I go to a very small school. It seems that every time I go to eat at my dining hall or just step outside my dorm room I run into someone I know. Sometimes this is good, (who doesn't enjoy catching up with friends) but sometimes I run into a person I got to know very well and now I don't care to know or see ever again. Unfortunately, the universe doesn’t care about what I want and I’m consistently confronted with awkward eye contact accompanied by either a quick wave and uncomfortable laugh or just a complete lack of acknowledgment. Very rarely do these encounters eventually turn into a friendly catch up.
So you can imagine how frustrated I was that the discomfort that equip encounters with past hook-ups now seeped into encounters with certain strangers with whom I’d never actually spoken to. I’m talking about the encounter with the person I match with on a dating site, whose attendance at my school I’m only made aware of after I’ve matched with them. Either they messaged me and I ghosted them, I messaged them and they ghosted me, we ended up talking but it just fizzled or we go on a date and it’s disastrous. The last one, luckily, has never happened to me because I tend to start running into my matches shortly after the initial point of contact, popping the shiny bubble of our online dalliance, which had been kept afloat with the wind of filtered Instagram shots and dog pictures.
Regardless, running into someone with whom you’ve matched on Tinder, Bumble, etc. is weird. How do you act? Can you be as familiar with them in person as you’ve been on the app? Do you acknowledge the fact you met online, thus addressing the fact that you either wanted to sleep with this person or wanted to date them, with both options recognizing your guys’ implicit failure to find someone out in the real world? I’m really asking. So far, most of my encounters have involved both of us glancing at each other with the glint of shocked recognition, then immediately looking away and telling our friends, “See that person over there? I matched with them!” and us all having a good laugh.
Obviously, I’m not the best person for advice on how to deal with seeing your online match in real life. I’m too awkward, and too busy dodging past offline conquests. I chastise myself in my head. After all, how hard could it possibly be to go up to someone and carry an online conversation off the screen? In theory, it’s very easy. In reality, it's made difficult by the sheer fact that the screen has been lifted and I can’t rely on my perfectly posed pictures to factor into my charm. I can’t think before I type a response. For someone who loves instant gratification, I am terrified by instant communication.
But one day I hope to outgrow this and become bold enough to actually start a real conversation with my online match. To relinquish myself of at least one uncomfortable encounter. Until then, however, I’ll just be sure to be extra careful of matching with someone who is in my favorite class.