Chat-fishing: When online banter turns into real-life awkwardness

Is the texting great, but the face-to-face conversation isn’t really hitting the spot? Well, you’ve probably been chatfished.

The talking stage can sometimes seem magical – until it comes to that first date and the awkward silence creeps in.

Over messages on the apps or Whatsapp, the witty banter was bouncing back and forth, but in real life, the magic doesn’t quite translate.

You don’t quite know what to ask next, and you’re praying the waiter comes out with the food so you can talk about the overcooked steak or soggy brocolli.

But how can the sparks have been flying over text, but not face-to-face?

Dating expert Sarah Louise Ryan says that when we’re sat in the comfort of our own homes, we have time to think before we press ‘send’ – crafting that perfect message.

Sarah says: ‘When messaging back and forth people have time to think, pre-meditate and reflect on what they would like to say, or how they would like to respond and be perceived by someone else.

‘This is not the way conversation with two people materialises in real life.’

The silver lining though is that, in person, you get a more authentic version of who your date really is.

She explains, ‘You can pick up on things such as tone, pace and body language.

‘When you pick up on someone’s body language you can pick up on how they are energetically.’ And as Sarah says, ‘vibes don’t lie.’

‘Something like 80% of what we communicate isn’t spoken word so being in someone’s presence is key to checking in on how comfortable or connected you feel to them.’

So, what can you do to try and avoid the dreaded chatfish scenario?

Surprisingly, the best thing to do is keep the talking stage over text as brief as possible. That way, you don’t form a connection that feels real – but isn’t.

Sarah says: ‘Don’t ask major questions around family wants, exes, politics, works, religious views – wait until you’re in person.’

Then, when it comes to meeting in real life, remember that first dates are hard for everyone.

‘There’s a lot of pressure to be funny, interesting, good at communicating, perceived well,’ says Sarah. ‘After the first date, those nerves and the pressure eases somewhat.

‘Focus on having fun and finding a friendship connection in the first place and let everything else stem from there.’

And what about those dreaded awkward silences? Sarah says we should embrace them.

‘I think silence is very telling of a person and how they feel in certain situations,’ she says.

‘It’s important to pay attention to the times and topics in which precede the silences.

‘Start to quietly question why those silences might take place – is it a lack of common ground?

‘Is it defensiveness as a coping mechanism to avoid certain topics? Or is it that the chemistry just isn’t there?

But ultimately, Sarah says if the spark isn’t there in real life, there’s no point in forcing it.

She says: ‘If you don’t connect with ease, comfort and openness and the silences are frequent, then consider if this is really your person.’

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