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Don't despair about being single while social distancing. Here's why.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Don't despair about being single while social distancing. Here's why.
IMAGE: VICKY LETA

BY RACHEL THOMPSON

Single and unable to mingle. 

That's the new normal for singletons navigating social distancing amid the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Putting in-person dates on hold for now is a drastic, but necessary adjustment to help protect other people from contracting the virus — particularly those who are immunocompromised or elderly. There's a lot of uncertainty at present, and none of us know how long social distancing will remain in place, so it's easy to feel a little panicked about spending a lot more time alone — something that perhaps can see an increase in feelings of loneliness

But being single needn't be a reason for despair right now. During this unprecedented time, I've started viewing my dating app matches as pen pals. It might sound a bit twee or even hopelessly optimistic, but the truth is, I see no other alternative. Going on actual dates would put people's lives at risk, and opting out of swiping altogether would feel like a punishment. For the first time since apps launched, we have time, to just...get to know each other.

Prior to this moment in history, dating culture was becoming increasingly fast-paced. Around 2018, swiping fatigue began to plague the industry as more and more swipers grew frustrated when online matches didn't turn into offline connections. Terms like "breadcrumbing" emerged to describe the specific way in which daters were leading each other on through messages, without ever meeting up in person. Apps took note, and began explicitly encouraging users to meet their matches as soon as possible. That's why dates began cutting the convo completely and opening the chat with a request to meet up immediately — something I am very much not a fan of

The pressure to move from match to meet-up has lifted, making way for a slower approach to dating. Over the past week or so, I've been chatting to a few matches and the conversation feels more relaxed, like we've shed the façade and don't feel the need to pretend we're cool. We've talked at great length about the books and TV shows we're watching while we're staying home. And last night, I got my very first "hey, when all this is (hopefully) over, do you fancy going out with me?" It was cute. My match caveated that it was probably the worst time to ask someone out since dating apps had been invented, which, fair enough. But after a day of eating countless Babybels on my sofa, it was definitely the most exciting thing to happen to me. 

I'm a romantic, and one of the many reasons I love watching rom-coms and period dramas is watching the courtship unfold. I love to see people fumble awkwardly over their words. I love seeing the dorky friendship that forms before something more. I love to see the expressions on people's faces when it dawns on them that they're in love. There is a lot to be said for good old fashioned courtship (minus the oppressive gender roles, tyvm). 

I'm not alone in this, either. Charly Cox — author of She Must Be Mad and Validate Me — told me she's approaching dating with "excitement for the possibility of old school courtship" during this time. "Sexy shoulders and a lols first line can't be enough right now," she said. "Prove to me that after three months on my own you are worthy of the time I should be spending living my life."

Cox has so far found the experience very freeing. "I can 100 percent be my usual weird self as a litmus test without being hurt by rejection. Granted I should feel like that anyway. But being reminded of the sanctity of my time has definitely kicked my confidence up the arse," said Cox. "As Marilyn Monroe once said, if you can't handle me at my quarantine you don't deserve me at my All Bar One," she continued. (For those not familiar with All Bar One, it's a British boozer...) 

According to dating platform OkCupid's chief executive officer Ariel Charytan, people are not shying away from dating apps during this time. “When people can’t meet up in person, they still find a way to date and connect with others, and this is a trend we’ve been seeing on OkCupid," said Charytan. "There’s been over 50 million intro messages sent on OkCupid over the last month from daters connecting for the very first time." 

"As people are being encouraged to practice social distancing at home, we are seeing that they are looking for human connection now more than ever before," added Charytan. "More and more daters around the globe are connecting virtually, enabling them to build real connections through their devices — people don’t have to go through this unprecedented period totally alone!"

Online daters have started noticing changes in the way their matches are communicating with them since people started social distancing.

Writer Rosie J. Peat said she's finding far more people than usual are messaging her, but she's also spotted that people are being more open. "Given there’s no likelihood of actually meeting up soon the pressure is off. Though I’m definitely also sensing some panic in the conversation, like people are using it as an outlet when they don’t want to worry friends/family," she said. 

"It started off pretty lighthearted, people making the inevitable Shaun of the Dead jokes," said Peat. But after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a government briefing that people should start working from home where they possibly can as well as avoiding pubs, restaurants, clubs, and theatres, Peat noticed a shift. People began expressing their concerns about jobs to her and asking her what she was doing about work. "I would definitely say people are being more open about their emotions than I’d normally expect of an app chat," she said. 

Radio presenter Jen Thomas has asthma and is working from home and social distancing. "At the moment I'm talking on the apps and using WhatsApp for any potentials," she said. "There’s been a jokey reference made to a FaceTime date — whether that may actually become a reality as time goes on we’ll see!" 

"I’ve noticed an increase in messages on Bumble too, and longer messages. I live alone and wfh so it’s company," she added. "I’d definitely be up for FaceTiming if they wanted to if we do end up having to stay in for 12 weeks." Thomas caveated that there is the fear that you might end up becoming more of a friend than romantic partner or that things could fizzle out too. 

Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at dating site eharmony, said that now that meeting to date face-to-face isn't an option through the "dating from home" process. "If we choose, we could see this an opportunity to get to know each other the old-fashioned way, with friendship and communication skills at the core of the so-called ‘dating from home’ process," said Lloyd.

“Having a date via FaceTime or WhatsApp video means you can explore building intimacy without the environmental distractions of a busy pub or café. You can really concentrate on getting to know someone, bit by bit," she added. "During difficult times such as these, many of us inevitably reflect on our value systems — what's important to us, who’s important to us and what we’d like to achieve in our future lives. All these insights make for interesting conversations." Lloyd noted that with a new date, you might not want to rush into any probing questions, but you could ask how they're coping with the challenges faced, or any moments of positivity among the obvious chaos, plus "the kinds of things they’d like to prioritise once the requirement for self-isolation is over."

There are ways to making "dating from home" interesting. If you're not quite ready to swap mobile numbers, you could try video messaging via apps. Bumble, for instance, lets you video call and video message. You could try voice noting. That might sound like a big step, but it's a pretty standard thing in the dating realm. People often use voice notes to pre-screen matches before going on an IRL date. You can find some useful tips here.

If you're feeling brave, or perhaps just ready to move things along, you could give FaceTime a go. It's dorky, but you could see it as a virtual date. Pour yourself a glass of wine and pretend you're sitting across from each other.

Natasha Briefel, UK Brand Marketing Director at Badoo, said they can see that people are still talking and connecting with one another through the app. "Our top tip is to have fun with our video calling feature, whether it's cooking together, watching your favourite Netflix show," said Briefel.  "This is the time for a new period of modern courtship – where we are already noticing longer, richer conversations taking place, as people are taking the time to really get to know each other before they can eventually meet face to face."

Not everyone is, of course, romantically inclined. Some of the daters I spoke to told me they're getting more likes and matches than ever before, with some people exhibiting what can only be described as extreme horniness.  

If you live alone and happen to be single right now, know that you're not alone. High School Musical sang it first, but we're all in this together. Using this time to get to know one or two of your matches will provide you with a bit of extra company. If you end up liking each other, brilliant. If not, doesn't matter! 

Stay safe and well, friends.

This article originally appeared on Mashable.com

 

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*Our Guarantee. The information we provide regarding other individuals is reliable to the best of our knowledge. Everyone has their identity, age and photos verified and is subject to public record background checks. If information we provide is found to be inaccurate we discount the match and try again. We cannot guarantee or promise a certain outcome or result from matchmaking or coaching. Nothing we say or do can be construed as a guarantee about the outcome of your experience. Our past or future comments about the outcome of your experience, potential matches, estimates of fees and time frames or our opinions are not guarantees. Actual fees and time frames may vary from the estimates given.