A Millennial Guide to Virtual Dating

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The best dating advice doubles as excellent life advice (“be yourself,” for example, or “brush your teeth”). So far the best I’ve ever heard is more of a general reminder: It’s only weird if you make it weird. If you accept that as fact, you’ll excel in today’s lesson on how to video chat for your first date.

We partnered with Badoo, an online dating service with an interesting name (it’s only weird if you make it weird) to break down the rules of how to date face-to-face, but through a screen. Why would you video chat in the first place, though, when you live in a city of next door neighbors? Maybe because you’d rather test the waters via phone first, or maybe because love knows no zip code bounds, and your friend opened up your dating app for you while she was traveling and showed you all the potential new “types” in that area — just for fun! — and you realized that maybe your person didn’t have to be so close, that maybe convenience was restrictive and boring, and wouldn’t it be exciting to have an excuse to go travel beyond work or visiting grandma? To see your someone? It’s wildly romantic when you think about it.

In fact, it’s more of a reality than you might realize. When I put the call out to my friends for the best video-dating tips, a number in long-distance relationships responded, plus a pal who had his first date with his girlfriend over video. There were commonalities among almost all of them, the most consistent one being: You can do this. It’s not weird. You just have to get used to it and make it your normal. A glass of wine or whatever helps. Below, etiquette tips and video chat tricks from the experts who’ve got this whole 21st century dating thing down pat.

Answer the Video Call in a Fun/ Terrifying Mask

Shout, “BOO!” This is a total experiment so LMK if it works or not.

2.Whoops. Got Ahead of Myself. I’m Like the Overeager-to-Sell-Holiday-Decore-Drugstore of Dating Advice. Step One is Actually “Get Comfortable.”

(For the sake of complicated numbers, though, let’s call this number two. Carrying on.)

It tends to go without saying, but you don’t want to adjust your butt while on a first date. Make sure you’ve got a comfy cushion or a situation with a back that allows you to sit upright for a while. Set your nook up beforehand so that you’re not hiding laundry and fussing with pillows when your date answers. When that call connects, you should be the picture of superchillthisistotallynormalI’mnotfreakingoutatall perfection.

Prior to this, make sure you’re comfortable with the call itself. Text first for as long as you need before you’re ready. Don’t let anyone pressure you into this.

3.Create Strategic Ambiance

Think about what’s in the frame of where you’ll sit. So you’re laundry’s visible, no big deal. But is your dirty underwear accidentally prominently featured? Everyone’s a detective these days — just something to consider.

And maybe this is bad advice, but all I’m saying is, no one needs to know you’re not working remotely from the moon or inside a fish tank or on roller coaster or something, you know? Set up a background and a soundtrack that helps with conversational fodder, like books, records, collectable figurines.

4.Speaking of Ambiance, Consider Your Lighting 

Set this up before hand. Ensure the room’s not too dark and that the flash doesn’t wash you out and that your highlighter looks like highlighter, not terror-or-meat-sweats. Test this with the device you’ll be making the call on, not a mirror. That mirror is out to trick you. Use a dimmer if you can, and a far away candle that doesn’t cast weird shadows. Perfect your glow. Do this for yourself, honestly. Everyone deserves to be well-lit in the comfort of her own home.

5.Manage Your Privacy Settings

If you live with roommates, lock the door. You don’t want anyone annoying barging in without clothes on, Kimberly. You also don’t want someone calling you out from the couch about all of the stuff you and your date have in common (so crazy, right!) that you just white-lied about. KIMBERLY.

6.Plan This Like a Would-Be Date

As my friend Will — the one who dated his girlfriend over video chat before they met in person — explained to me, “No one wants to be randomly video-chatted just like no one wants to be approached in a coffee shop by their ‘crush’ when they look the worst.” So no surprises. Set a time and date and treat the appointment just as you would a date in person, then stick to it.

7.Let Me Be the Sober Friend Who Says This Now: NO. You Should Not Video- Call Your Potential Badoo Date on a Rogue Whim After Two Bottles of Wine and a Margarita

It will not be a good idea, I promise you. Drunk dial your parents instead (have you ever? It’s a thrill!) and stick to the scheduled plan.

8.Make a Reasonable, Polite Outfit Effort

This is a date! Wear what you feel best in, keeping in mind that these early impressions are your shot to communicate who you are through what you put on, so interpret that as you will. If you’re most at ease in a turtleneck, there you go. If you prefer dinner plate earrings, cool. My one advice here is to, for once, wear something on the bottom. Yes, even in the comfort of your own home, at least if your video partner is a new friend. Pants (or anything on the bottom — sleeping bag, leggings) are important, lest you go commando, forget you’re sans pants, stand up in a jiff and flash everyone.

9.I Mean, or Don’t Wear Pants

I don’t care what you do in your free time!

10.Make Sure You Have Talking Points to Discuss

It sounds a little forced, but my pal Will reminded me that over video chat, you don’t have those blessed interruptions of awkward silence to fall back on that we tend to take for granted: no interrupting server, no other couple being more awkward than you two to talk about. He and his now-girlfriend would play question games they found online.

Those couples doing long distance who had prior-established in-person relationships said that over time, as they got used to the video concept, they loosened up on the strict rules of a date and “hung out” over video as they would IRL.

11.When in Doubt During an Awkward Pause, Do the Stair Trick Thing

Throw your voice to make a ding-dong noise, stand up like you’re going to see who it is, and then,  pretend to walk “down the stairs,” or “take the elevator” to answer the door. Gets ’em every time.

12.In the Early Stages, Set an Agreed-Upon Time to End the Call

Give an excuse (“I turn into a pumpkin at 11”) or state that you gotta go by X time without context — it doesn’t matter. The point is that you two use the time to get to know one another, then have an exit just as you’ve tapped out on the “getting to know you” portion of the evening. If you’re having so much fun that you two never want to sign off ever again, fine, whatever. I don’t pay your data bill!

13.Charge Your Batteries Beforehand

Can you imagine anything more terrible than a scenario being cut off right in the middle of a really amazing story that’s kind of risky, one your friends warned you not to tell but you just knew this would be an anecdote that So-and-So would appreciate, and just as you’re warming up for the punchline — omg, it’s gonna be so good, this is the thing that will make him or her fall in love with you — you go dark?

(What’s worse: Realizing you just told an entire story to a dead phone, or having a phone so dead it takes 20 agonizing minutes to turn back on again?)

14.Don’t Try to Multitask 

And by multitask, I mean “use the bathroom.” If you do, put the volume on mute?

15.I’d Like to Suggest a Nickname for Your Date if You Do Download and Try Badoo Then Fall in Love As a Result.

Can we call him or her your Badoo Boo? Open to suggestions, though.

16.Tell Your Friends About It, or At Least Tell Me

It’s not a date without the full detail download following the main events, right? Got a nice, empty comments section for you to have at it down below.

You know my mantra: Have fun, be safe!

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