#bumble | #tinder | #pof It’s Time To Talk to Strangers (and Fall in Love With Yourself)

Channing Mink / Daily Nexus

Surrounded by apocalyptic pandemic one-liners like “Wear your mask” and “Don’t gather in large crowds,” I found other warnings springing to mind. 

“Don’t take candy from strangers!” Enter: Halloween. 

“Don’t talk to strangers online!” Enter: a pandemic. 

Now, after the rolling hills of California have burned with the flames of hell and a virus continues to rage across the globe, the shining screen and dazzling heart emojis of the online dating realm look particularly favorable. 

Escapist? Perhaps, but also a necessary source of biologically desired human interaction. Humans go out of their way to seek social connections, finding the most benefit from shared experiences in the past or present. It makes biological and emotional sense to seek out a connection during this time, while — hopefully — respecting social distancing guidelines.  

Halfway through the summer, drawn in by morbid curiosity, I finally bit the bullet and downloaded Tinder, followed by Bumble. A wobbly legged gazelle in the jungle of not-so-subtle sexual puns, I set out to discover why the online dating world is so popular. 

Despite the somewhat taboo concept of meeting your significant other online, Stanford University Sociologist Michael Rosenfeld found that online dating is America’s most popular form of meeting others. Almost half of people aged 18 to 29 report using a dating app or site, with platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Plenty of Fish making up a market that is expected to surpass $8.4 billion by 2024.

And during my foray into the unexplored, I was pleasantly surprised. 

And here’s why:

1. You don’t get or give coronavirus.

Virtual and socially distanced dating is safe dating. 

2. You save money.

I like money. 

Having it and saving it, that is. 

But in-person dating is expensive. In fact, dating costs the average American nearly $200 per month. Coffee, dinner, drinks, personal grooming supplies, clothes, gas for travel … the list of potential dating expenses goes on and on. 

Forget the stress of trying to pretend you’re not a broke college student. Online dating means there are no more crowded bars and expensive, aggressively mediocre cheesecake that you have to buy to impress a person you’re not really feeling the vibes with. 

Now, your first date commute is slashed from a 20-minute drive to a 20-second stroll down the hallway to secure a bag of popcorn for your evening Teleparty date. Bump up the “touch up my appearance” feature on Zoom, lounge around in worn-out sweatpants and you’re good to go — all from the comfort of your own home. 

Just think, instead of paying for or splitting the check, you can order DoorDash for yourself. Or save up to travel once the pandemic subsides. Even if you decide to go on a socially distanced, in-person date, you’re probably doing an outdoor activity. Hiking, picnicking at a park and six foot-separated walks along the beach are considerably cheaper — and arguably more interesting — than sitting in a cramped restaurant booth or fighting for arm space at a bar. 

I don’t know about you, but I like saving money. 

3. You can stay safer. 

Meeting strangers in person can come with real, physical danger. 

I know friends who used to prepare for dates by buying new pepper spray, sharing their location with me and telling me who to call in case of an emergency. 

Staying in the virtual realm eliminates a lot of that stress. We have the time and we have the methods to ensure that the person we are talking to is actually the person we think we’re talking to and determine what their intentions are. 

There are stories of scams and catfishers taking advantage of online singles, but common sense and internet etiquette easily combat this. Bumble and Tinder offer profile verification, a short process through which a user must submit additional photos to have their profile certified as real. Snapchat, FaceTime and many of these dating and meeting platforms have built-in audio and video services that provide additional layers of connection.

I’ve seen my share of obviously fake profiles and phishers, but if you take the necessary precautions and use your brain, it’s pretty hard to be bamboozled. Don’t send random people your social security number. Don’t Venmo random people large amounts of money. Don’t click on suspicious links. 

But overall, online dating is safer dating. Right now, in a pandemic, it’s the best way to meet people while doing your part for the health and safety of the community at large. Spending more time in the “talking” phase ensures that you build up a certain rapport with and trust in the other person. 

Recap that pepper spray; we’re staying in!

4. You can form a closer connection with your potential partner.

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Corona — I mean, Verona…

Contrary to popular belief, romance and personal connection have not fallen victim to COVID-19. 

The transition to online dating and socializing shouldn’t simply be seen as just an adequate last resort. Meeting potential partners and expanding your social circle virtually is a welcome change and, hopefully, a lasting evolution.

Getting to know somebody before meeting them in person — the dreaded small talk! — is a throwback to Victorian-era courtship, except LCD screens and emojis have replaced errand boy-delivered parchment letters. But, like, in a good way. In a hot way …?

I personally believe in getting to know, or at least attempting to get to know, the people you surround yourself with, no matter how serious, temporary, romantic or platonic the relationship will be. For me, displays of empathy, a few shared core values and evidence of personal growth are important characteristics in the people I interact with. 

Some argue that virtual dating leads to less genuine relationships than meeting somebody in person. Yes, it’s hard to know how to summarize the key components of your personality in just a few hundred characters, but it’s not much different than making first impressions at a party, bar or coffee shop. 

Virtual or socially distanced meetings actually expand the possibilities of interaction. We are finding new ways to communicate and new things to talk about. Because conversation is now the main form of communication, you learn more about the other person and the general vibes of your relationship. 

Thanks to technology, we aren’t limited to two-dimensional profiles, telegrams or carrier pigeons. (Speaking of which, you should buy stamps to support the USPS!) It’s the 21st century. You can video chat, send pictures, share GIFs, go on socially distanced park walks and watch movies together with Teleparty. There’s so much you can do while staying safe and showing off your personality. 

A common complaint: Conversation is hard. We have nothing in common. Small talk is boring. 

First of all, would this really be any different in person? Making awkward conversation is the same in person and online: It’s awkward. But awkwardness is slightly easier to overcome virtually. Say something embarrassing? Send a relevant GIF! Conversation lulling? Send a link to your favorite movie or song! 

In terms of finding common ground, well, you’re both stuck at home. That’s something you share. A shared experience is one of the strongest emotional bonds two humans can have and is one of the most fulfilling forms of social connection. How are they spending their time? How have they been interacting with friends and family? Most creative corona-conscious work-around? How do they spend time alone? How do they function in a crisis?

A few pictures, profile badges and messages exchanged later, and it’s easy to uncover compatible or diametrically opposed core values. Talking online before meeting in a socially distanced capacity or  again online is a way to be extra sure that the trust and effort you’re putting into another person is well-placed.  

If you really don’t want to continue talking to somebody or feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it’s much easier to back out of a text conversation than an in-person date. 

Conversations are a gauge of compatibility and personality. Being “forced” to converse with other people leads to connection, whether you’re seeking that out or not. 

5. Flirty banter. Period.

“But Toni!” you may protest, “Screw emotional intimacy. What if I’m just … horny?”

OK, OK, fine. 

For those whose love language or form of showing affection, in general, is physical touch, I completely understand your desire for physical intimacy. It’s definitely difficult to express affection during this time, but it’s not impossible. 

Romantic and platonic affection can be shown in a variety of ways. Partners, potential partners and friends can express their affection through new outlets, including thoughtful gifts, messages and socially distanced time spent together. And, honestly, emotional intimacy can be a turn-on. 

“But Toni! I’m still horny.”

OK, OK, fine. 

Here’s the thing. If you’re looking to spice up your quarantine, a consensual — repeat after me: consensual — flirty text or picture can do the trick. Banter is fun. I’m not going to get into too much detail, but there are ways to survive social distancing and quarantine while having fun. 

I believe in you.

6. You can learn more about yourself.

I’ve swiped. I’ve matched. I’ve messaged. 

And I think … I’m falling in love. 

Yeah, not with anybody I’ve met so far, but with myself. 

I’ve been forced to think critically about the personalities and values I seek out and vibe with, which, in turn, leads to personal evaluation. The repetition of introductions and breaking the ice led to a re-appreciation for my accomplishments. I appreciate those who communicate with me in a respectful way and I’ve grown to value myself even more. 

What we seek out in a partner speaks volumes about ourselves.

If nothing else, fall back in love with yourself. You’ll be reminded and encouraged to remind yourself of what makes you great. Because you are. 

1 (again). You don’t get or give coronavirus.

Virtual and socially distanced dating is safe dating. 

“So, Toni! What does this all mean?”

Despite the context of being in a pandemic, online dating is safer for the community and yourself, saves money, helps you form closer connections with potential partners and grants new avenues for expressions of affection and communication. I’ve connected with people I probably never would have interacted with in person otherwise, and some of them have been really great. 

The transition to online dating and socializing shouldn’t simply be seen as just an adequate last resort. Meeting potential partners and expanding your social circle virtually is a welcome change and, hopefully, a lasting evolution.

Stay home, but with online dating, you won’t have to stay horny or stay seeking social interaction. 

In other words, it’s still a shitty time to take candy from strangers, but there’s no better time than right now to talk to strangers on the internet. 

It’s an easy choice. 

Toni Shindler-Ruberg thinks that there’s no better time to talk to strangers online and that you should wash your hands.


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