Published: 00:01, 09 September 2016
It was described as one of the most awkward TV dates ever.
“Excruciating”, “stilted chit-chat” and “this is what zero chemistry looks like” were among the comments which appeared on Twitter in the aftermath of an episode of the Channel 4 show First Dates.
But for Tom Smith, one half of the couple at the centre of a social media frenzy, it was a case of “je ne regrette rien”.
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The 26-year-old from Whitstable even insists he has managed to ignore some of the more hurtful comments made by online trolls after the show.
“I looked at a couple of things on Facebook, but did not read some of the other stuff on social media,” he says.
“The show’s producers advise you not to look at it. The truth is, I was very nervous and had never done anything like this before.
VIDEO: Tom on his date with Olivia. Credit: Channel 4
“It’s not like a normal date, even though they ask you to try to be as normal as possible – but that’s easier said than done.”
Tom applied for the show in March and was invited to attend the First Dates restaurant in London, where he was filmed meeting Olivia, a 21-year-old classics student from Bristol.
Viewers saw a series of jarring exchanges as Tom talked about his life in Kent, revealing that he lives with his parents and praising the county’s roads network.
VIDEO: Tom reflects on his appearance on First Dates.
He told KentOnline's sister paper the Kentish Gazette this week: “The nerves got the better of me and I was sort of babbling.
“I don’t really know why I mentioned the road network. I can’t even remember much of the conversation and I was speaking before thinking.
“Some parts of it felt like a question and answer session with me asking questions and her responding. There are 70 cameras in the room and they tell you to ignore them, but it’s not that easy to.”
Tom’s worst mistake, however, appears to have been to tell Olivia that he liked dogs, while she preferred cats.
She was filmed on her phone in the toilet apprising an unknown friend of this fact.
They were later sitting next to each other discussing whether they would like to see each other again – with Olivia announcing early on that she would not.
The programme ends with Tom escorting Olivia to a taxi before disappearing into the London night.
“She was a really nice girl, but I don’t think I read the situation that well,” Tom admitted. “I had always thought that if I don’t get anything out of it, then I don’t get anything out of it.”
As First Dates was broadcast, messages began to appear on Twitter. One said: “OMG, sometimes First Dates is too much. I’m cringing I can’t watch.”
Another read: “This geezer on first dates is making me feel uncomfortable in my own home.”
But a third was more sympathetic: “Can’t deal with socially awkward people on First Dates. Hurts me inside.”
Tom, who used to work for the KM Group as a media sales executive and now works in events management, says he does not regret going on the show.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I don’t feel like I was stitched up by the producers and it hasn’t put me off going on telly again.”
Indeed, unlike most of the people on First Dates, Tom is going back for a second appearance due to be aired later this month.
First Dates returns on Monday 19th September at 10pm on Channel 4 where you can see Tom return for another date.