Socially Distant Dating
WORDS: SYLVIO MARTINS
One of the greatest advantages of the human species throughout history has been its extraordinary ability to adapt. Whether it’s regarding subtle behavioral changes or the future of our survival, humanity continuously grows into its surroundings. A given contemporary example is the introduction of the Internet and how drastically it influenced the way we interact. We now uphold human relationships from the comfort of our home (or better yet, the comfort of our screens), as a socially accepted practice. Although it’s common to hear the phrase, “We are more connected than ever before”, it can be argued that this still comes with its limitations.
Today we are now maneuvering in an era of precaution and social distancing, and once again we must adapt. The Internet is no longer just an option for communication, but for most people, the only way of connecting with the outside world. It leaves us questioning the future of intimacy.
Human intimacy, especially in the case of romantic relationships, warrants physical interaction as we know it. While online dating has broadened our scope of potential partners, the success of online relationships still relies heavily on personal chemistry. This poses a new challenge for online dating apps as they are pushed to deliver the full connection through digital means.
One might assume that social distancing would detract the appeal of online dating, yet this appears to not be the case, people are yearning for connection more than ever. For example, Tinder has seen a significant increase in daily messages in the U.S., with numbers reaching 10% to 15% higher than last month. A similar pattern can be seen across Europe with daily messages in Italy and Spain seeing up to a 25% increase as well. Bumble, one of Tinder’s competitors, also saw messages go up by over 20% throughout the month of March in various markets like Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco.
In-person dating may be placed on an indefinite hold but singletons appear to be finding a sense of comfort in online exchanges. Tinder’s increase in length of conversations indicates to me that users are searching for more than just a quick virtual fling. Longer conversations can provide users with better insight to a potential match’s personality before taking the risk of meeting in person. Furthermore, dating online is a safer alternative in comparison to risking one’s health and breaking the social distance.
As traffic continues to increase, dating apps have chosen to step up the experience by offering users a variety of new services. Match Group, the parent company behind Tinder, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish, is now offering a hotline staffed by dating experts called “Dating While Distancing”. Free to users and available 12 hours a day, this hotline provides singles with answers to their dating-related questions as they navigate online relationships. Bumble’s in-app calls and video chats have also seen a 21% increase this month, with a similar transition to video chats occurring on Hinge as it promotes its new slogan ‘date from home’.
Some app developers are even introducing new dating platforms that are specifically catered to those affected by COVID-19 lockdowns. For example, San Francisco-based Daniel Ahmadizadeh and Christopher Smeder have recently come out with Quarantine Together, a text-based dating app centered around the current pandemic. Everyday at 6 p.m., the app will send a message to users asking if they have washed their hands. If answered ‘Yes’, the app will then connect them to a potential match via video chat.
The tech world continuously evolves with safer alternatives to regular social activities; it is now up to the user to decide how to utilize them. The exciting possibilities surrounding online dating are enhancing. People online are now able to focus more on interpersonal communication, while also having more time to meet a broader range of people. The true gift of the Internet is its ability to connect us regardless of location, therefore making this an exciting time to get back into the dating game.
Instead of resorting to the usual swipe left, swipe right, I suggest approaching your virtual dating life with a bit of creativity. Quite frankly, your options for shared experiences are limited. There is no movie screening, dinner reservation, or art exhibition to act as a natural icebreaker between you and your date; however, you do possess the next best thing- your ingenuity. Seize the opportunity to break the ice yourself by showcasing to your virtual date what makes you unique.
As fascinating as your life story might be, highlight some of your interests instead. Whether that’s your favorite films, sports teams, or even your taste in music, create natural beats in the conversation to compensate for the lack of stimulus we’re used to getting in public spaces. For instance, invite your date to curate a playlist with you on Spotify, and afterwards enjoy it together as a listening party. If your date enjoys the occasional drink, this could be a great opportunity to share a glass of wine and talk blends, or create your famous cocktail recipe via video chat.
In times of limited options, continue to think outside of the box for these virtual encounters. Consider hosting a virtual “Paint and Sip”, savour a drink together, and add a fun spin by painting the same image that either you or your date can choose to compare afterwards. Whether it’s just friendly competition or for the sake of a good laugh, have fun together and see what happens.
In case you’re not interested in the arts, crafts, or a glass of wine, you can never go wrong by making someone laugh. Something I always keep in my back pocket for a mood booster is playing a game of Heads Up! Or for the more academia date nights, I also suggest playing a game of Jeopardy! on Alexa. Not only can you engage your date in some friendly competition, but also get sense of their trivia skills for future group hangs. If you’re like me and more interested in good, old-fashioned talking, I always opt for a classic game of 2 Truths and a Lie. You’ll be surprised by the interesting quirks or fun-facts your date might have to share.
Regardless of online dating’s remote nature, the core of a date remains fundamentally the same. It’s all about connection. Don’t shy away from the exciting possibilities the Internet can provide you; it seems that many people are looking for similar feels. Whether it be good company, a friendly new face, a genuine laugh, or a meaningful chat, online daters are still searching for togetherness. If you’re open to meeting someone new and unexpected, I’d say there’s never been a time quite like the present.