Can online dating create a false sense of attraction? I came across an interesting blog post today that suggested that it could. The gist of the post was this — if you communicate for too long with someone online before you meet up, you may cultivate “virtual chemistry,” where there may or may not be actual chemistry. This can make a first meeting confusing and disappointing.

Consciously or not, people often present themselves very differently online. It may be that they’re just shy and can express themselves more clearly outside of a social interaction. That’s fine! It’s important to remember, however, that actual relationships happen offline. The real world is where chemistry counts.

So, how can we give more socially awkward singles a chance without falling victim to the pitfalls of “virtual chemistry?”

1. We can get to the actual date more quickly.
The quicker we assess our attraction and plan to meet, the less likely we are to fall victim to the confusion of “virtual chemistry.” The more shy online dater may feel that he or she needs more time to connect before meeting. That’s okay. What’s important is that we don’t let online interaction become a substitute for the real thing.

2. We can go on lots of dates.
Practice, practice, practice. Meeting up with strangers can be nerve-wracking, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Meeting many different people can also give you a clearer sense of what you’re really looking for.

3. We can strive to be more forgiving of shyness in real life.
Nobody likes feeling like they’re pulling teeth on a date, but it seems that shyness has become a dealbreaker for many singles. How often do we hear that confidence is attractive? Sure, people who are comfortable with themselves are magnetic, but I wonder if we place to much emphasis on a quality that is only part of the attraction equation. Straightforwardness, a sense of humor, passion, capability, intelligence, insight. kindness, sexiness — none of these qualities are mutually exclusive with shyness. It might be worth learning to look past the awkwardness, at least temporarily, to see what’s on the other side.

In short, if we practice moving from online to offline sooner than later and we’re forgiving of the awkwardness of a first meeting, we may be able to better determine the difference between real chemistry and false.