Love in Covid: What It’s Really Like Dating During a Pandemic
Has the pandemic changed the dating scene forever?
Last week, the CEO of popular dating app, Hinge, claimed people are now ‘looking for something more serious’.
I was curious to know if this was true in reality. Up to now, has it all been outdoor coffees, masked walks and secret risky rendezvous? And will they go back to ‘normal’ dating once restrictions ease?
I spoke to several Hampshire women who’ve been navigating the tricky path of dating during the pandemic to find out.
Boredom & the online dating boom
There was a record-breaking 3 billion swipes in a single day on Tinder in March 2020. Reports from several of the other well-known dating apps suggest that usage soared during the pandemic.
This hasn’t been everyone’s experience though, as one HER reader told me:
“I am on several dating sites but I’ve barely used them during lockdown. I just found it was hard to seem interesting when I wasn’t doing anything at all, other than working from home on my own.
I found it a struggle to keep conversations going with potential matches when there was so little to talk about. There’s only so many times you can give the same answer to ‘How was your day?’ before things fizzle out. I just couldn’t face it.”
The boredom of lockdown had the opposite effect on some, persuading them to try dating apps for the first time. One ‘happily single’ Hampshire woman explained her motivation:
“While I’m glad not to have been trapped trying to juggle work and homeschooling schedules like many of my friends were, there were definitely times I felt pretty lonely during the first half of last year.
I enjoy having my own space and the freedom to do what I want, but with the possibility of travel, eating out and socialising taken away from me – I decided to try online dating for the first time.
I’ve always said I’m perfectly happy being single but I suppose it just felt like the right time and quite honestly, I was bored!”
The lost art of conversation
With the possibility of physical interaction and intimacy not on the cards – I wondered, were more emotional connections being made?
Data from the US, suggests single people have been spending more time getting to know their matches, having deeper conversations and even being more honest. It’s hard to say if this is true over here.
Some of the women I spoke to reported an increase in unsolicited sexy pictures and a surge in the number of requests for virtual hookups.
One woman on the receiving end felt the pandemic had definitely contributed, she explained:
“It’s like these men know they’ll never meet you in real life. At the time, no-one was meeting up because of lockdown, so they just came right out with all the really explicit requests right away, with minimal effort to even get to know you.
I think they knew they could get away with it. I definitely saw more of this on dating apps in 2020.”
Adventures in socially distanced dating
Last year, meeting up with friends and family was deemed unsafe. So, meeting up with a stranger was quite a bold step. One of my single sources told me about her experience:
“I tried video dating, which at first I thought would be really awkward, but after spending so much time on Zoom and Teams for work, I got used to the idea.
It’s actually quite a nice way to get to know someone and I found it easy to talk to one guy for over an hour.”
You can’t beat an actual date, surely? I discovered it’s not quite that simple with socially distanced dating, my source continued:
“With restaurants and bars closed, all you could do is go for a walk or sit on a park bench and talk. I tried this a couple of times but it just didn’t work for me. You walk and sit side by side, rather than across from your date, like you would in a restaurant.
You don’t really get a chance to properly see their face or make eye contact. Coupled with this, it was cold and rainy when I met my date.”
It’s not quite the romantic Jane Austen style promenading in the park that I’d imagined. Still, many daters persisted with walking dates and some even took it to the next level and started seeing one another.
How do you decide when to stop social distancing and start kissing?
Social distancing surely puts an awkward strain on in-person flirting, no casual touch of the arm or subtle reach for a hand. How can you tell if your date likes you?
One Hampshire dater, now in a relationship, told me more:
“It’s definitely weird, going from socially distanced dates to a relationship. It couldn’t really happen naturally, we had to talk about it first and decide if it was worth it. The bad weather definitely forced us to make our minds up! We talked about going to each other’s houses, just so we didn’t have to be freezing cold each time we met up.
We had to really think about whether we wanted to take the next step.”
I wondered if this meant committed relationships formed at a faster pace than they might normally.
For some of those I spoke to, lockdown was a make or break moment. One couple’s break up was accelerated by living apart and both working long hours during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, another couple had decided to make the leap and move in during lockdown, after just a few dates.
Missing out on fun and flirting
For those who did couple up during the past year, I discovered it’s not quite all it’s cracked up to be.
Being in a new relationship during the pandemic is a different experience from normal times. One source told me that she felt she’d missed out on the fun and thrills of a new relationship and jumped straight to the “comfy, sitting on the sofa, eating crisps stage.”
It turns out loungewear and takeaways was the height of romance in 2020.
Single, vaccinated and ready to mingle
So what’s the latest trend to emerge as a turn on in online dating?
The covid vaccine.
Vaccine selfies and mentions of having had the jab are all on the increase on profiles. In the US, dating apps are actually going to be encouraging people to get vaccinated. There are even badges you can add to your profile to say you’ve been vaccinated.
Most of the singles I spoke to were in their 20s and 30s and had not yet been offered the vaccine. So, it’s too soon to say if it will have the same effect here. Some early signs are that vaccination is definitely a plus, as one HER reader told me:
“I’m not saying being vaccinated would make someone more attractive to me, but I’d feel pretty put off by someone who’s against getting vaccinated.”
It’s very possible our jab status could make or break potential romances in 2021 and beyond.
The future of dating
After a year starved of socialising and human interaction, will the ‘summer of love’ really happen? Are people more focused on finding something serious, as the Hinge CEO predicts? I asked my Hampshire single sources to give their verdict.
“For people like me in their 30s, I think it’s always been about trying to find something serious, I don’t think covid’s changed that.
As for the summer of socialising and fun, I’m personally ready to dive in, I thought it would happen last summer when restrictions started to lift. But I think there’s actually still a lot of apprehension out there. People I’ve spoken to are still uneasy about covid.”
Another single source said the future on dating apps was pretty bleak:
“There may be some people who are looking for something serious, but I don’t think they’re the ones on dating apps, unfortunately. Dating apps in general aren’t great for women and it’s only getting worse. I think it makes people seem disposable and like there’s endless choice.”
Just as I was beginning to wonder if there was any hope left, one source gave me a glimmer of optimism:
“I’ve been being incredibly cautious during covid and avoided dating altogether, just to be on the safe side. But now I’m finally feeling more positive.
I don’t know if it’s all the time I’ve spent cooped up inside, but on the day I went to get vaccinated, I noticed quite a few attractive people around! I took it as a sign and decided to turn my dating apps back on and get back out there – I’m definitely ready for the summer of love.”
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