Sparing no one and nothing, the pandemic has made romance even more challenging than it is, but will that stop you from going on that date? There are limits, sure, but that means it’s time to get smart, sure, and safe.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Who wants to date in the pandemic?
A challenge at a time of convenience, access, and great liberty, one would assume that the idea of going on a date is the farthest thing from anyone’s minds these days. While there is a morsel of truth to that gnawing fact, what with the mere thought of a handshake, a hug, and a close-distance encounter sending a shock of panic to our already paranoid brains, the craving for connection has become even more pronounced in the pandemic. Yes, there are virtual options, all of which have truly opened up the world to bridge the gaps of relationships and compel intimacy in a way they have never been before. But you have to admit, that playful (read: flirtatious) back-and-forth on Instagram, that selection of digital gutters masquerading as online dating apps, and that face-to-face video chat isn’t quite the same.
Remember The Time?
Dangerous as it was pre-coronavirus, you know, it being god-awful, complicated, and downright dismal, there now exists a greater danger when it comes to even so much as entertaining a date in the pandemic. With lockdown, self-isolation, and quarantine all rudiments one must abide by, as well as of a safe, social distance, the traditional, too close for comfort concept of meeting and getting to know a prospect in romance has shifted dramatically over the course of what has nearly been a year. Now, a lot more considerations have to be more mindful of.
In fact, these days, it seems like a lot of our conversations have become preface by, “Remember the time?” Gently brushing your hands while awkwardly walking towards the cinema? Sitting in close proximity just talking and eventually draping into a cuddle? Kissing just about anywhere, preferably under the moonlight and stars with a nice view? While it is reminiscent of rom-com tropes, it sure wasn’t impossible. Falling in love was, and still is hard, but a date? Relatively simpler.
Today, all of that—the touch, the embrace, the kiss—isn’t spared by the unforgiving effects of the pandemic, making romance a collateral damage.
Surprisingly, the desire for entanglements of this sort, one that will at some point require moving out of a safety bubble and into the outside world, hasn’t stalled in the midst of the pandemic. Sure, there was a lot more caution in the early chapters of this very troubling time, but people have found a way around to meet people, reconnect with friends, or strengthen existing bonds. Studies show that in the second quarter of 2020, online dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, and even Grindr have reported a 15% increase in subscribers. To illustrate: this translates to an astounding 3 billion Tinder swipes, 700% increase of dates on OKCupid, and a 70% surge in video calls for Bumble. Clearly, there is a stronger urge and need to find, well, love in lockdown.
For the population of those single and unattached, the lens of romance has shifted from the fleeting, come-as-it-may, to something more intentional. Even with limits and mindful movements, the general consensus has been to spend more quality time with partners new and old, and most importantly, to have deeper, more focused conversations. In fact, in America alone, there was a study that graphed a 20% decline in hookups, which is a culture of wham, bam, and thank you ma’am that we are all too familiar as a generation.
Not that “Hey, wanna have fun” was completely taken off the table, of course. With little left to do, the pent up sexual energy of human beings has skyrocketed over the pandemic. (Don’t believe us? The numbers of porn sites and OnlyFans do not lie.) It’s just that this time, people who do brave the battleground of dates have turned more serious—pixelated photos in a diminutive thumbnail, unstable third world internet connection, and stir crazy cabin fever notwithstanding.
It’s A Pandemic Date
More simmer than sizzle, going on a date in the pandemic saw a shift of priority toward emotional connection. Finally, there is now more time to introspect and recalibrate points-of-view and preferences. Now, compounded by the uncertainty of the pervading circumstance, the capacity for feelings once stunted by ease and innovation has grown exponentially. “When you take a single person who is not getting their social needs met by all of the people who they would normally see outside of their home, they actually have emotional bandwidth to engage in a much deeper way,” explains Jeffrey Hall, Director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas in an interview with The Atlantic. “So I would guess that slowing down is a representation of a greater level of need, and a lot more energy to be able to invest in those types of conversations.”
Jumping off from an app or truncated talks on date-focused apps or social media, the next logical step is to bring the conversation at a closer distance. This doesn’t mean meeting up, because unless absolutely necessary, we still have to exercise propriety. In this case, it entails taking things to a more safe and secure space where you can do everything from sharing your long drawls of a day-to-day, exchanging memes, songs, or add-to-cart links, and even sexting, to you know, spice things up, in peace.
The Talk Made Better
Listen, with much of our lives spent in the matrix of the internet, data and personal information have become currency for many things. While some are standard, others circumvent the necessity and harvest much more than you should, essentially endangering your identity online with security breaches. So, skip the worries about blackmail, theft, and harassment by choosing messengers that are proven safe to simulate a date virtually—at least for the time being. After all, you are only going by the gospel of Rihanna here: To find love in a hopeless place.
Beefing up safety and security for its users, apps such as Viber use end-to-end encryption. This means, there’s no way anyone can read and listen to your personal chats and calls, which should be kilometric by now if you’re talking to that person you matched with. Here, you are assured that no one will be privy to what is supposed to be personal. Viber has even long allowed deleting messages for all, in case you got a little too thumb happy and sent that steamy message to the wrong chat.
Taking things even further, Viber introduces disappearing messages to its security measures. There is also an update allowing a self-destruct timer, even prompting someone if a screenshot is taken of the back-and-forth. (Translation: Those saucy and sensual photos and exchanges are for your eyes only.) Maintaining privacy on the messenger app, Viber now allows users to hide certain conversation from the chat list, which can only be accessible through a PIN.
It’s not all furrowed brows type of serious for Viber, because to in lieu of the typical Valentine’s day date in this pandemic, one can send cute clips with heart-shaped instant videos from February 12-16. Now is not the time to play hard-to-get. If you want to let someone know how you feel, no matter if it’s a new date or a long-time flame, these sweet videos can be done by simply pressing the instant video icon on the chat screen and then released to send. Ah, love.
Whether it be IRL or within the scope of a URL, pandemic or not, a date is supposed to be decisive and deliberate. Meaning, these distanced conversation have to matter. You can muck around and multi-task all you want, that’s on you. There is no other way to it, your emotional bearings being stretched way beyond its natural limits because of the pandemic. That said, you might want to reconsider and instill a sense of discipline to how you approach chatting up someone, getting to know them, and if and when permissible, to go on a hard-earned, well-deserved date. There’s a time and place for play, yes, but the time now isn’t for that.
The point is, love shouldn’t have to be put on the back-burner just because of the pandemic. Limits exist, of course. (Sorry, Cady.) However, it shouldn’t be a detriment to any opportunity that presents itself. You need love, too—or at the very least, someone to talk to and virtually hold hands while waiting out this proverbial to pass. Just like in sex, be safe, be sure, and be smart, but go on, let love find you. Go on that simulation of a date, talk to someone online at great lengths, and just be open, because you never know, right? Who knows, in this love lockdown, you win. Take that, Kanye.