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Lonely no more: Virtual dating helps singles connect amid pandemic restrictions | Sponsored: COX

Editor’s Note

This story is brought to you by Cox.

Virtual dating, also known as smart dating, has become more popular than ever in recent months. With bars, restaurants and other social establishments closed because of COVID-19 distancing regulations, singles have increasingly turned to apps and websites to try to forge new connections. Instead of heading out, many are looking inside their homes to ensure they have the right lighting, background and setting for a fun video-based conversation.

A successful chat can’t happen without a strong and reliable Internet connection. Cox offers Internet speeds of up to 1 gig in all households, and during the pandemic, the company has closely monitored its technology products to ensure people can communicate, whether it’s a virtual family reunion, business meeting or smart dating event.

Smart dating has some benefits, said Farrah Reyna, a Lafayette-based communications coach and relationship expert.

“I’ve heard so many people say that it’s taken away the stress of deciding where to meet, what to do and what to wear. You can sit in the comfort of your home and have a nice conversation,” Reyna said. “You have the chance for a more natural, authentic connection with people from around the world, not just in your geographic area.”

Evan Daniels experienced that first-hand. A social media manager who recently moved from Louisiana to California, Daniels used virtual dating during quarantine when he was looking for a more serious relationship.

“I think there’s a lot less pressure online because if you get asked a question that makes you feel a little awkward, you can take your time and discuss it,” he said. “It’s definitely more of a gradual incline, rather than immediately meeting face-to-face.”

On July 16, Cox will partner with the speed-dating platform My Cheeky Date for a free virtual smart dating event specifically for Louisiana singles. In particular, people ages 25 to 39 are encouraged to sign up. To register or for more details, visit https://smartdating-cox.eventbrite.com.

The partnership allows Cox to continue its work to help people and businesses use technology in ways they never imagined, as well as leverage its robust resources to keep customers connected to what matters to them.

Amanda Ortiz, director of global events for My Cheeky Date, said the virtual event begins with mingling in a main room for five to 10 minutes. Then, each participant has one-on-one private sessions with all other attendees. Each private session lasts about seven minutes.

“They rotate until everyone meets everyone,” said Ortiz. “At the end, they will see a landing screen to choose their matches. Mutual matches will receive each other’s contact information so they can continue speaking after the event.”

Ortiz said there is no limit on the number of participants, but My Cheeky Date tries to keep it around 20 to 26 people to ensure quality one-on-one sessions.

“We always tell people that the lighting and background is key,” Ortiz said. “You want to feel confident, so think about whether the room is clean, how the lighting reflects and how everything appears.”

Ortiz added that most My Cheeky Date participants dress up for the virtual events.

“A lot of people are looking for a reason to do their makeup or hair, or put on a shirt or dress they haven’t worn in a while,” she said.

When it comes to striking up a conversation, Daniels has a simple go-to question: What music is the person currently listening to, and why?

“That helps them feel comfortable and tells me a little about their personality,” he said. “It opens up the door to share interests, passions and things they are excited about.”

Reyna noted that with people doing virtual dating at home, background items like photos, certificates and artwork are often visible. Asking about those can be a great way to break the ice, she said.

“I was talking with a guy and asked him to explain the art on his walls,” she said. “It was fascinating to learn about them and know that we shared some interests.”

While more public venues continue to open, Reyna said that if two people decide they want to meet in person after speaking virtually, both need to be clear about boundaries. They should ask each other if they are comfortable going out in public, their preferences about wearing masks and what type of establishment they would be okay visiting.

“A lot of people have underlying illnesses that they may not be willing to share just yet,” Reyna pointed out. “Maybe they have lost someone from COVID and you don’t know that yet. The sensitivity level needs to be really high so that everyone is comfortable and can enjoy the experience.”


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