The online dating encounter... avoid the awkwardness

We’ve all been there.  You’re out and about, having a few drinks, maybe even on a date, and there he or she is… someone you recognize from the online dating site you’re on.  Maybe you just clicked on each other’s profiles, maybe you “flirted” or “winked,” maybe you e-mailed back and forth a few times, or maybe you had one fateful date that never led to another.  What is the proper protocol when you have the dreaded in-person online dating encounter?  (Dun dun dun)

You have a few choices when this happens:

  1. Do the dance Ashlee Simpson did when she was caught lip-syncing, and leave the proverbial stage immediately.
  2. Give each other the awkward, “I know you know I know” glance all night.
  3. Avoid each other like the plague lest you get caught in an “Online Dating Moment.”
  4. Say a friendly, knowing hello and go on your way.
  5. Announce to all your friends, and everyone in the room for that matter, that you guys know each other from  How funny is that?

I’m hoping the answer is obvious… #3.  Kidding, of course!  The answer is #4.  It’s happened to all of us, and it’s not a big deal.  Whenever I hold a seminar or make a presentation, I start out with the question, “How many people in this room have done online dating?”  Depending on the age range of the audience, anywhere from about 5 to 30 percent of the hands go up.  But then I change the question to, “How many people in this room know someone who has done online dating?”  Without fail, 100 percent of hands are in the air every time. 

It’s a small world in the City of Brotherly Love, so we’re bound to have these meetings.  But the mature way to down-play the potential awkwardness is to say a knowing hello and be on your way. 

So don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t do a crazy jig, and don’t call any more attention to it than you have to.  A polite hello will do the trick.  And who knows?  Maybe the polite hello will lead you to strike up a conversation, and you’ll then be able to say that you met offline instead.


Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating. Her services include: writing unique profiles to get you noticed, helping to choose your best profile pictures, writing one-of-a-kind emails to get someone’s attention, and planning dates. A Little Nudge has been featured in The Washington Post, NPR, Talk Philly, Good Day Philadelphia, JMag (JDate's online magazine), and Ask Men. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.