How To Escape the Dreaded ‘Phone Zone’ on Dating Apps

Published on 5/4/2023

Okay, let’s set the scene.

You’ve got your profile uploaded, complete with some gorgeous photos and a description that captures you well. You’ve been swiping away. You get the notification. Someone has matched with you, or responded to your prompt, or whatever the case is for the dating app you’re on.

After that initial adrenaline rush - don’t deny it, we all get that swiping high! - you settle into a conversation with them.

Things are going well. Maybe you talk about your jobs. Maybe you ask about the adorable dog in their photo. Maybe you bond over a TV show you both like. When in doubt, ask if they’ve watched Friends.

The conversation flows, and it just keeps going. Hours turn into days, and maybe even weeks.

But at no point is there the suggestion to meet up. You’re both enjoying chatting, but time is passing, and there is no move to take this off the screen and into real life.

You’re in the ‘Phone Zone’.

I spoke to Hinge to find out what this is, and what to do about it.

What is the ‘Phone Zone’?

Hinge coined this term to describe the extended period of time spent chatting to someone on a dating app. According to their research, over 51% of daters have found themselves in this position over the last three months.

How quickly can you slip into the ‘Phone Zone’?

It depends on how quickly you’re ready to meet someone IRL. 62% of Hinge daters feel ready to schedule a date after three days, but only 34% of users actually do this. The rest are stuck in the ‘Phone Zone’ despite feeling ready to take things offline.

What’s so wrong with the ‘Phone Zone’?

For some, it can work out. We always hear those old wives' tales of people who met on a dating app but couldn’t meet up for months, and then when they finally did, it was magical.

But what we don’t hear about are the users who enter this chatting period and never leave it, slowly allowing the conversation to fade to nothing.

Because eventually, you’re essentially pen pals. And while there is nothing wrong with having another friend, it’s not why you joined the dating app.

It can actually make things more awkward once you finally do meet up, as you’ve already discussed everything. You feel like you know the person well despite not even knowing whether they’re actually as tall as their pictures or if it was just a good angle.

How long after chatting should you meet up?

It’s hard to say exactly how long after matching on a dating app you should meet up, as it really depends. First things first, always ensure the following:

  1. You feel comfortable meeting up with this individual.
  2. You choose a location that is preferably public or within reach of others.
  3. Your phone is charged, and you let someone know where you are.

I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to reassure you. Tick these items off your list, and then you don’t have to worry. You can be fully present on your date.

So with those practicalities out of the way, how long after chatting should you meet up?

It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something a little more than a ‘quick date’, then you could aim for three days of talking. This will give you plenty of time to get to know them first. If you’re looking for more of a one-night show, then a few hours of messaging will do.

It’s up to you to know when you want to see someone and think there will be a click. You don’t know until you try.

What is too long spent chatting? Unless there is a specific reason for the delay- e.g. one of you is away for a while or a busy period- then don’t leave it for longer than two weeks. By that point, you’re too comfortable online and will struggle to make the switch.

You need to leave some information for your first date. You can’t enter knowing every detail of their life, as that ruins the joy of getting to know someone. You don’t want to be hearing the same jokes again and faking your laugh that early into dating.

Tips for planning to meet up

It can feel a little daunting to suggest that initial meet-up. You don’t want to fall back on some corny line (unless it’s ironically, of course), and there is still that underlying fear of being rejected. The likelihood of being rejected is small, given that they clearly want to keep chatting to you, but fear isn’t always as rational as that.

So what can you do about it?

Well, let’s hear it from the expert herself.

Hinge’s Director of Relationship Science, Logan Ury, opts for a more casual route to the question, “The next time they start to tell you a story, try this: “Wait, wait, wait. I need to hear this in person! Picnic + dog walk on Sunday afternoon?” Or, if they ask you a question, say, "It's kind of a long story to type, I'll tell you about it in person! Drinks tomorrow?".

This feels like less of a formal question, not a momentous shift into a new stage, but rather a natural evolution of things.

But if that’s not quite your cup of tea, here are some other tips for meeting up:

  1. Similar to what Logan suggested, connect it to something you’ve already discussed. For example, if they mention liking comedy, find a nearby show and say you thought that they might like this.
  2. Make it a challenge. Suggest you each choose your favourite bar (or something else) and that you’ll go to each one and decide which is better. It’s really not about winning, but a little competitive nature never hurts.
  3. If you’re scared about being so forward, present it more as a matter of availability. You could ask if they’re free sometime in the next week, and then see what they suggest. Or you could mention that your plans fell through this weekend and do they want to meet up instead?

What could you suggest doing as a date?

  • Go for a walk in the park
  • Go for a drink in a bar
  • Grab a coffee in a cafe
  • Go to a [comedy] show
  • Get a bite to eat somewhere
  • Do an activity like bowling or pool

It’s easy to feel daunted by the prospect of taking things off the screen, and you’re definitely not the only person feeling this way. They’re likely struggling as much if it’s reached this point of the ‘Phone Zone’.

But remember that they’re talking to you for a reason! They’re on this dating app for a reason! This isn’t coming out of nowhere, like randomly asking a colleague out on a date. This person joined a dating app and actively swiped on your profile.

And if it doesn’t work out, there are plenty more fish in the sea. Literally, open your app and swipe away.

So take the leap and escape the dreaded ‘Phone Zone’ once and for all. And with enough practice, you’ll never find yourself stuck in it again.



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