'The Bold Type' EP Joanna Coles Talks Dating Apps, Royal Wedding at D.C. Book Launch

Courtesy of Joanna Coles
From left: Tammy Haddad, Joanna Coles and Sen. Amy Klobuchar at Del Mar in Washington, D.C.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle show the value of real-life relationships over technological connections, said the author and Hearst content chief at her Washington soiree, where Sen. Amy Klobuchar and media doyenne Sally Quinn were among guests toasting Coles' tome.

Joanna Coles knows plenty about why your love life is flagging, and she’s going to tell you how to make it a whole lot better. On tour for her new book, Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World, the former Cosmopolitan editor, Hearst chief content officer and executive producer of (and inspiration behind) Freeform’s The Bold Type argues that one of the first rules of dating in a swipe-happy world is to stop depending on technology. “You can’t use only dating apps," she said at a May 9 stop in Washington, D.C. "You also need to join sports teams, join the choir, get involved in a community activity that allows you to expand your social circles and have a bigger life. You need to use social apps to try to expand your whole life — not just to find one person who can save you from the rest of your life.”

The event was an intimate gathering at one of the city's buzziest new restaurants, Del Mar (the Obamas are fans, as is their longtime adviser Valerie Jarrett), hosted by a handful of local influencers and recognizable faces, including MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle and media guru Tammy Haddad. Among a small but power-packed crowd on Wednesday evening, U.S. senators (Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar) mingled with media moguls (Sally Quinn) and well-heeled businessmen (Mark Ein) clinked glasses with journalists du jour (Michael Wolff). In a sleeveless, tuxedo-style jumpsuit, Coles glided among them, dispensing dating advice to single partygoers and toasting the opportunity to gather IRL. “Imagine how boring and dull and depressing this would be if we were doing this all on a Google Hangout,” Coles said.

“Dating apps are fantastic tools, but they can’t actually do the work for you of having a relationship,” she told THR. “I worry that people spend too much time online as voyeurs of other people’s lives and stop becoming participants in their own lives. Participating in your own life is fraught with peril — there are ups and downs, you make mistakes, but what you get out of it is incredible excitement, joy, connection.”

Coles wrote her book as an antidote to the distance created by the convenience and impersonality of online connections. “I think we sold people a false bill of goods about digital connections being the same or as valuable as real-life connections,” she said. “Even the way Facebook has co-opted the word friend … a Facebook friend is not the same as a friend you went to high school with, or the friend whose hand you hold as they’re going through chemo or the friend who asks you to be in their wedding party.”

While characters on The Bold Type — which was renewed in January for two more 10-episode seasons on Freeform, with season two launching June 12, had some adventures with Tinder in the first season — Coles, if she must, would choose another app: “Bumble, because it empowers women. Women have to make the first move, and they have to do it within 24 hours. So you can’t virtual shop on Bumble the way I virtual shop on Net-a-Porter — which is to say I put a Gucci jacket in my cart and I never commit to purchase.”

However, real-life social circles are where the best matches happen, she insists. Take the latest royal pairing: “Meghan and Harry were set up on an old-fashioned blind date by friends. Your friends have a sense of who you are, of your character, and can put you together with someone in ways that algorithms can’t.” As for whether the British-born Coles is looking forward to the royal nuptials, “It’s a rather wonderful love story, isn’t it? The fact that [Meghan] has a rather unusual background for the royal family is great. They seem very welcoming of her, very excited. I’m sure it will be hard for her to live within the confines of the royal family in Britain, but clearly they’re trying to modernize and remain relevant.”

Coles remains realistic about the prevalence of dating apps and acknowledges that social media has its place: “If you’re gay growing up in rural Louisiana, how wonderful to be able to reach out to other gay people and have your life choices validated by a group of people,” she said. “But friendship in real life is the most valuable thing we have. Relationships are the connective tissue that binds us together. We cannot contract that out to digital.”