Online dating is like a super casual Thursday evening party in a friend’s apartment: Lots of friendly faces eager to get to know each other, and no one will shut up about their travel plans or exercise regime. The main difference is you probably know most of the people at your friend’s party, but on a dating site, chances are slim you know anyone. But what happens when your suggested match is actually someone you know?
Dating is a Numbers Game
The probability you’ll run across a familiar face while browsing online is actually pretty high. So many people are online looking for dates, more than you probably realize, including a sizable portion of all the single people in your social sphere.
Then, there’s the geography factor. The two sites I’ve been playing around with, Zoosk, all offer the option to widen or narrow your search based on geography, so a) you don’t accidentally fall in love with someone who lives four states away and b) the transition from digital pen pals to candlelight dinner is usually only a cab ride away.
I mean, the whole raison d’etre of a site like Match is to meet someone online and then go out with them offline, which is impossible if the two of you live far from each other.
*Side note: Finding a significant other can be tricky, and I’ve heard of singletons who are happy to cast geography aside and search far and wide for the romantic partner of their dreams. Since we’re dealing with reality here, though, I recommend sticking to a 50-mile radius. But I digress.
I Think I’ve Seen You Somewhere Before
In fact, this happened to me! A few weeks back I was matched up with a guy who I knew peripherally. We had a lot of mutual friends (so I knew he was good people), had met a few times at social functions, and it turned out we lived only a few blocks away from each other. Serendipity at its finest. I hadn’t thought of him as boyfriend material before, but if the algorithm matched us up, who I was I to argue?
We met up at a bar in the West Village, as per Internet first date de rigueur, and got down to getting to know each other. Everything was going great until…I realized he didn’t know that we actually knew each other. Maybe I should have been tipped off when he didn’t say anything when we first met up at the bar?
When he asked me where I lived? What I did for a living? I kept asking leading questions myself to try and subtly jog his memory, but to no avail. Finally I had to blurt out “Ryan – you know we’ve met before, right?” He was confused and then mortified.
What to Do When You See Someone You Know on an Online Dating Site
What happened to me is very atypical, and running across a friend or friend-of-a-friend offers a unique opportunity. (hopefully this is a friend who is single and not your best friend’s husband. Otherwise that is a whole different sort of scenario that I’m pretty sure The New York Times Style Section Q&A covered a while back.)
Maybe, like me, there are some single guys you know who you never considered going out with, but seeing them in a different (computer) light and out of context makes you reconsider.
Or, maybe you come across someone you’ve been secretly crushing on on a site like casual-yet-flirty email from the safety of your screen. I recommend trying something like “Hey, so funny you’re on here too!” That opens the conversation door, which you can then steer towards eventually making plans to see each other in a non-platonic setting.
Conversely, you can also ignore your friend-match. Never bring it up in conversation when you see him or her. It’s as if this never happened. I don’t think this is the best option, because the two should take ownership of the fact that you’re being proactive and looking for love in all the right places, but no one’s forcing you to act like an adult.