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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Speed Dating vs. Online Dating

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Speed Dating vs. Online Dating

Is Speed Dating better than Online Dating?

I get this question a lot, and the answer depends on what someone means by “better.”  Let me start by saying that I know quite a bit about speed dating. My team collaborated with Dr. Richard Wiseman from Hertfordshire University a few years back. We launched the world’s largest scientific study of speed dating -- it was a huge event that was part of the Edinburgh Science Festival.

Speed dating involves a large group of singles who rotate around a room spending only a few minutes getting to know someone before moving on to the next person. This process is really like a series of blind dates. In fact, imagine one blind date multiplied by tens or hundreds! With this in mind, speed dating is not truly dating -- it’s more like a super brief “meet and greet.” It’s a way for a single to be introduced to many romantic prospects in one night, and the idea is for the group to have a structured and orderly opportunity to flirt. At best, speed dating will lead to a second date.

Speed dating is not unlike online dating in many ways. In both processes, a dater is able to quickly “screen” a large number of people in a short amount of time. With the speed dating, that screening is largely gut reaction -- how someone looks and speaks. The idea is to explore what interpersonal chemistry there is. With online dating, people also get a superficial feel about someone else, except this time it’s through photos and a personal profile. Interpersonal chemistry is less the focus at this stage of online dating whereas the likelihood of physical chemistry is a major driver of who someone contacts online. Online daters at first evaluate someone’s physical attractiveness, body type and general lifestyle.

This all boils down to the fact that speed dating -- like initial online dating -- speaks to initial attraction, not long-term compatibility. It should be used as one of many methods to meet new people. It shouldn’t be your only way to meet new people. A few guidelines about speed dating are also worth mentioning:

  • Don’t go alone. Take a friend or an entire group. This way, you’ll have morale support and won’t feel alone or in completely unfamiliar waters.

  • Dress for success, not excess. Be somewhat conservative in how you present yourself; dressing too flashy, too casual or too sexy will get you noticed but for the wrong reasons. Take pride in your appearance, but make sure your personality is what stands out the most.

  • Don’t be a parrot. Speed dating happens in rather close proximity to others. This means you should avoid using the same opening lines time and again. Be spontaneous, as opposed to being scripted.  Your opening line or greeting is best if it’s personal and tailor-made for the person in front of you. No one really wants to date a robot.

  • Give an email address, not a phone number. Keep your safety and security at all times. People can easily locate your residence with a phone number. Rather, give a personal email address. Later, you can always bock someone from emailing you if needed.

  • Don’t leave with strangers. It might be tempting, but it’s generally best not to leave with or meet someone after the speed dating event. Remember, even under the best of circumstances speed dating only gives you a superficial view of someone else. In other words, that romantic prospect doesn’t stop being a stranger after the speed date. Safety and security first.

  • Manage your own expectations. Focus on the short-term, not the long-term. Speed dating is to meet new people, not find the love of your life on the spot. The goal is to make new friends and maybe find someone you want to have a formal, date with later.

  • Allow yourself to have fun. Speed dating is fun and effective if you approach it like an adventure. Have fun and let loose. It’s a lot like dancing -- you got to let go a little to get into the groove of things.

Finally, I should mention that speed dating can be tied to online dating. For example, invite one (or two) of your online prospects to a speed dating event if they’re in the area. Don’t go together, but rather meet there and make the event a game of “catch me if you can.”  See if you can tell who your online friend is and explore whether any chemistry and interest you seem to have online carries over to the real world. It can be a safe and fun way to meet someone for the first time offline.


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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