Getting your heart broken sucks at any time, but I’d argue that it happening during a pandemic, while you’re quarantining is a particularly awful time to find out the guy you were seeing had a girlfriend the entire time you were dating. I know much worse is happening in the world, but this did feel especially cold. And since only one of my three usual methods for coping with romantic slights (wine, going out and flirting, and reigniting a friends-with-benefits situation) is available right now (wine, to be clear), I decided to try a new strategy: online dating during the pandemic to stave off COVID-19-related loneliness.
It’s been an entire year since I’ve used Bumble or Hinge, which initially I turned to when my long-term boyfriend and I split. But after about seven months of swiping, chatting, dating, and ghosting, I was exhausted. The app life was absorbing time I’d much rather spend out in the world, meeting a potential partner the old-fashioned way. I found chemistry easier to gauge this way, and, also, I’m much better at flirting in person than I am over messages.
But none of this matters in this world of social isolation, when it really, really stinks to be a single person who lives alone. While I keep in touch with my friends and family virtually, I’m also keen to find other types of human connection; I even thought to myself the other night that it would be nice to have someone sleeping next to me, and I notoriously hate when people spend the night. Obviously that won’t be happening, but the fact that I even thought it really drove home my loneliness.
“A lot of people are stuck inside alone and are hungry for personal contact. We all need to feel like we have someone we can count on, who cares whether or not we’re okay.” —clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD
“A lot of people are stuck inside alone and are hungry for personal contact that isn’t about work,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “We all need to feel like we have someone we can count on, who cares whether or not we’re okay. It’s natural to think of what you’ve been missing if you don’t have a [partner] right now.”
So back to online dating apps for me—and, it seems, many others. A rep from Bumble says that in the past few weeks, the platform has seen an uptick in activity from new and existing users wanting to chat, video call, and audio call: “As we are now just entering the initial phase of quarantine and lockdown, we’re expecting these and other user-behavior trends to evolve as more and more people are looking for ways to combat isolation and loneliness and engage in one-on-one virtual connection.”
Bumble has also seen a 20 percent increase in messages sent and length of conversation, which Bumble calls a “quality chat.” Last week, the company saw a 21 percent increase in video chats and rise in time for average phone and video-call length. So given this increased saturation of dating app users and the breakdown of those ostensibly interested in quality connection, perhaps now is an under-the-radar great time to start swiping for love connections? Check out what exactly happened when I tried online dating during the pandemic to find out.
Here’s what happened when I tried online dating during the pandemic
After reactivating my accounts on both Bumble and Hinge and making a couple of updates to my profiles, I also update my personal swiping rules, inspired by my previous learnings from the apps:
- No to anyone who lists Instagram or Snapchat handles.
- No to anyone who says “swipe left if [insert some vaguely offensive thing].”
- No to anyone without any bio at all.
- No to anyone photographed with guns, fish, or other dead animals.
- No to anyone who makes me think, yeah you look like you’d ruin my life.
I’m going for quality over quantity here while online dating during the pandemic, meaning I don’t want to have 500 conversations at once, and I want to be selective.
After I make my updates, I begin swiping. I notice immediately that I’m having higher-quality conversations than when I previously used apps, though admittedly I have become a lot better at picking up on red flags (see: aforementioned swiping rules).
He never once tried to meet up with me in person, which would usually be a red flag, but in these times, it means he’s taking social distancing seriously—and that’s hot.
With one person in particular, I was happy to find things get pretty steamy. He never once tried to meet up with me in person, which would usually be a red flag, but in these times, it means he’s taking social distancing seriously—and that’s hot. The right blend of flirtation and sexual chemistry ultimately translated into some virtual sex, and I was thrilled to have a reason to wear lingerie I bought before pre-quarantine that I hadn’t yet put to good use.
Most of the conversations I’ve had, though, have been pretty average, but “average” has a new meaning now. Where the former average might have been “What do you do for work?” the new average is “How’s your quarantine?” or “Have you tried to bake bread yet?” But even though the questions themselves are different, the underlying intention of trying to connect as well as possible via a digital interface that doesn’t allow for immediate, real-life, physical connection remains the same.
I think people who are online dating during the pandemic really are looking for more human connection. The culture seems a little less swipe-y than it did to me a year ago. I’m going on a couple of FaceTime dates this week, which should be interesting, because even though the current conditions perhaps make right now the worst timing for finding a mate, I’m open and ready for love.
Whether or not I find that now isn’t really of concern to me because connecting with people still helps me envision a life outside of quarantine when I can date and love and live freely in a way that won’t compromise my health or anyone else’s. “By trying to meet people, we’re reminding ourselves that there will be a future after this is over,” Dr. Daramus says. “It would be nice to have someone to go out with by then.”
Here’s what having “safer” sex means in the time of COVID-19. And if you’re sad about pretty much everything right now, same. Here are eight ways to deal.