“Catastrophes push us to make our next step in life,” said Helen Fisher, anthropologist, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, and longtime adviser at Match.com. “That’s what they do…. You may have been vaguely aware that you want or need a partner, but you’re busy at work, you’re busy with your family, you’ve got your weekends with friends, et cetera.” The need for another person is “going to be very vivid for an awful lot of people,” she added.
Now is the time to plot your escape from the person who isn’t working out, to move forward with the divorce, and, for many more, to seek partnership. Crisis, Fisher said, “makes you realize what you don’t have and it propels you forward to fill the gaps in life.”
The added benefit, for optimists like Fisher, is that those who are single have time and a half to foster those connections. We’re stuck at home, at once lonely, anxious, bored, curious, sad, scared, and whatever other feelings the presence of the virus has inspired if we ourselves are lucky enough to be healthy. But from home, we’re talking to each other.
Bumble reported that it saw an 84% increase in video calls in the U.S. during the week that ended March 27 compared to the prior week. Messaging in the app was up 26% week-over-week for that same week. Hinge also registered a 30% increase in messaging worldwide in March compared to January and February. The League recently launched League Live, a speed-dating platform that relies on video. Tinder launched something similar. What other option is there really? Without bars, restaurants, house parties, spring barbecues, friends of friends introducing you to friends, the only way to encounter others right now is through the internet for better or worse.
“What’s interesting about it is not terribly new,” Fisher said. “I mean, in Jane Austen’s day, you did have a good deal of conversation with somebody before you went to bed with them. And during this quarantine period, we’re seeing the same thing—the emergence of a stage of courtship before sex and even before meeting the person [face-to-face]. So I actually think it’s rather positive.”
Add to that the prospect of strolling while talking six feet away from a date, and the Austenian image is complete.
Shelby Monaghan, a 27-year-old Los Angeles resident, downloaded a dating app roughly a week into her own self-quarantine. It was meant to be a distraction. She matched with a guy named Wes, who asked to go by his first name for privacy, and they began talking quite quickly. Understanding that Monaghan and her roommates were fairly locked down, he ordered them food to pick up at a restaurant he’s affiliated with. A few days after that, he asked for her address. Sensing that this was a strange question to ask a person that he had never met, he offered up his own address as collateral. She acquiesced, and then walked into one of her roommates’ rooms. “I told her, ‘Listen, we’re either getting margaritas delivered to us or we’re going to be murdered,’” she said. “‘Honestly, I’ll take either at this point.’”
They got margaritas. (The rest of these two’s story, in which they’ve continued trading leftovers from dinner always at six feet or more, is documented on Amy Kaufman’s Twitter for those who’d like to follow along at home. Kaufman is a Los Angeles Times reporter and Bachelor scholar; her documentation comes complete with reality-show-like confessionals from her subjects).
In Fisher’s estimation, this is a new version of vintage dating, where the first stage of courtship is super prolonged. “There will be fewer first dates because there’s going to be more people that drop off during that initial video-chat screening process, but the first date is going to be more meaningful,” Fisher said. (Several women I interviewed, all of whom are in their 30s and living in New York, said that they too hope video screening will continue after self-quarantine—both for safety reasons and for time saved.)