Over 5 billion people now own a mobile, and ever since their introduction their impact has been so immense that we rarely stop to think about what life was like before they arrived. For older millennials, the offline world was what we grew up with, but for those who are a bit younger, life before the mobile internet might as well have been a thousand years ago.


When it comes to gay dating, however, things have moved on a hell of a lot from the lonely hearts column in the local paper. It was one thing to find a date but another to arrange to go on one - and then maintain it. Many say the dating game required a lot more effort back then and it was a damn sight slower. But on the plus side, the process felt a little more personal, especially given the political situation for gay people in the 80s & 90s. Knowing how we used to go about it all kinda makes me appreciate the technology we have now, because back then it sucked for so many reasons, here's why.

1. Asking for numbers and calling at the right time

Before the mobile came along if you met someone and wanted to see them again, you’d have to ask for their number - which meant writing it down. One upside was that people remembered telephone numbers, but back then if you lost the piece of paper and couldn’t remember the number, the only hope of seeing that hot guy again was praying he was listed in the phone book.

Also, as the only way of getting hold of anyone then was via a landline (you know, that thing that’s permanently attached to the wall) it was pure luck whether you caught that person at home at all, so people arranged a time to speak. Arranging a time not only made sense to avoid missed calls, but also to avoid nosey family members or other people in the house from picking up the phone.

2. Arranging to meet up with someone

If you were arranging a date, it was essential to organise the exact time and place in advance. There was no ‘wanna hook up? Meet you in town tomorrow, msg me’ - everything had to be precision planned, which meant S-L-O-W-E-R.  Sheesh!

3. Sticking with the plans

If you were running late for a rendezvous, you just hoped and prayed to God that your date would still be there when you arrived as it was impossible to reach anyone while out and about. If you came late by more than an hour, your date would have probably disappeared, along with any hope of sex. 


4. Getting lost on your way to a date meant getting lost

If you got lost attempting to meet your dream guy, there was no Google Maps to help figure out where the hell you needed to be. If you were stuck in some unfamiliar place, there was no other alternative than to ask someone for directions and hope for the best.

5. Not being able to ‘keep up-to-date’ with your love interest

Today it's so easy to find out where people are and what they're doing. And as nice as it is to see that your sweetheart has received and read your message(s) or has checked-in at the local bar (and while we're at it... WHY HAVEN'T THEY RESPONDED YET?!) keeping tabs on someone just wasn’t a possibility before the mobile. Unless of course you employed a private detective or became a bunny boiler and appropriately stalked your love victim. Back then people had to be patient and have a little trust in the other person.

And finally... 6. Not being able to dump someone by text (or getting dumped by text)

Some will see this as a good thing (and others will see it as less convenient), but if you wanted to finish with someone, it was a case of man-up and do it face-to-face.


The way we connect with each other today has certainly made dating easier, but ask someone about life before mobiles, and they’ll say people dated in a much different way; it was a different age. One thing stands out, though, if someone were that interested in you, they’d make an effort to seek you out. People spoke more face-to-face back then, but also needed to carry a lot more small change in their pockets to use the call box in the street.

Remember what it was like to date before the mobile? Share your experiences below.




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I miss the love notes, it was like being a spy or something getting them around school hehe

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yeah, I remember giving the landline out to a guy I met in a club, it was the early 90s and I was living at home at the time. This guy calls and my dad picks up the phone, the guy then asks my dad if he’s my boyfriend. I was outed immediately.

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This brings back some funny memories! My first experience of gay dating was as a teenager, sending off replies to contact ads in the back of a magazine. Back then, living in an isolated place, it was the only way to get in contact with other guys. Sharing long handwritten letters was actually a nice way to get to know another person and it was really exciting when a new letter (maybe with a photo or two enclosed!) arrived on the doormat. I met my first boyfriend this way :) There is something very personal about this way of communicating which a smartphone cannot replace!

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