Forced to engage with their Bumble matches from a distance, people are finding creative ways to connect during the challenging times of a pandemic, taking their time to get to know each other better.
For Udita Pal, a 24-year old entrepreneur and dog mom from Bengaluru, dating during the lockdown has been surprisingly smooth. Amidst the gloom and doom of the pandemic, her matches have found delightfully creative ways to connect with her. “One Bumble match sent me paints and art supplies. We made art and then had it delivered to each other!” she says.
But the real change in dating atmosphere, more than creativity, is in conversations. With the lockdown confining people to their homes for months, Indian women have found that conversations with their online dating matches have really flowed. “We are having long conversations and deep diving into hobbies, taking our time to get to know each other better,” Udita went on to say.
Several women echo this sentiment, finding that their dating prospects – who were usually trigger-happy in pushing to meet up in person as soon as they matched – became a lot more invested in getting to know them without actually meeting. For some women, this “slow-dating” felt safer. For others, it cut out the awkwardness of going on a first date before really knowing someone.
Finding that right match
Amrutha, a 38-year old recently-separated banking professional from Chennai, explains that though lockdown dating hasn’t really changed all men into conversationalists overnight, you do encounter those who take the time to do it right. Some men remained entitled, but eventually, she caught a serendipitous spark. “There’s one person that I matched with who I’m still talking to. We’re planning to meet, now that the lockdown is easing up. After we matched, he made an effort to talk. A lot. And we took our time. Almost ten days to move from Bumble to regular texting,” Amrutha recounts.
“The crazy thing is: we realized we went to the same school but never ran into each other! So we found common connections. Common interests. It’s like he can read my mind. We both love long drives. We both think the same way about multiple little things. Like the way we like our whiskey, or our food preferences. And most importantly, there’s a mutual respect for both our similarities and differences,” Amrutha emphasized.
Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Udita Pal, with her pet Kiwi.
Learnings from the experiences of Amrutha and Udita point to the fact that real effort is required to find the right match.
Apart from the match who sent Udita art supplies, she’s done a host of other innovative things to genuinely connect. “Everybody is sick of hearing ‘hi, how’s quarantine treating you’. So I tried to have fun. Like my Bumble match and I created a private Instagram where we recorded our everyday experiences for each other. Another match and I did a bake-off and sent each other what we baked. One date even found out my favourite childhood game and streamed it for us to play together,” she says, rattling off a long list of fun things she has done with her matches.
“I tried everything. The Bumble Question game. Streaming movies together. It really helped us get deep into understanding each other’s personalities. Conversation is really all we had, so why not do the best you can with it?” she asks.
When conversations get real
Having long conversations over several days also means that they can get very real. Divya weighs in, speaking of how she used to skip straight to physical intimacy as a way to avoid being truly vulnerable and thereby getting hurt. Now, she’s been talking to someone she matched with regularly, and finding joy in it for the first time in four years. She explains how when you speak to a new person for a long time, the connection on a mental level can lift the curtain off initial pleasantries. “Now I feel like it’s okay to open up to somebody, to let them know how I’m feeling,” she says.
Sometimes, that regularity of conversation can be hilarious, as it happened with Shruthi, a 27-year old counsellor who lives with family. “The boy I matched with and I would both be home with family around whenever we chatted. It was hard to separate family-me and date-me, when my 87-year-old grandmother would scream for me to come downstairs and feed the dog during a Bumble Video Chat. On the other hand, it was cute to see the other person also struggling with the same thing on the other side of the phone call.”
Chat with your matches on Bumble via Video Chat
Sometimes, it’s not that funny. Conversations can get repetitive or uninspiring. Says Parvathi, a 28-year old brand manager from Gurgaon, “I did try voice calling with one guy. It was pretty early in the morning. It was going okay till he started asking me interview questions – “so, how are you keeping yourself safe this pandemic”, “so, what all have you learnt from staying alone in this time”. Told him I will call him back and never did.”
She explains that the immense focus on conversations can get confusing, at times. “Online dating right now is like the honeymoon period where everyone loves dogs, traveling, good food, music, Netflix and chill. But, sometimes, a few, who you think you’ve made a connection with, might end up ghosting pretty quick. It gets confusing. Although, I’m still in touch with the guy who ghosted me. He popped up again recently. He’s fun and ambitious, so I understand that he disappears every couple of weeks, but then, he turns up too.”
Can we slow-date forever?
Tarana, a 28-year old writer, wonders whether these changes will stay after the need for social distancing completely goes away. “People have never seemed so intent on connecting before. I’m just hoping that this evolution of our online dating behaviours is here to stay. I don’t know if any of us can go back to “hi. sup? nm”-type conversations after this,” she says.
Tarana hopes that whatever has changed about dating during lockdown is here to stay.
“One match sent me a Google Calendar invite for our first date on the day the first lockdown was supposed to end, and then just kept rescheduling it every time the lockdown was extended. It became a funny ritual, but also like a little ray of hope that we really did intend to meet as soon as we could,” Tarana says, and adds “I hope we keep finding people with the same patience.”
It remains to be seen how online dating in India will evolve, as we ease back into our regular schedules, but hopefully some of the things we’ve learned by slow-dating through the lockdown – allowing ourselves to invest in conversations, opening up, finding meaning in getting to know each other – are here to stay.
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This article was created by TNM Brand Studio in association with Bumble. Some names have been changed to protect identity.