Although I think that physical distancing would be a much better term (as socially, in these times of crisis, we should stand much closer together while keeping our physical distance), social distancing obviously has a huge impact on any kind of relationship and of course, our dating behavior.
Various grades of mandatory or voluntary lock-downs, curfews and the like certainly impose some challenges on couples and families in the area of living together and some problems are bound to surface.
Another friend of mine yesterday shared a meme about management consulting with me that says: “Problems in your personal life? Choose a career in consulting!”. It shows an enthusiastic young man in a suit with thumbs up and at the bottom gives an explanation: “No personal life. No problems.”
A management consultant myself, I had a good laugh at the meme, but the reason I mention it here, is that it points something out that is not exclusive to management consulting: We sometimes tend to avoid facing personal problems by distracting ourselves with other issues. Now, being “locked-up” together exposes us a lot more to our personal lives and those problems we have been hiding from. While some couples may actually experience some kind of “second spring” in their relationship because they can now share a lot more time together, dysfunctional relationships are tested to their limits. Some of them will break and although that might hurt a lot now, it will probably be a lot better for all parties involved in the long-run.
Questions you might ask yourself in this context are:
- Do I enjoy spending (this much) time with my partner?
- Does my partner accept, that I sometimes need my space and does he/she try to give me that space, even when we’re locked-up together?
- Does my partner support me in the things I want to achieve for myself?
- Do I enjoy to support my partner in the things he/she wants to achieve?
- Do we share a significant set of interests yet still exist as individuals?
- Is our relationship somehow fair?
- Do I respect my partner and does he/she respect me?
- Do our “drafts of live” match?
These might be the right questions for you to ask, maybe there are other questions that are the right ones for you. But if those questions produce the wrong answers, you might find yourself in a similar situation with all those, who were already single when the crisis struck:
With restaurants, bars, clubs, sports clubs and basically the whole social and cultural life closed down, chances of meeting your future spouse in real life narrow down to lucky encounters at the supermarket — and even those tend to be more sparse than usual.
Like another important person in my life put it: “I don’t much like online dating, but if I do not want to let 2020 go to waste, I don’t really have another choice than to at least try it.”
People that become users of online services now might stay after the crisis. Obviously, adult entertainment portal Pornhub thought so too and launched an opportunist PR stunt by offering free premium subscriptions during corona time to people from Italy (and later also from Spain and France). Statistics published by Pornhub itself confirm that traffic has indeed risen dramatically.
I would have expected investors of online dating portals to think along the same lines, but a quick check of the Match Group’s stock price development (the Match Group is the company behind Tinder) revealed, that the course actually hit a twelve month low in March. It has rapidly recovered since but is still below the latest course peak from January.
However, usage of online dating platforms has indeed experienced a boom lately and the way we interact with dating portals seems to change:
- the number of exchanged messages increases
- the length of conversations increases
- apparently, people in general and men in specific have become kinder and more willing to entertain meaningful conversations (going for quick hook-ups obviously isn’t an option at the moment)
- video dating gains relevance
Additional new members and increased engagement should sound promising to investors, so why hasn’t the Match Group’s stock price skyrocketed?¹
Maybe investors foresee a problem that might change things again:
From my point of view, online dating can be a good complement to offline dating. But it cannot substitute real life interaction! Even with additional features like video dating that allow users to feel somewhat closer to one another, prospective couples will want to meet each other in person sooner or later.
So depending on how long lock-downs stay in place and how strict the corresponding rules are enforced, users of online dating platforms might get frustrated of conversation after conversation with prospective “matches” slowly dying down with nothing reasonable to exchange without the foundation of a real life relationship. This might not only churn through the new users but also affect the longstanding membership base, thereby destroying value.
With respect to meeting your online date in person, people have been insecure of what is allowed and what isn’t and also — within the permitted boundaries — what is advisable and what isn’t:
- am I allowed to meet someone in person?
- do I need to keep a distance of 1.5 meters to that person, if I meet him/her?
- is picnicking allowed?
- does eating takeaway purchased at a local restaurant or kiosk count as picnicking?
As restrictions vary from country to country and — at least in the case of the federally organized Germany — from state to state, it is impossible to give a general answer to that question. Regardless of rules and restrictions, I believe it is prudent to ask yourself some questions before considering an offline date potentially allowed in your region:
- what risk of infection do I take?
- what risk is there of me infecting my dating partner?
- what responsibility do I have to my country and society?
- what impacts may my behavior have on the suffering economy?
- which measures can I take to prevent infections?
With regard to official rules, for Germans it is a good idea to start with the rules set by the federal government. At the time of writing, these rules allow to occupy public places with up to one person who does not live in your household or is related to these persons as long as a minimal distance of 1.5 meters is maintained. This would allow for at least an awkward kind of dates where you meet your date for a “distanced stroll”.
However, the states and even cities have the power to impose rules that extend those set by the federal government. The federal government’s above linked site provides links to websites of all the states and their respective rules. For my state and city Hamburg, the newest rules that will become active on Monday, April 20th can be found here and for my friend from Cologne: picnicking in public places will earn you a fine of 250 €.
All that being said, stay responsible, obey the rules and stay healthy! One last thought: If you already had and recovered from a corona infection, you might want to add the hashtag #alreadyHadCorona to your online dating profile — it might become a dating asset in the times to come 😉.