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Last updated at 13:46 GMT, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Online dating is changing how we flirt


14 February 2011

Since online dating sites first appeared in 1995, they have grown to have more than 5 million users in the UK. Can romance still flourish away from our computer screens and keyboards, in a more traditional way?

Tim Muffett

man and woman smiling at each other

Do you flirt online or face-to-face?


Click to hear the report:


Reporter: So internet dating might have transformed the way many people look for love and become socially acceptable, but some feel there's one activity an online profile or a newspaper ad can never replicate: good, old-fashioned, flirting.

Jean Smith is an American anthropologist and flirting coach. Kelly is single. She has tried online dating, but feels her one-to-one flirting skills need improving.

Kelly: Excuse me... hi there.

Man: I don't have time, sorry.

Kelly: OK, thank you.

You still have to flirt online, but via the medium of writing and that's completely different from trying to strike up a conversation with somebody, in person.

Reporter: This exercise involves chatting to strangers.

Jean Smith: When we first start doing this, you're going to feel a bit awkward, a bit uncomfortable.

Kelly: A bit silly.

Jean Smith: Part of flirting is having the confidence of letting someone know that you're interested. And British people, in my experience, are way too hesitant and so both people leave and think... oh God, I wish I would have said something.

Why don't you ask him can he recommend a good restaurant around here?

Kelly: Could you recommend anywhere nice to eat around here?

That went really well.

Jean Smith: Yeah, I know. I was, like, OK Kelly!

Reporter: Whether it's through an advert or chance encounter, the meeting of two strangers can be life-changing and for this flirting expert at least, if you want it to happen, you've got to seize the day.

Tim Muffett, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary:


socially acceptable

seen as approved of by other people

an online profile

a personal description published on the internet


imitate or make happen in a similar way


talking and behaving in a way that makes someone think you are sexually attracted to them


researcher who studies people, society and culture


not married, not currently in a romantic relationship


means used to communicate

strike up a conversation

start to talk (to someone)

chance encounter

meeting between two people which is not arranged

seize the day

take advantage of the situation or take action


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