship, but it can help you practice your people skills. This is also a great way to work through any anxiety you may have around meeting new people as these are low risk interactions.
4. Sign up for an Improv or Standup Class. Talk about risk taking! You’d be surprised by the kinds of people who join improv and standup classes. They are regular ol’ people, just like you, trying to push themselves out of their comfort zone. And because Chicago is the birthplace of all things comedy, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from.
5. Volunteer. There are countless organizations out there who need your time. The great thing about volunteering is that it puts you in a position of helping organizations and communities in need and gets you working with people who share that same passion. And shared passions are a great way to connect with meaning to other people.
6. Join a Club. Book club. Chess club. Cupcake club (if this exists, please let me know). Whatever! If the club you want to join doesn’t exist, then create it! Meetup.com and dabble.co are great ways to find your community.
These are all great ways to start exploring. If you are finding yourself frustrated with online dating culture, then take a step back and engage in the world differently. Dating apps are a tool, not the end all be all way to meet potential partners. If you want to have a different experience and meet new people in the process, then taking risks and doing new things is the way to start.
Risk = Growth
But what if you are already taking risks IRL and trying to meet new people offline? Keep it up! Remember, the point of engaging in the world is to grow yourself, find self-fulfillment and connect to others authentically. If you are engaging in the world IRL with the sole purpose of meeting love interests, then I suggest you take a step back and re-evaluate your why. You can rely on dating apps to meet people any day of the week. You can’t rely on them to help you grow on a deeper level. That’s your responsibility.
But wait, people don’t engage IRL anymore. I’m going to be weird. That mindset is precisely the problem. By continuing to fall in line with social norms, you are limiting yourself and perpetuating the problem. The intention is to connect with yourself and other people in a meaningful way. You can’t control how other people perceive your risk taking. Some might think you’re “weird” for sparking up a conversation- that’s on them. Don’t let social norms get in the way of your potential to grow and meet people. We are all on this earth to connect. So, take the risks and do just that.
~ Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST