COVID-19 has changed everything, including ways to date. Online dating was already common before the pandemic, but forced isolation and feelings of loneliness have pushed many people to seek connections through their screens rather than in-person. Depending on how outgoing you are when it comes to dating, the associated emotions you feel may range from anguish to optimism. However, our time in quarantine has not only made online dating a new normality, but it has also torn apart couples experiencing the joys of youthful love. When faced with the difficult decision of whether to leave or stay in a relationship, staying seems almost too hopeful—but it is very much possible. Whether it is due to fear of virus transmission, prolonged lockdowns, or closed border lines, many students have resorted to long-distance relationships and online dating.
Love can be found anywhere, but it is mainly through popular social media platforms such as Instagram or apps like Tinder that online dating occurs most frequently. Daniel, a first-year student in Computer Science, has online dated twice, his second time being during the pandemic on an instant messaging platform called Discord. His experience was fast-paced and short-term, living up to the stereotype of many online relationships. However, like his first experience, the ending of his second online relationship was not caused by factors such as COVID-19 or even long-distance itself. Despite the ordeals he went through, Daniel still believes that online relationships can be successful, with communication and compatibility being the key aspects. Many couples, however, might not bode well without physical intimacy in their love lives.
A first-year humanities student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, “Value[s] the ability of meeting someone in-person.” He notes the rewarding feeling that comes with making an effort to ask for someone’s number in person, and even from getting rejected. When asked about dating apps, he stated that he “[doesn’t] really see a light at the end of the tunnel with using something like Tinder.” He also feels that his expectations of relationships that develop online may be lower, and views the success of an eventual in-person meeting as a “hit or miss.”
However, Philip, a first-year student studying Computer Science, downloaded Tinder during the pandemic with the hope of meeting new people. Despite the stereotype of Tinder being a hotspot for hook-ups, he knew that there would be all kinds of people using the app and ended up making a friend who he still talks to today. He also tried out the dating app Grindr and had a very different experience, describing it as “Perhaps the worst 40 minutes of [his] adult life.” Although he is open to using dating apps, Philip adds that he is someone who values physical intimacy in a relationship. He dated someone during the pandemic for a few months, and it was “really frustrating” for both of them. For him, part of what makes in-person relationships so engaging is the ability “To do things together, have experiences together, and see things and go places together.”
A second-year Computer Science student expressed similar thoughts after trying Tinder for fun and noted the limitations that come with online dating: “You can’t really do the same things online as you can in person.” He feels that it is difficult to tell who a person truly is from their online profile, and he may connect very well with someone online but not connect as well with them in real life. These reasons are why he refuses to online date and will only stick to online friendships.
Addie, a first-year humanities student is also hesitant towards online dating, but for different reasons. She states that if she were to enter a relationship with someone, it is important to her that she is already friends with them and has known them for a while. Thus, dating apps are not a suitable option for her, especially with their fast-paced nature and increasingly prominent hook-up culture. Addie adds that although she would not online date at the moment, she may be willing to initiate a relationship on other platforms that are not dating apps. For now, the negative stereotypes of Tinder and online dating in general have contributed to her avoidance of them.
Tiffany, a first-year student in Life Sciences, has never tried online dating but is not fazed by its stereotypes and even acknowledges its advantages. As an introvert, she finds that she is able to consider her thoughts more thoroughly through instant messaging. “I feel like I can’t always convey… how I feel about something fully, especially if I have to think on the spot,” she adds. Tiffany has heard similar stories to Addie about Tinder but has heard more positive things about Bumble, another dating app, that supposedly has “better people” who are actively looking for more serious relationships. Strangely enough, the notoriety of Tinder may very well have caused a migration of users from Tinder to Bumble. Compared to many students who wish for constant in-person interaction within a relationship, Tiffany wouldn’t mind a long-distance relationship as long as she and her partner could eventually meet.
Ash, a second-year student studying Mathematics, noticed flaws in Tinder’s system while trying the app for fun. On Tinder, “swiping right” on someone’s profile means you are interested, while “swiping left” means you are uninterested. Ash swiped right a few times and ended up getting matched with scammers, resulting in an unpleasant experience. In fact, Tinder “Made [him] realize the harsh truths in life.” He describes all of this as a “black pill,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “a catastrophic prophecy or spiritless prophesying for the future that is not necessarily grounded in reality.” Seeing users from his high school further reminded Ash that “You can’t change anything.” While he dispensed cryptic terminology and sulked in the consequences of his own actions, I too, frowned at the discovery that there was yet another disadvantage of using Tinder—scammers.
There are students who have supportive views towards online dating, those who are adamantly against it, and those who are curious about what it has to offer. If none of these approaches are satisfying, there is also the option of not dating at all. A third-year student in Computer Science declared that “Dating is temporary, GPA is forever.” When asked to elaborate on this statement, he nonchalantly replied: “I don’t really have an opinion. It is what it is.”
There used to be a lot of stigma surrounding online relationships—including friendships—and for good reason. Now, the pandemic has fueled many to seek human interaction online without the worry of accidentally meeting serial killers in-person. Whether you’re open to it or not, forming meaningful connections online has become the norm and does not cause stigma anymore. Like our friend in Computer Science said, it is what it is.
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