Dating North London: Bumble vs Down The Pub

Written by: Sophie Taylor

St Valentines is rubbing his belly with touchscreen gloves.

“This is your month for love!” My horoscope gives me a toothy grin. Ooh!

Wait, how? I’ve sworn off dating with no plans to leave the house for the rest of the cold, broke Winter season. If anyone wants me I’m going to be listening to Neil Diamond in my she-cave.

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Another tab open on my desktop happens to be an article about the latest depressing dating verb, breadcrumbing. Breadcrumbing is basically a crueler form of ghosting (yes, a harsher world exists you just have to want it enough).

You’ve likely experienced it and done it a bit yourself without realising – not being in touch just long enough for them to start wondering, but prodding them again right before they start giving up. There’s an art to breadcrumbing and I for one don’t want to master it.

My god modern life is fantastically shit. Am I just getting old? I massively can’t be bothered with the dating realm at the moment. Thanks to my editor and her grand plans however, this may just be my month for attempted love at least.

We want to know the difference between the online and offline approach when it comes to finding a mate. Is it to start by not calling them mates, perhaps? Did I mention I’m getting old?

The conversation has to end when he asked me to be his Melania Trump.

We wonder if we’re starting to see a trend towards meeting people in the more traditional way, off grid and by, I dunno, a bar.  

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Having spotted more than one handwritten note tied to a lamppost and scrawled on posters searching for a chance encounter, I’m considering the lean towards more IRL ways of finding love.

Or is finding love digitally an inevitability of the way we communicate now? And does it matter either way? Enough questions?

Well. I am the fat-single-and-ready-to-mingle guinea pig, ready to find the answers. (That was my avatar name until my editor told me no-one has avatars and it’s not 2002). I am about to embark on a series of test dates to compare digital vs real world dating approaches.

Because it’s 2017, St Valentines is rubbing his belly with touchscreen gloves and we will never get enough of reading potential cringe material.

Research Article Number One: Bumble vs Down the Pub.

Bumble is a dating app designed to help reduce relentless pestering and allows for one person to approach a match first, depending on your sexual orientation, within a 24 hour period. The match then has 24 hours to respond.

The real life equivalent we decide, would be approaching someone in a pub and organising a date within 24 hours. Sounds easy enough. Here goes not much.

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Online: Bumble

I take a badly lit no make up selfie from underneath my chin, look at it, vomit and assume my new role as a Catfish

After downloading the app I’m immediately confronted with people I know (/ probable love of my life) staring back at me. Bleurgh. I swipe right and guess what? Even my friends (/probable love of my life) don’t want to match with me. Strong start. My ego takes a bash, but KBO* as my mum says. It’s a lot like Tinder but with stealth upwards swipes for more photos and info. I start chatting with someone who at one point describes himself as black Donald Trump. Oh, I meant to mention, I have excellent taste. A hilarious joke ? but the conversation has to end when he asked me to be his Melania.

One match tells me he’s just up for sex and another tells me I’m too young. KBO fat-single-and-ready-to-mingle you’ve got this! Except I didn’t have this and kept forgetting to chat with my matches within the 24 hour countdown at which point they fade away like Cinders at midnight.

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Getting to grips with this notion, and after remembering I’m supposed to swipe right at some point, I end up matching with Adam**.

He’s a London native, which is incredibly rare, with an impressive knowledge of good pubs. It’s going swimmingly until he asks for my Instagram name. Bah! I come to realise having a well stocked Insta is vital for online dating. It helps people get a better picture of you without asking to add you on Facebook which is deemed a bit more stalky. Got it. But I have 13 Instagram pics and one of them is of my boiler.

It then begins to dawn on me that my Bumble photos are rather well angled and probably (definitely) misleading. Am I a catfish? I take a badly lit no make up selfie from underneath my chin, look at it, vomit and assume my new role as a Catfish instead. Adam** isn’t my usual type but those tortured soul painter types haven’t particularly worked in the past, so perhaps it’s time for a fresh start. He’s straightforward, funny and kind and perhaps that’s what I want in a match right now.

We take subtle cues from body language and pheromones when it comes to heady, gut wrenching attraction.

We meet in The Worlds End pub on Stroud Green Road, not least for their fantastic array of ales but also for the dimmed lighting and the fact it’s never deathly, awkwardly quiet.

Here’s the clincher. Something I’ve noticed in doing my research is that it’s not just me that is attracted to a person’s mannerisms. The way someone laughs, the way they push a point with a camp hand gesture, how they look at you when they’ve just told a joke and they’re waiting for you to get it. From the tone of their voice to the way they smell, it’s a well known fact that we take subtle cues from body language and pheromones when it comes to heady, gut wrenching attraction.

This is something we can’t fathom from a few static photos and texts. Adam** is tall, handsome and perfectly easy going. He’s appeasing, kindhearted and definitely a proper catch for a whole host of eligible women. But chemically he’s just not my type unfortunately.

We say our goodbyes and decide to stay in touch as drinking buddies. I find myself looking back at Bumble wondering why that particular ‘friend’ didn’t swipe right on my well angled photos. I delete the little yellow app and pop my phone back in my bag.

I wonder if you have to be a little more forward in reality.

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Offline: Down The Pub

Okay, time to try the offline approach. After work pints on a Friday at the Faltering Fullback seems like a good place to start. Here’s another thing about online dating: after using the apps consistently for a week or so, I find my brain swiping left and right on unsuspecting human faces walking past. Like the time I played Tetris for three days straight and my brother’s facial features started falling rhythmically into his shoulders while he suggested I should probably get out the house.

Back in the pub I order a pint and decide on my real world offline method. Luckily for me the contrived approach is no longer necessary as a man’s wool scarf falls at my feet. Oh woolen fate! Whereas ordinarily I’d give the scarf back and go about my business, this time I take the chance to strike up a conversation. Which is when I realise: the risks involved with the offline making-the-first-move format are threefold.

Firstly, you don’t know if they’re interested so rejection is almost certainly on the cards. Secondly, you don’t know if they’re actually available. Thirdly, if you do end up chatting they might just be being polite. Scarf man does the latter and walks away after a brief laugh at the bar. I wonder if you have to be a little more forward in reality. There’s no underlying acknowledgement that you’re both keen to date someone when you’re just hanging out down the pub. Hmm.

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Next I attempt a more forward method of asking another cheeky faced chap if he wants a drink, blaming it on the £10 card minimum. He declines with a smile and I begin to feel a tad desperate, remembering why I don’t do this. I’m suddenly aware that someone has been watching my pathetic show from a corner seat and we catch each other’s eye. I trundle over and ask if he fancies a game of pool in the other room. Again I am declined, but he gestures for me to sit next to him and watch the rugby on the big screen.

He’s picked the best seat in the house for it and we have a super hot chat about the history of Finsbury Park architecture. Hey, there’s no faulting my conversational foreplay. The guy’s a hoot and terribly interesting, but he’s about 79 and definitely not interested in dating. He offers me some roasted peanuts before his tweed cap goes on and it’s home time. For him. I didn’t go home with him.

London can be somewhat cliquey and closed off at the best of times.

At this point I give up and resign myself to a night with my friends, putting the world to rights, cheers-ing at every round and generally making each other cackle with various disgusting stories. But then, mid howl, a group of guys challenge us to a game of pool. Normally I’d smile and politely decline in favour of sticking with my friends. But in the name of research I grab a stick and chalk up. Game on.

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Well I lost and I certainly didn’t go home with numbers scrawled on my arms, but I had a particularly fun after work drinks session having learned that Finsbury Park was once used as a meeting place for pacifists in the First World War.

? What was your fave?

Not a reflection on Adam** who was a delight, I definitely preferred the unpredictability of the real world approach with less pressure and more escape routes. Bumble, with it’s 24 hour countdowns and disappearing Cinderfellas is a little stressy for me.

? What would you have done differently?

I’ll be taking my new open minded outlook to the pub next time.

? Want to see anyone again?

Not this time, but I haven’t lost hope in the dating world just yet.

? Online vs Offline winner?

Offline. Although no second dates, real life wins this round. 

If nothing else, it brought me out of my usual hermity, closed off, clamshell existence and made sure I physically spoke to others outside of my friend group. London can be somewhat cliquey and closed off at the best of times and I’m certainly a victim / perpetrator of that sad reality.

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So here’s to quitting Tetris, getting out there and meeting people: online or offline, romantically or otherwise. I definitely made more drinking buddies and you’ll never hear me complaining about that. I still don’t know all the answers to my online vs offline questions though, so eyes peeled for the next instalment.

Next time: Happn vs Dog Walking and more depressing new dating verbs for your vocab.

*keep buggering on. Good slogan isn’t it. You can have that one.

**names have been changed

Original illustrations by Julia Potocnik.

Check out our top four ways to enjoy yourself this Valentines.

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