Finding love in the lockdown – why social distancing brings people closer together | #tinder | #pof

If you’ve ever read ‘Jane Eyre’ or watched Michael Fassbender play Mr Rochester, then you remember the understated yet steamy courtship scenes. I was 15 when I first read it and the romance between Jane and Mr Rochester made me hold my breath. There was something about the way their love burned – slowly, intensely and deeply – that was intoxicating.

My own dating life rarely lived up to it, until that day I first heard about Tinder. I couldn’t believe it – an app that sounded like an online shopping market for a human boyfriend. It was 2013 and I felt like I had discovered the Higgs boson. Turns out it was a bit of a letdown – you swipe left, you swipe right. Your hopes are raised and then spectacularly crushed. And repeat.

By 2019 you would have considered yourself very lucky if you got a brief “How’re you?” message on Tinder followed swiftly by an aubergine emoji or something even more explicit.

I’m not sure when photos of men’s bare genitals became so popular to pass around the internet, but just a slip of the index finger can see men sharing their private bits with any number of people all in the hope of what? That you’ll end up walking down the aisle with them? If this has happened to anyone – please, send in your stories now.

But where’s the romance? Where’s the space to take time to actually get to know a person before you find yourself standing outside their flat after an 11pm booty call?

Where’s Fassbender on a horse? I think lots of us yearn for a simpler time. When people courted. When you were asked for a dance and you barely touched outside of that. So many of my friends talk about how they have been born in the wrong era. And that a time without Tinder was a lot more love-friendly.

Now we find ourselves living in intense and confined conditions and only our phones to connect us to potential suitors. And we are aching for a bit of excitement to liven up days idly spent heart-reacting to pics of our friends’ lopsided loaves of bread. Could quarantine transform the way we date online to a slower, kinder version?

Gone are the days of first dates and seeing someone in person for the first time. And who knows how long until we will hold another person’s hand without making them slather it in sanitiser first. In these strange and precarious times, we all need love now more than ever and Tinder is seeing more than three billion swipes globally a day – the most swipes the app has seen since its launch back in 2012.

Hinge and Bumble are also reporting increased activity and according to the research, 83pc of Bumble users across Ireland and the UK are now video dating and 64pc are staying in on virtual dates over a drink or cup of tea.

There’s even Quarantine Together, a new app launched to connect those who are socially-distancing.

Like everything else that changed since the pandemic shook our world, so have our approaches to dating. With bars, clubs, cafés, cinemas and other public spaces closed and all of us self-isolating, daters are adapting.

Video chat has replaced flesh-and-blood dates, and slow courtship is taking over from hook ups.

Online conversations are getting longer. Some of us are even finding this a hopeful time to date.

People’s gallows humour is coming out and the conversations are deeper and more honest.

As well as the increased swiping, conversations are now 10 to 20pc longer than previously on Tinder and the app has really come into its own.

You see you don’t need to be nearby to feel close to someone else. Sometimes being far away is even better. In the glow of your iPhone on low-brightness mode at 1am, you can be vulnerable and tender in ways that you can’t be in a buzzy bar on a Saturday night.

Romance is all about emotional connection and physical attraction – that will never change.

Whatever generation you find yourself in, it’s all about the thrill of discovering someone else who you fancy quite a bit, someone who says to you: “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before.”

And the private, enclosed walls of a WhatsApp chat thread can feel the same as two people sitting in a room. It’s not fake, actually. It’s just a different kind of real.

One friend of mine has had a candlelit dinner and seen the bedrooms of two potential boyfriends over the past week – all while looking for love from her own living room.

The conversations, she says, are more meaningful and the men nicer than before.

The wolves have run away from dating apps, their chances of hooking up evaporated.

I feel for those who are unhappily living through this crisis on their own. But this pandemic is very unifying. We’re all living under threat. You don’t have to think too hard about a chat-up line either – Covid-19 has given us an obvious opener to every conversation.

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