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Do meet cutes still exist in the age of online dating?


Did modernity kill meet cutes? For many online the answer is yes. 

A meet cute is the charming way a protagonist meets their love interest in a romantic comedy — a genre the internet loves to argue is also dead. It sets the stage of the characters’ relationship, often establishing a clash of personalities through an awkward encounter. 

To quote modern rom com classic To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, “a meet cute is when a couple meets for the first time, and that is how you know they are going to end up together.” 

It’s when Hollywood actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into bumbling William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant) travel bookshop and a shoplifter sticks a book down his pants in Notting Hill. And later when William runs into Anna spilling orange juice on her shirt. It’s these incredibly physical encounters that a meet cute is shorthand for. In an increasingly virtual world, they feel more unlikely than ever. 

“The image of a meet cute that everybody has is you’re walking past someone and you bump into each other and you drop your stuff on the ground, and then you both lean over and pick up all your stuff off the ground together,” Josie, a 22-year-old student in Portland, Oregon told Mashable.

In Jan. 2024, on X / Twitter, novelist Brandon Taylor asked, “What about contemporary life is giving meet cute?” And argued that dwindling third spaces and an increasing reliance on apps to streamline your life leave us with less time in the sorts of situations that lend themselves to a meet cute. 

In 2020 Vice explained how the internet killed the meet cute. The article posits that the combination of online dating shielding you from the sting of in-person rejection changing dating norms post #MeToo shifted culture away from meet cutes. 

“Most of my female friends are very intimidated to initiate anything in person because there’s sort of this underlying understanding that everyone who is single is on apps and actively talking to people, so you may be more likely to get rejected if you put yourself out there,” Alice*, a 24-year-old grad student in Boston told Mashable.

But despite these popular arguments the romance of meet cutes endures. 

Two questions have captured the internet: Are you a couple? Can you tell me the story of how you first met? The man-on-the-street interview series @nycmeetcutes champions these questions and boasts over 3 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube

Mashable After Dark

In one video with over 13 million views on TikTok a middle aged woman recounts how her partner paid the bill for her family at a diner after church leaving his number for her with the waitress. In another TikTok that surpassed 15 million views a woman both voice narrates and signs how she met her partner when he taught her American Sign Language class. The account suggests that your chance encounter is right around the corner and is so popular that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden made a video for the account to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

However, in 2017 a recurring survey of heterosexual couples conducted by Stanford University and University of New Mexico found for the first time that meeting online was the most popular way couples met surpassing meeting through friends, the most popular way since 2013. A more recent survey on online dating published by Pew Research Center in 2022 found a little over half of adults under 30 report using dating apps and one in five partnered adults under thirty met their partner on a dating app. 

And @meetcutesnyc doesn’t just feature traditional offline meet cutes. In another one of the account’s most popular videos a couple shares that they met on Hinge — it includes the tag “Hinge partner” and is a partnership with the app. The charm of the video doesn’t lie in the story of their meeting, but in how the man in the video transforms from skeptical to soft and smiley when he’s asked about his partner. The top comment reads, “Dude went from aggressive to lover boy.”

“The bar for what qualifies as a meet cute has been lowered by current dating culture,” said Alice. “Now it’s reduced to meeting someone in person.” 

The most recent popular rom com, Anyone But You kept the meet cute dream alive. Bea (Sydney Sweeney) is about to pee her pants and the coffee shop won’t let her use the bathroom without buying something so Ben (Glen Powell) pretends to be her husband and gets her the door code. There’s some of the usual chaos in the form of Bea spilling water on herself in such a manner that it looks like a pee stain. 

Despite changes to dating culture to rely on dating apps, Alice experienced several meet cutes. The most memorable being at a Fletcher concert in Boston. “I went to this concert by myself and I ended up standing next to a big group and really hit it off with this one girl and spent the entire concert with her. She asked me out on the spot.” They ended up going on a date, but it fizzled out due to distance and being in different stages of life. 

Like Alice, Jack*, a 27-year-old student in Montreal, defined a meet cute in a similarly uncinematic way. “It’s when you meet someone in person in a situation where you want to either be romantically involved, sexually involved, or even an intense platonic involvement, but that’s me queering the idea of it, because I have quite a few platonic crushes and really intense platonic connections,” he told Mashable. But he admits that his dream meet cute would be at a farmers market or concert which is shaped from hours consuming television, movie, and fanfiction. 

But Jack has had quite the cinematic meet cute. At a karaoke night he met a woman through a mutual friend and offered to perform ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me” and recreate the iconic scene from Mamma Mia. “5 to 10 minutes after meeting each other I was crawling on the ground toward her. Right after that we exchanged Instagrams and have made out on a couple of occasions since,” he explained.

Josie finds that when she is actively using dating apps her radar for meeting people in person is turned off, so she only downloads Tinder and Bumble every six months before quickly getting overwhelmed and deleting the apps. 


“Young people, like myself, are so used to doing everything on the phone that the muscle of talking to people that we don’t know very well has atrophied.”

“The meet cute is endangered because of dating apps. Young people, like myself, are so used to doing everything on the phone that the muscle of talking to people that we don’t know very well has atrophied,” Josie told Mashable. “It’s kind of a bummer because I have a much easier time connecting with people in real life than I do online.”

That being said, Josie did have a quintessential meet cute working in her campus library, she found baby photos of a guy with whom she shares a mutual friend in the lost and found. “I DMed him to tell him and it turned out he was in the library. I went up to give them to him and then we had a quintessential, awkward, but chemistry filled short conversation,” she told Mashable. Immediately after they both DMed their mutual friend asking if the other was single.

As long as the rom com industrial complex — @meetcutesnyc included — keeps churning out meet cutes, romantics will defy the odds of our increasingly online world for the love stories they think they deserve.

*Name is a pseudonym to protect privacy.





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