That guy you were chatting to on Hinge before lockdown? You can still take up the offer of dinner at his place on Thursday. The best part? He’ll never know you stayed in your slippers.
Pubs might be closed and touching might be banned for the forseeable future, but lockdown is no reason to hit pause on dating. In fact, it’s exactly the time to fast-forward the search: everyone else is bored at home with time on their hands, too.
“More than ever, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference,” says Elie Seidman, CEO of Tinder, which saw its biggest-ever day of swipes on March 29 as the country went into #stayhome mode, with more than three billion globally.
But dating in lockdown doesn’t simply mean lining up potential crushes for when all of this is over. It means taking the dating game digital, too. Hinge says 70 per cent of its members hope to date over video call during quarantine and relationship site Match found a third of users have already agreed to a virtual date in the coming weeks.
From video speed-dating in 90 seconds to taking in a virtual exhibition from your bedrooms, this is how London is looking for love amid the lockdown.
Sympathy is sexy
Netflix’s dating show Love is Blind might have dropped pre-pandemic but the premise is more fitting than ever: dating within your own four-walls (and amid a crisis) refocuses your priorities to the things you can’t see.
Dating app Badoo found 47 per cent of its users are now prioritising personality over physicality and Tinder says the hottest chat-up lines are kind. The dating app has reported more of its users asking “how are you?” and “are you OK?” to start a conversation, which is in turn leading to longer, more thoughtful conversations.
Pre-date chats have been lasting 20 per cent longer since February, the app’s research found, while Happn found 43 per cent of users are having better quality conversations since the Covid-19 crisis. “All the bulls**t you kind of go for usually — none of that f***boy stuff is going to cut it,” one quarantine dater told The Cut last month. In recent weeks, her criteria have pivoted: “It’s like, can he play cards (yes), can he bake bread (yes), does he take social distancing seriously?” Caring is cool.
My FaceTime or yours?
You’re conferencing over Zoom, choir rehearsing over Zoom, pub quizzing over Zoom … so why not date? London Speed Dating is now hosting this Sunday’s singles night over Zoom and Stockwell-based dateinadash.com is now hosting five Zoom-based speed dating nights a week. “I’m into it,” one convert wrote on Twitter last week. “You can see yourself so you can ensure the lighting is good and there’s nothing in your teeth.”
Use of Bumble’s in-app video feature has rocketed by 21 per cent since the outbreak and rival Hinge has launched a new Date From Home button that users can tap when they’re ready for a video date. “A friend of mine is already on his third virtual date,” says one editor from Brixton. “He’s graduated from a lunchtime walk to evening drinks.”
FaceTime is an old reliable for video, while others are taking things onto Houseparty – or even Instagram. Fashion blogger Urszula Makowska is letting her friends set her up on blind dates over Hinge and meeting for a first date over Instagram Live – the ultimate blind love experiment. You can tune in at 7.30pm EST every Sunday @urszulala.
New eras also mean new platforms: a stream of Corona-inspired apps are taking over the quarantine dating scene. nova-social.com launched last month and hooks users up by video blind dates, OKZoomer connects college students in quarantine, while Filter Off connects users over 90-second live video speed dates. Despite singles putting longer into pre-date chatter, Bumble says the average length of its video calls is just 14 minutes.
Lockdown love interests
Sure, getting drunk over Zoom was fun for a couple of dates, but how to mix things up four dates in? “Send your date a delivery from a local restaurant (#staylocal), hop on Zoom and have a great virtual dinner date,” one dater suggested on Twitter last week. Others are testing each other’s kitchen skills. “I’m a huge fan of the cooking show method, myself,” one matchmaker wrote on Twitter, suggesting synchronising playlists and wine while you cook together over Zoom. Others are attempting online workouts.
Or find out your love interest’s interests sooner: 13 per cent of eHarmony users have already visited a virtual gallery together, 12 per cent have joined a virtual book club, and six per cent are heading to the post-Covid-19 cinema, otherwise known as Netflix Party. The new free Chrome extension synchronises your virtual movie night and lets you debrief over the madness of Tiger King in real life like you’re sitting on the sofa together.
“Everyone is talking about toilet paper,” insiders from Tinder HQ revealed last week, alongside figures that Brits are having 12 per cent more daily conversations since the Covid-19 outbreak.
The silver lining to quarantine? It’s an easy icebreaker topic. More than 3,700 UK Bumble users have added coronavirus-related words to their bios since the start of the pandemic, with men more likely to reference quarantine than women. Meanwhile Covid-19 chat-up lines are on the up. “If Covid-19 doesn’t take you out, can I?” suggests one Twitter user. Or a favourite from the loveable Jerry from Netflix documentary Cheer: “You can’t spell quarantine without U R A Q T.”
The first rule of quarantine dating? Normal etiquette still applies, says Wandsworth nanny Lia Renkes, 28, who was ghosted by a match from Hinge after what she thought was a successful FaceTime date. “We spoke for over an hour, had easy-flowing chat… he texted immediately after saying he really liked talking to me. It all felt normal,” but she hasn’t heard a peep since. “Quarantine ghosting is quite savage,” she says — if not more so. “It’s not like you can pass it off as, ‘Oh they must be busy.’”
Ghosting isn’t the only bad habit to have floated into quaran-dating, according to poet Charly Cox, who’s compiled a new weekly newsletter detailing her FaceTime dating escapades since lockdown. In the latest instalment of
A Little Coronamance, Cox encounters several identifiable breeds of pre-pandemic dater: the phone-checker (“visibly swapping between tabs on his laptop”), the drunk dater (he and his housemate “asked me twice if I’d have a threesome with them online”), the sports obsessive (“he was in boxers and said the worst thing about this pandemic was to have lost the football”.)
Her hottest tip for virtual romancers? Choose your snack wisely. Cox was alarmed when blind date number two thought it was OK to leave the room and return with a glass of wine and a slice of ham. “All I could think about was him touching his sheets without washing his hands and it smelling like ham,” says Cox. “The connection was lost.”
Just like dating IRL, first impressions count. Dress up “to get you in the date-night mood”, suggests Badoo’s marketing director Natasha Briefel, and choose your location wisely.
“It’s weird seeing someone’s bedroom on a first date when you’re not pissed and or scurrying out of it,” says Cox, so set the tone just like you’d choose a table in a restaurant. Clear your background of clutter and light some candles, suggests Briefel, “and don’t feel you need to be confined to your bedroom.”
Set your Zoom background to your favourite restaurant or the holiday you should’ve been on — it’ll make a good, pandemic-free icebreaker.