Months into the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shelter-in-place order, so much of how we live our lives have drastically changed — the dating scene, included. By now, most of us have realized that we either have to adjust to this new normal, or put dating on hold entirely — which, by the way, is also totally okay! Unless you have experience with long-distance dating or relationships, adapting to new methods of dating, especially when it involves technology, can feel daunting and maybe even a feel a little bit awkward. For some, this is their first time even being on a dating app at all. We here at O.School want to make sure you have the best advice for confidently navigating dating during coronavirus in the safest and most responsible ways, as well as help you feel supported in this transition.
Can I date right now?
If we expand our definition of dating beyond in-person dates and interactions, the short answer is yes, technically. If you think about it, much of our interactions with the people we’re dating already does take place online. Whether that be by matching and messaging through a dating app, sending texts, talking over the phone, or FaceTiming, at least a portion of our relationships are formed through digital interactions. Claire AH, matchmaker, dating coach, and owner of Friend of A Friend Matchmaking assures us that “getting to know someone and developing a connection with them, can absolutely happen online, and right now — and for as long as coronavirus remains a threat — that’s your safest bet.”
Thankfully, it seems that most people are on the same page. Most of the top dating apps, such as Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, have seen a 20 to 30 percent increase in usage and downloads. Hinge reported that 70 percent of members would be up for a phone or video call date. Dating apps themselves are also evolving to match the needs of people who are dating from home during this time. For example, Bumble rolled out a profile “badge” that allows you to indicate that you are interested in virtual dating. Tinder also plans to roll out a video chat option directly within the app, which may help to mitigate concerns around safety and privacy. Hinge recently implemented a feature that allows two people who have matched to toggle a “Ready for a date from home” button that notifies both people once both have toggled “on”. Claire AH also mentions that she has several matchmaking clients who have since embraced virtual dating and are really enjoying it. Many said they’re considering implementing it once we can transition back to in-person dating, reporting that it’s more convenient, lowers the stakes, and relieves some of the anxiety when it comes to dates.
Can I go on dates in person?
The majority of sex and dating experts are in agreement that, right now, it is best not to go on dates in person. Claire AH reminds us that this won’t last forever, and it’s important that we remember that in-person exchanges aren’t just putting our own lives and health at risk. While there are some people who have been attempting IRL dates, such as grabbing takeout and chatting over a meal in your respective cars with masks on and the windows down or taking socially distant walks, most sex and dating experts advise against it, because you’re better safe than sorry.
How can I date safely and responsibly?
Thankfully, modern technology allows us a plethora of options for digital and virtual dating. In response to shelter-in-place orders, we’ve seen video chatting apps that have added more features, like quizzes, trivia, and games, to their platform. Much of the art and entertainment (museums, zoos, exhibits, performance art, etc) that we normally consumed in-person, have since found ways to allow people to view or interact with their content virtually.
Try a Zoom or FaceTime date
With so many platform options, and as mentioned early, many with built-in games and activities, Video dating is easier and more creative than ever right now. You can choose to have a simple conversation over your beverage of choice or add an activity, like virtual karaoke, virtual board games, trivia, or get-to-know-you type games like “Never Have I Ever” or “Would You Rather”. My personal favorite Facetime date activity is for each person to let the other see inside their closet, and each chooses a silly or ridiculously over-the-top outfit that you then have to change into and wear for the rest of the date. There are so many possibilities, and not only is it a fun and bonding activity for you and you’re date, it’s a nice break from the monotony of quarantine life.
Watch a live digital event or attend an interactive exhibit
Right now there is something for everyone when it comes to digital events. Whether it be drag or burlesque, live open mics or comedy sets, art exhibits, and museum tours, a quick google search will offer you a range of exciting events for you and your date to chat and bond over. Choose something together to attend, surprise your date, or let them surprise you. Once you’ve decided on an event, determine how you’re going to interact with each other while you enjoying the event. You can do this via phone call, video-chatting or even just through a messaging app if you’re still warming up to the idea of phone or video dating.
Cook the same recipe over video chat
Cooking together over FaceTime or your video call software of choice can be another great option. It can really help to have an activity to engage in while you’re getting to know someone. It can act as a buffer for those potential awkward lulls in conversation, and it can be a bonding experience. A word of advice would be to choose a reasonably easy recipe, and one with easily obtainable ingredients. Then once you’ve finished, you can sit back, marvel at your cooking skills, and enjoy your home-cooked meal, maybe accompanied by a glass of wine, over some conversation.
Why virtual dating can make future in-person interactions even better
There is a silver lining we can look to during all of this though. Studies have shown that there may be some truth to the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Being apart and restricted from seeing a partner(s) has a lot of people experiencing a heightened sense of longing for those in-person interaction, intimacy, affectionate touch. The anticipation can make you feel more excited for your eventual meeting or reunion. Quarantine already has many of us acutely aware of our biological and psychological need for human touch, and more appreciative and fond of that touch as well, so those snuggles with your boo (or potential boo) will feel extra sweet!
The bottom line
Dating safely and responsibly right now means stepping outside of our comfort zones, embracing change, and adapting to digital forms of communication and connection, and while this won’t last forever, you may end up having some incredible experiences and conversations you’ll never forget, from the comfort of your own home!