Dating, at least in the traditional sense, has been effectively cut off at the knees at the moment. But that hasn’t stopped those who are single and ready to mingle — it’s just made them more creative.
Thanks to video chat apps like Zoom and FaceTime — as well as other new tech like Netflix Party and Houseparty — it’s not impossible to get to know someone without being in the same room. In fact, a lot of people are embracing the new norm, and even finding it refreshing to get to know someone who’s clearly looking for connection outside of just being DTF.
That’s the case for 23-year-old Annie Bron, a first-grade teacher from the Bay Area. When she isn’t holding classes with her students on Zoom (surely that’s not stressful at all), she’s on Hinge. But she’s not swiping like she normally does. She’s giving each flick of the wrist a bit more thought — thinking more about who might actually be fun to talk to because, well, that’s the only option these days.
“I’ve been swiping, but I am being far pickier about who I will swipe on right now,” explains Bron. “If I have to get to know someone over text, I am going to make sure that we have enough in common to have stimulating conversation.”
Covid-19 has also provided an easy out for some relationships.
“I had been talking to a few people, and a couple others I went on first or second dates with, who I didn’t really want to pursue any further,” Bron said. “Coronavirus gave me an out to say ‘I’m trying to focus on family and friends, but it was lovely getting to know you. Stay healthy!’”
As for the men she’s vibing with, she likes how social distancing is really stretching out the pre-physical stuff. “I’m actually excited for the opportunity to really get to know someone before even having the option of a kiss. I’ve had a few FaceTime dates so far. One man I’m very interested in described how his parents’ first date was a two-hour phone call, and that magic can still come from getting to know someone in this way.”
Bron’s also finding she’s getting more thoughtful questions from potential dates than ever before. “People seem to be at their most empathetic and caring,” she says. Her advice for other singles out there? “This is the perfect time to shoot your shot as authentically you with nothing to lose and new connections to gain.”
That’s a sweet and hopeful sentiment, but others aren’t so sure.
“My approach to dating right now is, in a nutshell, ‘Shut it down,’” says Justin Schwartz, a producer from New York City, quoting a line from 30 Rock. Many singles feel that way, especially those living in New York, and for good reason. In cities where Covid-19 has hit particularly hard, people like Schwartz are so wrapped up in the crisis that it’s hard to think about anything else — like getting their flirt on with strangers through a computer screen.
Meanwhile, Sean Billisitz, a 24-year-old publicist from Denver, Colorado, recently had his first FaceTime date with someone he met on Hinge.
“It can be hard to translate a dating app conversation into an IRL encounter, especially with everything going on right now. But I asked if she’d be interested in having a FaceTime date last weekend, and she thought it was silly but a cute idea,” Billisitz said. “I’d actually say this first date went better than others I’ve had in real life. Not sure if that was a result of chatting over video or if I just found her more interesting, but it was a success overall.”
After an hour or so of casual chatting, Billisitz said they ended up using Netflix Party, a new Google Chrome plugin that allows you to watch Netflix in real time with others and chat.
“We ended up watching Cheer together for a little while,” he said. “We’ve continued texting each day since the FaceTime date took place and have talked about setting up another FaceTime date in the interim.”
The lack of physical intimacy can be rough, especially given there’s no end in sight for the need to socially distance.
Ben C (who asked to use a pseudonym), a therapist from the Bay Area who flew back to Long Island to be with his mom, said he’d gone on a few dates with a girl he’d met in real life. “We’re still texting, and we had a sexy video chat the other night. That’s how we’re sort of coping,” says Ben.
However, they’re far from monogamous. He chats with other women on Coffee Meets Bagel every day. “People are down to chat and do video dates right now,” he says. “I have a video date planned for this Friday. We’ll go on a walk together with our respective phones.”
He also dabbles in polyamory, and says there’ve been some interesting new developments in that community. One poly group he belongs to on Facebook has taken the idea of “play parties” — where people hang out, have sex, and watch others have sex in a party setting — and put them on video calls. Obviously, it’s a lot more about voyeurism with everyone self-isolating, but the mission is still clear — get sexy while hanging with others.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army, Khadaura Celesteal says more women are striking up conversations with him to ask for tips on handling this crisis.
“A lot of the women who seemed to not be interested in my military background are now all asking for advice on what foods to buy, if they need a weapon, and what I would do in their situations,” says Celesteal. But he’s also finding them much more open to exchanging numbers rather than just messages online. “I would say now is a great time to connect with people and certainly show your true colors because there are too many other people out there with similar lifestyles that are looking for someone to endure the apocalypse with.”
But it’s hardly all sunshine and lollipops. Ebele Onyema from Brooklyn, for example, is getting back on the dating horse after a breakup earlier this year, and is already so over dating apps.
“I hate swiping,” says Onyema. “It requires a mountain of pep talk affirmations.” And communicating on them got much harder as cities started shutting down. “Men seemed unwilling to engage in conversation that wasn’t going to result in imminent physical interaction.”
These dead-end conversations have left her feeling low, and being physically isolated has only made things worse. “It’s like you’re living out a very real manifestation of how alone you are,” she explains. “It’s hard to drum up conversation with men on these apps under normal circumstances, but these past couple weeks have heightened the art of saying just enough to keep someone on the hook, but not actually investing or showing a discernible level of curiosity or interest.”
Dating is hard, regardless of whether you’re doing it during a global pandemic, but social distancing certainly doesn’t make it any easier. A physical connection is a big part of what bonds people, and phone calls and FaceTime dates by no means make up for that. In order to stay safe though, they’re the best option for now.
Despite their limitations, they can lead to real relationships, just like any other form of dating. If you’re patient, communicative, and open to trying something new during this weird time, you just might have an interesting meet-cute.