No one has a roadmap for dealing with a global pandemic. As we begin to find some sort of routine in this ‘new normal’, the realities of living and working from home are beginning to set in. The novelty of wearing PJs all day is starting to wear thin and the line between weekdays and weekends is irrevocably blurred. And we’re all wishing we could do anything but spend another night glued to the couch.
With nearly 25% of Australians living alone, this period of self-isolation presents a whole host of hidden challenges.
Aside from the sense of disconnection from friends, family and even the incidental interactions we usually have with our local cafe’s barista, there’s one big dilemma many of us are facing around the world: how on earth are we supposed to date?
With strict regulations preventing non-essential indoor and outdoor social gatherings and mandatory physical distancing practices now in place, opportunities for meeting someone new (or even catching up with that someone special) is proving virtually impossible. So, what should newly loved-up couples be doing to weather this (socially distant) storm? And for the single folk out there, are we destined to spend the foreseeable future alone?
The rising popularity of dating apps
Swiping right is nothing new. In fact, the ABC reported in 2015 that there had been more than 4.6 million registrations across online dating sites. No doubt that this figure is bound to be even higher today in 2020. From online dating sites like RSVP and eHarmony to mobile-first apps like Tinder and Bumble, the conveniences of digital dating have made this a popular option for many.
Even before a global pandemic like COVID-19, online dating let people across the country connect with others. Particularly for those living in regional or rural areas, dating apps have offered the chance to scope out a broad pool of potential partners before committing to a face-to-face date. Plus, the ability to filter users based on lifestyle or interests has helped streamline the dating process.
It’s no surprise that in today’s digital-first world the trend towards online dating continues to climb. A recent study by Relationships Australia revealed 62% of women and 57% of men have turned to dating apps to meet a new partner, with over a quarter of survey respondents using online dating as a way to build long-term relationships. With this increased uptake of dating apps, the stigma that once surrounded those who went online in search of love has also begun to diminish.
So, you’ve just met someone. Now what?
Whether you’ve just started dating someone new or are in the early stages of a serious relationship, social distancing can make it oh-so-difficult to keep the spark alive. While we might not be able to wine and dine at our favourite restaurants, there are still plenty of ways to keep the romance alive (even without leaving our apartment).
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Take inspiration from Bumble and host a virtual date night: start a video call by playing a game such as ‘2 truths and a lie’, read each other's horoscope, or even watch a film together.
- Get cooking together: pick a recipe you’ve always wanted to try and set up a video call to make the dish together (well, virtually at least). Plus, with extra time on your hands this is a great opportunity to spend a little extra time tackling a more challenging recipe.
- Keep communication open by setting up regular video chats. Because let’s face it, spending all our time alone isn’t going to do our mental health a lotta good.
- Commit to dedicated date nights each week, and try to make this a COVID-free space by shifting the conversation onto anything else but the global pandemic.
- Revive the age-old art of snail mail by sending each other love letters via the post (or take things online with long-form emails).
- Surprise your date with small acts of kindness, such as getting their favourite food delivered to their door when they’re having a bad day.
And if you’re single, is it even possible to meet someone new right now?
For those looking for love, a global pandemic might not seem like the right environment to start dating. But with all of us spending the majority of our waking hours at home (and on the Internet), now could be the perfect time to swipe right. Although we’re yet to see any definitive data to back up this spike in usage, the inevitable boredom of isolation coupled with our innate human desire for social connection makes for the probable increase in the number of potential partners online.
Many dating apps are discouraging face-to-face meet-ups in accordance with social distancing measures now in place around the globe. However, these platforms are pivoting their service to enable users to continue to date even while staying in. According to Bustle, Bumble has seen a 93% increase in its Video Call and Video Chat usage across a two-week period in March 2020. Plus, dating app giant Tinder has launched a new ‘Passport’ feature, enabling users to match and connect with users across the globe for free until the end of April 2020 in an effort to keep users connected during these challenging times.
So, what should you keep in mind when using dating during COVID-19?
- Take your time and get to know potential partners via messaging apps without the expectation to meet up face-to-face. Embrace this opportunity to have quality conversations and foster connections with less pressure over the weeks ahead.
- Try to replicate traditional offline dates online, such as having a drink with new matches over video or phone calls.
- Get to know your matches on a deeper level by starting conversations with thought-provoking questions and ditch generic phrases such as ‘how are you?’ or ‘what have you been up to today?’. Stuck for something to ask? Check out this list of 290 questions to ask on a Tinder date.
- Shake things up by trying new platforms such as QuarantineChat, which enables you to chat over the phone with another person stuck at home in isolation.
It’s important to play the online dating game safely. We might not be in close physical proximity to potential partners, but it’s important to understand the risks associated with digital dating. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, romance scams have been regularly reported on dating apps (with stats from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission indicating online dating scams accounted for over 30% of all reported scam losses).
How can you stay safe while swiping right?
Here’s a checklist provided by the Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner to ensure you don’t get #catfished:
- Take things slowly, build trust with your connections and don’t rush into sharing too much personal information.
- Only connect with matches on social networking sites once you really trust them.
- Turn location services off to ensure you’re not sharing the specific location of where you live.
- Create a separate email address for all your online dating apps and sites.
- Block or report any users that seem suspicious or behave badly (such as sending threats or content that makes you feel uncomfortable).