COVID 19 protocols have thrown a big wrinkle into the dating scene.
But many of the “new normals” from the pandemic are likely to endure because in some cases they’ve improved cupid’s delivery, experts say.
While some have continued to meet the old-fashioned way: on blind dates, real-life encounters, those means are limited with social distancing measures in place and so many venues closed.
So these last seven months more than ever, those seeking love have turned in droves to the already popular virtual dating sites, experts report.
That shift has led to expansion of virtual dating to include more video and conversation[inducing features so people are getting to know each other better before dating in person and that’s a plus, experts and daters say.
Alvin Tran, assistant professor of public health at the University of New Haven, who studies dating apps as they relate to body image, said before the pandemic there were “quick hookups” through dating apps and since COVID 19 protocols discourage that, people are getting to know each other better.
Tran said people also have turned to dating apps to alleviate general loneliness because of the isolation experienced in quarantine.
Tran said while “chemistry” between people is easily felt in person, people can have online chemistry too.
“For some, meeting online is more comfortable,” Tran said.
He said the recommendations from health experts now are to avoid kissing, hand holding, and intercourse because they violate social distancing rules.
“That takes away all the fun that comes with dating in person,” Tran said. “But the best person to be in a relationship with (right now) is yourself.”
A lot to say
Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at Match, a popular online dating site, said there has been a 40 percent increase in online messages since the pandemic and and they are longer and more frequent.
She said there is also more messaging around social justice issues and politics, so people are getting to know each other at a deeper level.
Match added a video component to the early process to eliminate the need for that first in-person meeting for coffee to see if there is face-to-face chemistry.
It’s one of the measures likely to endure, DeAlto said, because it’s efficient in cutting out the need to pick an initial meeting place to determine whether the relationship shows promise.
“The biggest frustration is that people say I wasted a day, a night,” if the meetup doesn’t work out, DeAlto said.
She said people also sometimes complain that people they’ve been messaging don’t look like their profile picture.
A spokeswoman for Tinder, a popular online dating App, shared some statistics the company has gathered regarding activity during the pandemic, including:
• In the United States April 5, was the peak of increased chattiness, as Tinder members sent an average of 56 percent more messages vs. the start of lockdowns in early March.
• Young Americans got particularly chatty, they said, with United States generation Z (the younger set) sent an average of 63 percent more messages compared to those 26 and older.
• In March, masks became the talk of Tinder and bios were filled with one-liners about stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer
• At the pandemic peak, swipe volume among members under 25 in the United States was up 38 percent.
The increase in messaging led Tinder to release “Prompts,” a new in-app feature that lets members respond to questions or finish a sentence for inclusion on their profile.
The pandemic led Match to add significant features they predict will endure, including:
· A feature that provides clarity and focus by moving users’ most promising connections to a dedicated space within the app.
· A profile feature that allows users to showcase what’s important to them with information that goes beyond usual profile stats, to reflect the trend of more singles opening the lines of communication early on about tougher topics such as politics, religion, and sex, that usually happen later in dating.
· The video feature, “Vibe check,” that lets users chat on Match.
Jennifer Ford, 32, of West Haven, who is single, was fixed up with a friend of her brothers during the height of the pandemic in late March, so they courted on the telephone and on Zoom until finally meeting in person in August for dinner on her family’s pool deck.
They felt the vibe and had a second date — a hike holding hands — then caught a bite at outdoor dining. Yes, they kissed.
“We were trying to get to know each other (without in person contact) and it was hard for both of us,” Ford said. “We had great conversations, but it was hard to keep it appropriate for where we were.”
Both “fall people,” the pair yearned for activities of the season — the Big E, Durham Fair and other events, but they had all been canceled.
At first it was a fun challenge keeping it interesting from a distance, she said, but once they met in person, the two yearned for shared experiences together at different venues.
“So were trying to find things we can do. We’ve decided we want to pursue the relationship — we just have to get creative and think outside the box,” Ford said. “He just wants to take me on a proper date. “
With bars closed, her church not having social activities, it’s tough to meet people said Ford, noting she hasn’t had success in the past with online dating.
A Connecticut woman, 38, who asked not to be named to protect her privacy, frequented online dating before COVID-19 and has continued, finding good in the pandemic.
“I think the good thing about this time is that people are being forced to get to know one another,” she said. “Dating apps have been for so long just about being casual and hooking up. Now that there’s this added element of possibly getting someone sick, it helps to weed people out who are not serious.”
The woman said she went on a date after Connecticut implemented social distancing and quarantine and the guy did not comply: he hugged her, held her hand and kissed her even though they had discussed a socially distanced date.
She never saw him again, but had successful dates afterwards.
“I’ve been on dates in a park with a mask, I’ve been hiking, and I’ve been to breweries and restaurants. I recently went on a date with someone who literally hasn’t been out since March.”
DeAlto said that creativity is key in these times of limited public activities, suggesting couples can take an online cooking class or wine tasting, visit farms or in the case of Ford, even create their own fall festival — maybe by doing arts and crafts together.
“There’s a novelty and excitement to new places,” she said, but, “you can do it in a bubble.”
Relationship expert Jaimy Blazynski, known nationally as “Jaimy the Date Doctor,” said there was a period of time when people couldn’t leave their homes and almost everything was closed. But now, she said, we’re in a new phase where restrictions vary throughout the country.
Blazynski said people who are really to find true love will, “create solutions not excuses.”
“Sure you can’t go to a movie or listen to a live band, but the key to a successful date is the conversation,” she said. “When two people have a genuine connection, can show a little vulnerability and have some laughs the date will be a positive experience.”
Blazynski ideas to keep dating interesting during the pandemic include:
– Pick a movie or Netflix series to watch prior and talk about it on the virtual date.
– Pull out an icebreaker book (If is a great one) and ask each other some fun questions.
– Share a favorite TikTok video with each other and share your reaction on the date.
Alex Parkhouse, associate professor of sociology at Quinnipiac University and a medical sociologist, said dating in itself can be stressful and challenges in dating existed before the pandemic.
Once COVID came into the picture, different challenges came into play and while dating can be a stressor, in a “peculiar way” it’s also a way to manage stress, Parkhouse said. Singles are going online to continue some degree of normalcy.
“It’s really a double-edged sword,” he said.