The New Normal: Your Go-To Guide to Virtual Dating
Dating under normal circumstances is difficult enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic has hurled singles into a new world where the inability to meet IRL is the new normal. This experience, impersonal and all kinds of awkward, harkens back to grade school dances when we had no idea what we were doing, but instinctively knew we had to get our backs off the wall in order to put ourselves out there.
Since we’ve already given you some clever virtual date ideas to consider, perhaps a rundown of how to best handle a virtual date will be useful. To assist, AskMen reached out to Claire AH, owner and matchmaker at Friend of a Friend Matchmaking, who has already hosted a number of dating and matchmaking events on various digital platforms throughout the pandemic.
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So wipe that screen clean, put on a nice dress shirt and pour yourself a generous glass of wine. It’s digital date time.
Treat a Digital Date the Same Way You Would Any Other Date
With no real urgent excuse for exiting a digital date (no, your throw pillows do not need fluffing), some experts recommend you set a time limit to spare yourself from making an excuse when or if you want to skip out. Typically, they recommend a date be 45 minutes to an hour.
AH’s not a fan of such hard-and-fast rules, opting to let things end naturally.
“It’s a good idea to keep with what you’d generally do on an in-person date,” she explains. “If you like keeping things to an hour, go with that. If you generally go on shorter dates but make exceptions for amazing conversations that you don’t want to end, why cut yourself off? A lot of your dating instincts are still valid on a video date.”
Now, if the date is a total dud and you do want to opt-out early, be mindful of an abruptly rude exit as we’re all feeling lonelier than usual. Say something like, “It’s been really nice talking to you, but I’ve still got some things to take care of before bed.”
AH suggests sending a follow-up message to say that it was great meeting them but you weren’t feeling the chemistry. “
But if you’re afraid or they were really rude, you don’t need to say anything,” she assures.
Stage Your Background
With nowhere to go, paying attention to what’s in the background of your call can really set the mood of a digital date. The first thing you’re going to want to do? Clean up, as nobody wants to date a slob who can’t tidy the place that they haven’t left for two months.
“You might wind up changing positions, so don’t just tidy in the frame,” suggests AH. “Maybe you’ll take things to the kitchen to cook together and have to show off your crusty stove and sink full of dirty dishes. You don’t have to go overboard, but be mindful that your space adds extra dimension to their understanding of you.”
When staging your background, try to incorporate something that may spark conversation, like art or a bookcase. “Plants are always great, too,” she adds. “It shows you can keep something alive!”
You could have fun with custom backgrounds and images that show your personality as well. Hinge has even created hi-res backgrounds to “help Zoom dates feel a little more like real dates,” too.
A first date in any capacity is usually somewhat awkward, so when you’re not even in the same room as the other person, you’re definitely going to sense that feeling a little stronger. But don’t worry, there are solutions to quel these anxieties.
Having something to do aside from talking can get your mind off of awkwardness, so AH recommends something as simple as having a beverage in your hand.
“This is less about drinking to calm your nerves/remove pretense and more about avoiding dry mouth,” she says. “It’s nice to discuss ahead of time if you want to do your date over a drink or meal.”
You can also play some background music, provided it’s not too loud. “This is another thing that can get you two talking,” she adds. “Choose something that you think your date might like and take turns playing DJ, explaining why you like a certain song.”
Dating over a screen hinders things we take for granted on regular dates, like body language. “Do your best to hold a confident posture, focus on the person in front of you instead of checking other windows/your phone, and do the things you might naturally do to indicate interest: smile, maybe push your hair back, maintain/selectively avert eye contact with the camera, things like that,” says AH.
Look Your Best
In treating a digital date as you would any other date, you should still bathe, groom yourself, and dress up for the occasion –– this includes pants. Opt for a computer over a phone since it frees up your hands, but if you use your phone, use a tripod or prop it up against something sturdy.
“Absolutely check out your video quality first,” recommends AH. “Sometimes what looks great in the mirror looks weird on camera. Groom as you normally would, then do a second round of grooming on camera. Sometimes you look washed out, sometimes certain things look intense. There isn’t really a lot of rhyme or reason, so it’s good to give yourself enough time to adjust if necessary.”
While testing the video quality, get to know your lighting. A webcam is unforgiving as it is, and when paired with bad lighting, you’ve effectively undone all of the work you’ve done to prepare for that evening.
“Go for ambient light in the room and also something in front of you –– like a ring light -– if you can,” she suggests. “Backlighting often makes you look like a creepy villain or ghostly apparition.”
And just like lighting, the angle and way you frame yourself makes the world of difference. “Your face should be roughly centred in the frame, maybe 3/4 to the top,” adds AH. “You want to be at eye level with the camera pretty much straight on. Definitely don’t use an angle from below. It’s not a cute look.”
Daylight is also complimentary in instances like this, but may not be an option since most dates happen at night. Then again, what is time these days!
Use This Time to Be More Open-Minded About Your Dates
Above all else, have fun! It’s hard to come by these days, and even if you aren’t a match, at least you had a reason to get dressed that day.
“Since there’s little buy-in to a video date (they’re free, you don’t need to leave your home, you don’t need to do much to prepare) use this time to expand your dating repertoire and, who knows, you might just meet someone great,” says AH. “In general, it’s good to remember that any blocks you feel about video dating are largely imagined boundaries. It’s something new and new can be challenging, but it’s really not all that different.”
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