Why Joanna Coles Wants You To Meet People IRL

Photo: Desiree Navarro/WireImage.
Nowadays, we use Snapchat and WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends, hit up swiping apps to find dates (and then use some of those apps to find new friends, too), and we turn to our smartphones to flag down rides in a process that's so frictionless, we don't have to utter a single word to be ushered from point A to point B.
Suffice to say, meeting people online is no longer as scary as it might have been when our parents were warning us against talking to strangers in AOL chatrooms.
There's no denying that the internet and social media are great ways to bring people together and foster connections, but Joanna Coles, chief content officer for Hearst (and the inspiration behind The Bold Type), says that, even so, you can't underestimate the power of IRL facetime.
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On Monday, Coles stopped by the Refinery29 to chat with our co-founder and co-CEO Philippe von Borries and Yael Kohen, our executive editor, about her new book, Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World. In researching the book, the former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief said she found that most people really just wanted to know how to meet a partner.
"The obvious answer is you have to have as big a life as you possibly can, and to use dating apps as a way to extend your social life, not to look for The One," Coles said. "If you think you're going to find The One by swiping and having a few conversations, you’re going to be disappointed — that’s not how love happens. You might meet someone, but the odds are, that you won’t at least in the first few times that you use the devices."
Of course, plenty of people do meet their significant others on dating apps, but Coles is really just advocating for moving dating app conversations offline sooner, rather than later. If Tinder and OkCupid were never really your speed, or you're just sick of swiping, you might find some comfort in Coles' advice. Living a "big life," she said, isn't as daunting as it sounds — it's about continuing to do stuff that you like, and hanging out with people you like who also enjoy doing those things.

I think you can find much more meaning sitting quietly and reading or talking to someone in the flesh, even when they can be annoying.

Joanna Coles
"People have people hiding in plain sight [to introduce others to] — people in their sports teams, in church choirs, people at work," Coles said. "Everyone in this room has a brother or a cousin or a friend that they can introduce to single friends."
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The same idea goes for friends: If you find yourself wishing you had more people to hang out with, Coles said you might start by looking outside of your digital network.
"I think we're living in a culture that encourages us all to collect fake friends, Facebook friends, followers, and fans," Coles said. "And I think we’re at a point in the culture where we’re asking, what value [do] these people [have]?"
That's not to say that you can't have a real connection with someone who slid into your DMs on Instagram. Rather, it's important to have people that you talk to IRL, too. It's about balance, not completely giving up on social media.
"I think there is a moment of panic when you disconnect from the network you think everyone is on," Coles said. "If you can get through the first moments of panic, I think you can find much more meaning sitting quietly and reading or talking to someone in the flesh, even when they can be annoying," Coles says. "It’s not a zero sum game, and I’m never giving up my phone."
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