It’s hard to get to know a potential mate when you have to stay two metres apart. But singles and those in the dating industry say social distancing has set the stage for an interesting social experiment as romance moves online.
Since the pandemic hit, Mandia Nantsios has seen a spike in her social media traffic, with potential suitors trying to make a connection.
Nantsios, 23, is an Ottawa musician and influencer who doesn’t use dating apps, but recently met someone through a group hangout platform called House Party. That’s led to video dates, chatting over glasses of wine sipped in separate living rooms.
“This is a good time to get to know people,” Nantsios said. “Everybody has time to connect. It just forces you not to rush anything. I’m looking at it as a positive.”
From in-person to online
Dating companies are hoping to cash in on this new virtual market by pivoting from in-person to virtual matchmaking.
When the virus hit, bookings for Dashing Date’s speed-dating events came to halt. The company has now made the jump to hosting its events on Zoom, and offers Facebook Live talks on how best to date at a distance.
CEO Kavita Ajwani said though some singles are opting to take a break right now, many are choosing to devote their extra hours to the pursuit of love.
“There is a silver lining for singles that they have a lot of options right now. You need to stay connected now more than ever,” Ajwani said.
Local app Wandure also scrambled to adjust to the new reality. Launched last December, Wandure is focused on getting people to meet in real life shortly after matching online.
Now, for a flat fee of $5, Wandure will set you up on a home-based video date, with a member of their team facilitating a trivia night. Co-founder Chelsea Sauvé said they’ve actually seen an increase in their numbers.
“There are people who are quite stressed by the fact that their dating life is at a standstill for an indeterminate period. In these times it’s especially clear how wonderful it would be to have someone to discuss this with — that emotional contact,” Sauvé said.
Virtual dating etiquette
Nicole Soon, 36, said there’s another advantage to virtual dating: it’s easier to be confident when you’re on home turf.
“It’s more relaxing, there’s less anxiety and you can be more yourself. I think everyone gets first date jitters, so it’s nice to talk over a screen,” Soon laughed.
Soon has taken up online dating in a big way during her 14-day self-isolation in Vancouver — she recently cut short a five-month trip to Asia — and said she’s struggling to keep up with the influx of messages she’s now receiving from other bored singles.
But for Sarah Martin, 23, who’s been laid off from two of her three jobs, having more time to spend on dating doesn’t necessarily make those connections more satisfying.
“You have all the time in the world but no motivation. I’m half into it because it doesn’t feel like it’s going to go anywhere,” she said, noting that a few of her conversations have fizzled due to “pure boredom.”
Then there are questions about how to date virtually. Do you dress to impress, at least from the waist up? Do you drink alcohol? Should you worry about the lighting?
Melissa Guenette is waiting to see the long-term consequences of this social experiment.
The Ottawa social media marketer, 34, isn’t currently dating, but is hearing from single friends who are using sites like zoomer.love to organize coffee or cooking dates, or even to watch a Netflix movie.
She compares the situation to the Netflix series Love is Blind, where singles get to know each other without seeing each other. Guenette wonders if self-isolation might just influence people to start focusing on substance over surface.
“Because you’re not looking for the guy with the six-pack who goes to the gym and eats boring chicken and quinoa. Now you might be looking for someone to hang out and enjoy pizza and Netflix with you, someone to hibernate with — your quarantine buddy. Or maybe somebody who you want to go through a doomsday scenario with — the next epidemic.”