In an effort to stay busy amidst a global pandemic, many of us have resorted to something that’s always within arms reach: our cell phones. And in between celebrity stalking, Twitter scrolling, and eye-straining FaceTimes, the act of swiping on dating apps has filled the void left by this ongoing period of social distancing.
Many of these platforms have kept up with the times, updating their systems to support video chatting while encouraging new and safe ways to find your match without jeopardizing your health in the process. While the last few months have left many skeptical that they’ll ever find “the one” amidst a major health crisis, in actuality, COVID-19 has ultimately helped to pump the brakes on the act of serial dating.
While hookups are still possible, those who are used to moving from partner to partner can now take the time to slow their roll and reconsider their approach in this new, unprecedented state of the world we’re in. As for those who are regulars in the dating game, they can use this situation as an opportunity to weed out the good ones from the anti-maskers. Now is as good a time as any to put building a connection (albeit, virtually) at the forefront, especially as one-time in-person flings take a brief chill on the back burner.
So how does one really take advantage of dating in the age of coronavirus? Well, we’ll let the experts take it from here.
Curbing Casual Sex
There’s nothing wrong with a steamy fling, but right now, people aren’t super interested in risking their health for something that doesn’t allow for much connection. Instead of prioritizing pleasure, those still interested in dating are shifting their focus from straightforward sex tosome form of relationship that has the potential to blossom into something more.
“The pandemic is a paradigm shift for those men who’ve mainly sought hook-ups,” says Connell Barrett, a dating coach with The League and founder of DatingTransformation.com. “Since easy sex is not so easy anymore, guys must connect in a deeper, more generous, high-level way. That sort of deeper connection takes true vulnerability. I call this getting ‘emotionally naked.’ Men are getting more emotionally naked with potential partners because they’re not getting physically naked with them. This is welcome progress and growth for guys.”
With this new form of dating, as cheesy as it might sound, you have the time to truly know someone on a level you might not see otherwise. There’s a level of increased awareness about who you match with, who you open up to, and who you potentially meet up with for a socially distanced outing.
“[The pandemic] has encouraged men and women to know what they are looking for and not just focus on sex as the main goal,” notes dating coach Tripp Kramer. “If people want to still hook up, they will, even through the pandemic. But this new way of dating has encouraged everyone to slow down and think about the person they are really talking to. I believe it’s bringing more awareness to dating which is a great thing overall.”
Developing a Virtual Connection
Video chat dates are all the rage nowadays, and if you haven’t partaken in one yet, you’re missing out on something clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. calls a “powerful pre-date tool.”
“Video chatting gives you a chance to see if there is a connection, to test your communication compatibility, and to look at the other person to see if you are attracted to them and vice versa,” he says. “They are a great way to ‘test the waters’ in a now socially appropriate manner because of the pandemic.”
If you’re someone who says they love in-person first dates, you’re lying to yourself. Not only do these virtual interactions subdue those nervous jitters you’d feel if your knees awkwardly bumped together in a crowded bar, conversely, they allow for an easy “end call” escape if there’s a quick realization that it’s just not meant to be.
“With video chatting you get to see what they truly look like, sound like, what their mannerisms are, and even what their life looks like, all of which can influence compatibility,” says Laurel House, eharmony’s relationship expert. “Do they live in a cluttered mess while you are a neat freak? Do they have a collection of cats and you are allergic? It’s matching with other people you are compatible with that increases your chances of having that connection go deeper and potentially become lasting and meaningful. I encourage daters to try online dating in places where real connections and compatibility are its core values.”
And if you’re someone who’s been thriving in the virtual dating world, don’t worry. Even post-pandemic, odds are this newfound approach to meeting other singles will stay put.
“Video-dating is here to stay because it’s an effective screening process that saves time and effort — not to mention money on pricey IRL dates,” states Barrett. This is so much more effective than the pre-COVID model of online dating. You would swipe, match with someone, swap lots of text messages, get dressed up, and go meet them [just] to find out there’s no spark. That’s a lot of time and effort for a disappointing date. Video dating makes the process more efficient and enjoyable. You can say, ‘Hey, I’m just not feeling it’ without leaving your couch. Video dating will long outlive the virus.”
Putting Safety First
Even as restrictions loosen up across the country, that doesn’t mean everyone’s automatically comfortable enough to venture to outdoor brunch for a date. There will still be some who prefer the virtual approach, for the time being, focusing on the conversational aspect before approaching the physical one. With that said, a new and easy way to weed out potential partners is by being upfront about your stance on following COVID-19 guidelines.
“If you care about your safety and the safety of others, the message from the scientists and health care providers is almost crystal clear: Avoid indoor gatherings of 10 or more people, wear a mask at all times unless you can be safely socially distant, socially distance at least six feet, and wash hands regularly,” states Klapow. “If you have any reservations about a potential date’s safety protocols, you need to ask. A person who tells you it isn’t important, it isn’t real, or it doesn’t really matter, is telling you a whole lot about themselves.”
Just like in any other dating scenario, if you do agree to meet up in-person, communication and consent is key. The other person won’t know your level of comfort and expectations unless you explicitly say them out loud. Sure, these questions may seem uncomfortable to ask, but wouldn’t you say a positive COVID-19 test trumps that?
“Are you comfortable shaking hands, hugging, kissing? Do you want to wear face masks, sit across from each other, sit outside? Conversation creates confidence, and you want to go into this date confidently,” says House. “Talking about these things before the meeting will minimize the pre-date stress of not knowing how to act, then cut out the potential initial awkward shake/hug/no-touch dance. Of course, follow any of your local CDC guidelines, but I see singles getting creative with in-person dates.”
Making the Most of the Situation
There’s no telling when we’ll return to normalcy. Until a vaccine is readily available for the general public, chances are we’ll be operating in a socially distant fashion for the long haul. That being said, we shouldn’t dwell on the negative and wallow in the sadness of the situation. This pandemic has forced the world to slow down, and in turn, reassess day-to-day life. And what does that mean for those still hopeful that they’ll find “the one?” Some really great things, actually.
“Dating has quickly moved from a ‘game’ to an opportunity to find real connections… fast,” notes House. “Because we don’t have as many social distractions or activities, we are focusing on what really matters in our lives, which for many of us is family, work, self-improvement, and finding love. With the focus on what matters, we are more emotionally invested as well, dedicating the time and energy to be present and on purpose.”
Not only does Klapow agree, but he believes we’ll see “fewer dates that bomb and continue to bomb,” courtesy of people being much better prepared for the first time they meet face-to-face. “As much as the pandemic has limited interactions, it has forced those interactions to be more thoughtful, more intentional, and more deliberate.”
Selectivity ain’t a bad thing, either. Standards are raised, the bar is high, and frankly, there’s no reason to settle right now. We’ve got all the time in the world, so use this as your opportunity to find that person that truly makes your heart skip a beat.
“We’ve become like bouncers at an elite club. We’re more selective. It’s harder to get past our door,” says Barrett. “As terrible as COVID-19 has been, raising our standards and refusing to settle is a good thing. It’s a philosophy men should continue when we’re dating in a post-pandemic world.”
By Sean Abrams – Sean Abrams is AskMen’s Sex & Dating Editor. He enjoys long walks on the beach and large glasses of tequila. When he’s not putting his thoughts on paper, he likes to pretend he’s just like Channing Tatum in “Step Up” as a hip hop dancer/choreographer, based out of Queens. Plenty of videos available, per request.