#bumble | #tinder | #pof SEX FILES: If you’ve been ghosted remember it’s not you, it’s the pandemic

Dating app usage rates were already high pre-COVID-19, but with most of us hunkering down at home or doing our best to physically avoid other humans, online dating apps are one of the few ways people can connect with fellow singletons when loneliness hits.

According to a CNBC report, in March 2020, Bumble experienced a 26% spike in the number of messages sent while Tinder saw the length of conversations increase by up to 30%.

But don’t be fooled. Just because everyone is seemingly three left swipes away from a carpal tunnel flare-up does not mean all is well on the home front. Quite the contrary. According to a a recently survey by jewelry company Shane Co., 70% of millennials have been ghosted at least once. This does not come as a surprise, given the most recent conversations I’ve had with fellow single friends. They usually go a little something like this:

“What happened to that person you were talking to — the one you were really excited about?”

“Oh, they ghosted.”

Like hand sanitizer sales, ghosting — the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication — seems to be experiencing an uptick since the start of COVID-19. As if the dating arena wasn’t already terrifying enough, the pandemic has turned it into a haunted house.

Take my friend Zeynep who lives in New York City, for example. She’s smart, funny and unnaturally attractive in a way that only young, hip, New Yorkers can be. Yet, she has struggled to maintain contact with people she’s met online since the start of the pandemic.

“I chatted with one guy for about a month and we video’d a few times and then he disappeared,” she says. However, she says that was the exception. On average, she’ll engage with someone for a week or two before they disappear without a trace.

Prior to the pandemic, Zeynep says, “I got ghosted a couple of times before but never like this. It seems like people know you can’t really date right now and it’s not worth trying to start a relationship. So, you start talking and they lose interest because they know you won’t be able to meet up often or consistently.”

If you’ve been ghosted during the pandemic, your first instinct may be to take it personally (what’s wrong with me? What do I have to do to make myself worthy of being someone’s top choice for the title of Pandemic Bae?) Here’s why this is a mistake.

Unless you consider wearing latex gloves to the grocery store “normal,” nothing is normal right now — and that includes dating. Humans inherently crave connection, but right now we’ve got a lot on our minds. A pandemic. A civil rights movement. The economy. Less than ideal job prospects and living situations. A Howard Hughes level aversion to germs (hand raise!)

We may think we want to meet someone, but the reality of what that looks like (waiting to meet, wearing masks, discussing boundaries, exposing another person to our anxieties and insecurities ) feels a bit like watching the news right now: overwhelming and exhausting.

With that being said, if we’ve made the choice to be online it’s our responsibility to use dating apps responsibility. Most of us are craving human contact and emotional support right now. But are dating apps really the right place to go looking for that? If you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to finish what you’ve started relationship-wise, perhaps your time would be better spent elsewhere.

Try spending a few hours — either virtually, on the phone or in person — reconnecting with people you already know and care about. Chances are, the experience will be a lot more satisfying than a handful of conversations with strangers that go nowhere.

As my friend Zeynep reminds me, “online dating feels like a cheap thrill right now. Everyone is looking for a short-term pen pal.”

If you’ve fallen into this trap or have been ghosted as a result, don’t beat yourself up. Remember: it’s not you, it’s the pandemic.

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