Dating in lockdown: Finding new ways to connect when you physically can't
Lockdown can be lonely.
And it can be even lonelier if you're single.
The coronavirus outbreak has stolen our parties, our hangouts, and our love lives - provided they existed in the first place.
But while some have lamented the fact that traditional online dating has essentially become null and void due to the pandemic, others have found new and novel ways to keep on top of their matches. No going outside necessary.
Pre-Covid, I had long passed the days of talking on dating apps for weeks and never bothering to meet up.
Not once in the past year or so had I dedicated myself fully to The Chat without the intention of at least going for a drink. Never had I flat out communicated with a person without considering meeting them for a coffee.
If you weren't going to go on an actual date, then what was the point?
Then the outbreak began. The bars shut, the restaurants closed, the coffee shops started selling oat milk lattes out of windows with the promise that all of their equipment was sterilised and their staff were washing their hands every 15 minutes.
Seeing friends and meeting new people was over. Normal life was happening online now. Get used to it.
Suddenly, there was a point in chatting to strangers online for extended periods of time. For something to do, for someone to talk to. To feel a tad less lonely, if nothing else.
Dating coach Julie Spira says that the Covid-19 pandemic hasn't just made more people want to connect - but it has made connection essential.
"The need to connect in a crisis is necessary," she tells Her.
"Having human interaction with someone who checks in with you every morning to see how you slept or sends regular text messages not only helps with loneliness, but it creates a bond and helps you develop a relationship without having to rush into the bedroom.
"Since most people are adjusting to working at home, they have more time on their hands to check dating apps and quickly graduate to a phone or video call to see if there's any digital chemistry."
And digital chemistry there may very well be.
According to Julie, most people using dating apps have probably already entered into some form of new long-distance relationship since the coronavirus pandemic began - it just may not be a romantic one yet.
There are different ways of navigating dating in lockdown.
Some people have been video calling. Others have been Housepartying. Some have been planning intricate dates they'll go on when this is all over; restaurant picked, cocktails chosen, time TBC.
At the beginning of the outbreak, a friend of mine went on a social distancing date. They met in the city centre, waked around the vacant streets, and waved goodbye at the end. No touching, no risk.
The chat was, unsurprisingly, almost exclusively coronavirus related, but the date itself was apparently fine. It wasn't getting drunk in a bar, but it was something.
With the current lockdown measures in place, even a social distancing date such as the above would be too irresponsible. How could you justify walking beside a person you had never met before now, when grandparents aren't even permitted to hold their grandchildren?
You couldn't. The risk would be too high, the guilt too severe. And while some may simple resort to a few months break from their romantic lives, others are still powering on with intimacy and relationship building.
There are just new ways of doing it now.
Julie points to the usual suspects when it comes to quarantine connections - Netflix Party, Zoom, and FaceTime have all become regular parts of our weeks, whether we're part of the dating scene or not.
But Julie says that people have also been creating their own unique ways of finding matches during lockdown. Some have been updating their profiles to read: "Covid-19 free." Others have been posting photos of themselves with packs of toilet roll in a bid to reel in the desperate.
Other people have simply been making the most out of their video chats; so much so that Julie has already been coaching some of her clients ahead of their first video dates.
"I call it the 'dress rehearsal,' where I go on a virtual date with them, and then provide a critique so they’re date-ready for when they meet someone they’ve been chatting with," she says.
"The fact is relationships are starting now during this period of social distancing.
"While it feels like the world has completely stopped, there's no reason to push the pause button on finding love."
While the mere thought of meeting a date for the first time via video chat may seem bizarre and unnatural, once upon a time online dating was the same.
Before Covid-19, the majority of our communication took place online. Now, virtually all of it does - including dating.
It may not seem normal, but nothing is anymore.