Digital dating in lockdown has taught me I’d rather be single | #tinder | #pof


As the nation shut down, and our dating lives turned digital only, it became quickly evident that my desire to date had dwindled. (Picture: Jamie Windust)

Being single is often seen as worse than owning khaki shorts or, worse still, wearing them.

It’s something that for many of us is seen as something we have to fix, exemplified by the worrisome nag from your mother every now and again as she optimistically asks if anyone ‘extra special’ will be joining this week’s family Zoom quiz.

But during lockdown, especially now we are in the hotly anticipated second series of the pandemic phenomenon, I’m starting to realise that dating just isn’t for me. 

After speaking with friends, and hearing us all fumble through our memory banks of March-June 2020, it feels as if we all have collective amnesia of what actually happened during the first lockdown.

Whether we were baking, crying, screaming at our children or doing all the above, it feels like all of time and space just merged into one soggy banana bead shaped mess. But one thing I do recall is trying to date.

I was engaged in dating before lockdown, actively swiping and sighing, speaking to friends of friends to see if they could set me up with their ex’s hot new housemate. It was a fun pastime – nothing serious, just a nice period of time to acquaint oneself with a six-foot succulent specialist from New Cross. But as the nation shut down, and our dating lives turned digital only, it became quickly evident that my desire to date had dwindled.

The majority of us singletons had the most time we’ve ever had to swipe and shop on Hinge and Bumble, but the situation was vastly more romantic in my head. Images of late-night Zoom calls, socially distanced strolls along the river or being serenaded outside of my window by a bloke I’d met on Tinder flashed across my mind, when in reality it was the complete opposite. 

Take for example, the second week into March and a lovely gentleman I had been speaking to decided that we should in fact video call to continue the conversation.

‘This is it. This is my route to Normal People levels of love’, I thought.

We went ahead with the call, and let’s just say it wasn’t the signal that was letting us down. Firstly, my bed frame is covered in embarrassing fairy lights, and I share a house with two other girls who at any moment could have burst in asking me to do their make-up or go for a run, so the set-up wasn’t ideal.

Not to brag, but I didn’t need half of South London’s bi-curious elite ringing me to see if I’d ‘dress up for them’ 24/7 (Picture: Jamie Windust)

More importantly, the human interaction of dating, the spontaneity of choosing a pub, or a park, or a gallery, of deciding what to wear, what perfume to drown myself in, all became lost as I sat opposite a frozen image of a man trying to sort out his WiFi router.

As lockdown dragged on, I found that it made men lazy, and their inability to acknowledge boundaries even more transparent. It’s as if men feel like they can just quickly throw a Ben Sherman shirt on and sit in bed with their camera aiming perfectly up their nostrils and think that equates to effort. It’s not, let me tell you.

Boundaries online are hard to regiment at the best of times, but in lockdown our only communication with potential dates was through our phones. Not to brag, but I didn’t need half of South London’s bi-curious elite ringing me to see if I’d ‘dress up for them’ 24/7.

Conversations would start ever so softly with what I was doing during the pandemic, and how ‘wild’ this all was, but would swiftly career into them asking me to do unspeakable things in front of a mirror. Fine – I divulged a fantasy for one man, but when your own personal bubble is invaded by seemingly alright men suddenly asking you down the phone if you’ll parade around in a thong, it seems like dating has taken an invasive turn. 

It’s made me understand that dating right now just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that ‘not all men’ and all that, but the total digitalisation of dating that lockdown brought about has uncovered some people’s rather unsavoury desires that I am sure wouldn’t have come up during a face-to-face date.

Going out to the pub for a casual Merlot and a kiss in the doorway can be fine, but with people being able to access you at home, in the palm of your hands, often the niceties are quickly accelerated away, leaving us privy to perverse nature of many of the human species. 

Lockdown has showed me, however, who is there for me when I need support, and who isn’t. What friends are willing to stand in my corner and hold my hand when I most need it, and that reliable emotional support is more important than a city banker in beige chinos thinking I care that he’s got a holiday home in Devon (that he definitely shouldn’t have been travelling too anyway… idiot).

More: UK

It reminded me to stop putting romantic relationships on a pedestal, and to stop believing that I can find everything I want in a partner in one individual. I need a feeling of contentment and security, and in the least cringe way possible, no man could ever provide me with that all by himself.

I now have the strongest group of friends that I’ve ever had, and this has proved a highlight of a dark time.

I’m not saying that dating will never crop back up in my life, but I know now that loneliness and isolation isn’t solved by finding a man. It’s exciting, and fun, and when the time is right I’ll be back on the streets of Soho having many a cup of tea with many an eloquent man, but through Lockdown 2.0, I am thoroughly content flying solo.

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