When social distancing began, I planned to fire up the dating apps and get to know new people from the comfort of my living room.
Six weeks into self-quarantine, I have interviewed dozens of FaceTime daters. Bumble, Tinder and Hinge keep sending alerts urging me to get back out there. I’ve emailed condolences to an acquaintance who was dumped via Zoom, a phenomenon that’s now called “Zumping.”
But I have not felt compelled to swipe for myself. And I’m here to tell you: If you don’t feel like dating right now, it’s okay to sit this one out. Dating apps, and fellow single people, will still be there when we emerge from our homes.
Perhaps I haven’t been interested in dating because of another goal I made for myself early on in isolation: If I couldn’t see anyone in person, I wanted to socialize at a distance only with people who’d already proved to be a fun and nourishing presence in my life. I resolved that, once a day, I would speak to a family member or a friend over the phone. I’ve had Zoom hangs with college buddies, FaceTime drinks and old-fashioned phone calls with friends near and far. In the stress of a pandemic, the last thing I wanted was to be pacing my apartment, stewing because some stranger, who presumably had an abundance of free time, wasn’t texting me back. (Yes, people are still ghosting one another these days.)
Other than occasionally thinking, “If I had a partner, this would be a great bonding opportunity for us,” I have not felt that my life is lacking. I’ve been especially grateful that I enjoy my own company, have a job I love and am not stuck in isolation with someone I can’t stand. On the list of things I miss right now, connecting with a Tinder bro does not rank high.
To their credit, dating apps are adapting to this moment. They’re promoting the virtual date and adding features to make it easier.
New connections are being formed. Coronavirus meet-cutes quickly capture the Internet’s attention: There’s the Brooklyn man who saw a woman dancing on her roof and sent over a drone with his phone number. Later, he stepped into a clear plastic bubble so they could go for a walk. For her birthday, he showed up outside her apartment with a boombox and arranged for her roommate to deliver a cupcake.
There’s the Los Angeles Times reporter who’s documenting her roommate’s relationship with a Bumble guy. He’s a chef, so naturally they’ve been cooking and baking for one another.
Are these love stories genuine, or are they mere social media performances? Some of both? We won’t know till they’re out of quarantine and can break the six-foot barrier.
If you want to swipe, swipe. Anthony Fauci has even endorsed the in-person meetup (as long as you’re both healthy and “you’re willing to take a risk”). But if you’re not feeling it right now, don’t force it. Just as all those proclamations of productivity can make those of us merely surviving feel “lazy,” giving your love life a rest during isolation might feel like you’ve given up on love. Maybe you have! And that’s fine! But building a life where you’re thriving while solo will serve you well once life speeds up again. Living through this moment might give you the confidence to travel alone for the first time, or the strength to get out of a bad relationship because you no longer fear long stretches of solitude. Maybe it’ll make you realize which qualities you really need in a partner and which you can do without, and how you could be a better partner in the future.
Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, predicts that even when bars and restaurants open again, singles will continue to weed through matches via virtual dates or phone calls before meeting in person. “I think you’re going to … return to traditional dating where you get to know the person before you spend a lot of money and before you have sex with them,” Fisher says, adding that the in-person first date “will become more valuable and more meaningful.”
That’s a change to cheer, whether you’re on a dating hiatus or swiping up a storm.