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Dating during quarantine is weird and wonderful—here’s what happened when I tried it

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 29, 2020

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Photo: W+G Creative

“I feel like a cam girl,” I texted my best friend as I stared at myself on my computer camera.

Trying to embrace dating during quarantine, I was perched on my bed in front of my open laptop, illuminated by a ring light, wearing a going-out top and a pair of sweatpants, waiting for my FaceTime date to start. I had blown out my hair and put on makeup for the first time in weeks (just concealer and mascara, because the thought of doing a full face just to sit in my bedroom felt too depressing). I brushed my teeth and spritzed on perfume before realizing there was no point in doing either for the sake of my date. When I was pouring myself a second glass of wine, Mike* from Hinge dialed in.

“I don’t normally invite boys into my bedroom on the first date,” I said as I answered the call. Thankfully (and probably because I’d practiced it three times in the mirror while I did my hair), the joke landed. “So, how’s your quarantine going?”

Social distancing has impacted so many elements of life, and dating during quarantine looks almost nothing like dating used to. Usual first-date spots—bars, restaurants, and coffee shops—are off limits for the foreseeable future, as is being within six feet of another human being, which means we singles have had to get creative in our quest for love. Because of these factors, dating during quarantine officially went fully digital—and quickly, too.

What’s different about online dating during quarantine

While meeting someone online is hardly a novel concept (Kiss.com, the first ever online dating site, launched in 1994, and Tinder’s been around since 2012), what is new in a widespread way is the concept of forming an entire relationship online. Video dates allow you to meet and potentially fall in love with a complete stranger…without ever having to leave your home.

While meeting someone online is hardly a novel concept, what is new is the concept of forming an entire relationship online.

COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity for digital-dating platforms new and old to step up their game and meet the needs of socially distant singles. On April 7, Hinge launched its “date from home” feature, which allows users to indicate when they’re open to a video chat with their match. When both parties are ready, Hinge makes it happen. A new dating service, Quarantine Together, texts its users every night asking if they’ve washed their hands. If the answer is yes, they’re paired with another hand washer and given 60 minutes to text. Then, each party is asked whether they want to video call. There’s also Swivel, which can best be described as Chatroulette for eligible singles: Upon logging on, you’re instantly put on a video call with a potential love interest. You can hang up at any time and can be matched with up to 10 people per day.

As a serial dater, I’ll be the first to admit that there is something very strange about swiping on people who you know you won’t be able to meet up with IRL for quite some time, but according to dating coach Rachel Wright, LMFT, it’s still possible to form a real connection. “People who are on apps right now are looking for connection over the stereotypical one-night stand,” she says. “[They] know that they’re not going to see or be able to touch the person they’re talking to for a while. So if someone is still actively pursuing someone on apps, I think they’re generally looking for something more connected than the general population on the apps was prior to [the pandemic].”

In fact, it might be actually be even easier to form a connection than usual now, given that we’re all sharing this same heavy, taxing experience. “You know how people on The Bachelor become lifelong friends after knowing each other for eight weeks? It’s because they went through such an intense life experience together,” says Wright. “Things like that bond us.”

So when you’re opening up a conversation with “how’s your quarantine going?” instead of the usual “how was your weekend?” you’re already starting off at a deeper level, which can make conversations flow more freely.

Dating in quarantine makes for better dates and daters

Wright cautions anyone trying their hand at digital dating right now to remember that “connection” doesn’t necessarily mean “relationship.” “There are people who are just looking just for that while-in-quarantine connection,” she says, noting that feelings of loneliness may be especially heightened right now, and many people are looking to fill that void.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Because the idea of forming a long-term relationship right now feels largely hypothetical, you’re more likely to be open to matching with people outside of your usual preferences, and that offers some benefits. “If you’re opening up [your preferences], you’re going to be able to meet different types of people,” says Wright. “Even if you don’t ever end up meeting in real life or dating, you’ll be able to see how other people interact, and find deal-breakers you didn’t know you had and things you never knew you liked.”

During quarantine, I’ve removed all of my usual app filters, which has allowed me to have great conversations with men who live more than a mile away from me and are under six feet tall.

During quarantine, I’ve removed all of my usual app filters, which has allowed me to have great conversations with men who live more than a mile away from me and are under six feet tall. “It’s a really good time to kind of force ourselves into being present,” says Wright. “Right now, that means just asking yourself, ‘Do I want to talk to this person over text and FaceTime?’ and if the answer’s yes, there’s no reason not to.”

Before hopping on a video call with a match, though, Wright suggests building a rapport via text the same way you would before a real-life date, and making sure you’re on the same page about what you’re looking for. And, like with any type of dating, not all suitors will be winners, which I learned the hard way when Jeff* from Astoria asked me if I wanted to sext six minutes after we met on FacetTime. (I didn’t.) But during my hour-long video call with Mike, we covered everything from what we’re watching and reading to our Bar and Bat Mitzvah themes to the cults we think we’d be most susceptible to joining. It was one of the best first dates I’ve been on all year, and I didn’t even have to put on real pants for it.

I have no idea what’s going to come of it, and I have to admit, that alone is pretty great. Furthermore, the usual dating-related pressure of, “where is this going?” is thankfully nowhere to be found, because, for now, it can’t go anywhere. That said, we do have a second date on the books. Maybe this time, I’ll even wear some lipstick.

*Name has been changed

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