Before stay-at-home orders became widespread across the country, Kaitlyn McQuin, a 28-year-old comedian from New Orleans, was still dodging date requests on dating apps.
“Their openers would be like, ‘Hey, want to get coffee/drinks?’ and I was like…no,” McQuin told HuffPost. “It was shocking, with social distancing.”
McQuin jumped on Twitter to share her thoughts about how dating might begin to change in a tweet that’s since gone viral.
Jokes aside, the comedian really does hope our current global pandemic leads to some great love letters. (Or hey, at least some horny John Donne-esque poems.)
McQuin is one of many singles navigating the brave new world of dating during the COVID-19 crisis.
These days, first dates are eerily similar to pod-style dating on “Love Is Blind” (but at least you can see your Hinge match with FaceTime). Dating profiles are full of quips about toilet paper. And burgeoning relationships are being tested by self-distancing orders. (But then again, so are long-term ones. Have you tried self-quarantining with your significant other?)
Given all the changes, who’s to say love letters ― the kind your grandfather used to send to your grandma while stationed overseas ― won’t come back into vogue?
“The one thing I can think of it being like is during the two world wars, actually,” said Terri Orbuch, author of “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship” and a professor at Oakland University in Michigan.
“Back then, relationships progressed and developed without [couples] ever seeing each other,” she said. “And they weren’t even able to text or call each other like we can now.”
“It’s a hard time to be a single. It sucks to have no opportunity to meet other singles in person while much of the rest of the world is hunkering down with loved ones.”
– Kevin Lewis, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego
Bumble, Hinge and other dating apps are actively encouraging their users to make their dates virtual and not meet up in person, and users seem to be taking their advice.
According to data supplied to HuffPost from the Bumble, the app has seen a 21% increase in video call usage over the past week and a 21% increase in messages sent. The average video call or phone call time is 14 minutes, which is pretty impressive, given that these are essentially cold calls between perfect strangers.
The cities most affected by coronavirus are messaging the most, with a 21% increase in messages sent in Seattle, a 23% increase in New York City, and a 26% increase in San Francisco.
The inclination to hop onto dating apps doesn’t surprise Kevin Lewis, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, who’s studied online dating.
“It’s a hard time to be a single,” he said. “It sucks to have no opportunity to meet other singles in person while much of the rest of the world is hunkering down with loved ones.”
This situation forces people to communicate more digitally before meeting in person than they would normally, which could have a mixed effect on post-quarantine bonds, Lewis said. You may vibe over DMs but feel no physical sparks when you meet IRL.
“But hey, at least this makes people feel less isolated for the moment,” Lewis said.
Dating without the possibility of going on an actual date in the near future has actually been a breath of fresh air for some.
Shyla Watson, a 26-year-old associate editor at BuzzFeed in Los Angeles, admits she’s guilty of not putting herself out there. Because of the coronavirus, she’s talking to guys without having to worry about going on any real first dates anytime soon.
“If I’m being honest, I actually think that our new circumstances have made me a little bit braver and more comfortable with dating apps,” she told HuffPost. “I actually didn’t download Tinder until my first or second day of quarantine.”
“I’m usually very hesitant to meet people in person unless we’ve been talking for a while, but now, literally not being allowed to go out has removed all the risk,” she said.
With so much attention put on an intellectual connection, Watson figures she and her matches have a chance to truly get to know each other ― and hopefully, establish real connections that’ll last after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Coronavirus has also helped some singles weed out people who weren’t relationship material. Meghan Adams, a 23-year-old environmental engineer in Chicago, said she’s come across far too many guys who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.
For instance, this undeterred world traveler:
“Things like that have been frustrating, but it’s telling about their willingness to follow the rules,” said Adams, who’s also tweeted about her COVID-19 online dating experiences.
Once past the “swipe right” or “like” stage, Adams said COVID-19 is pretty much all she and her matches talk about at first.
“All of the conversations I’ve been having over the past two weeks have started with things like ‘How are you doing in the quarantine?’ or ‘What are you doing to keep yourself busy lately?’” she said. “It’s been a good way to learn about guys’ hobbies and personality types.”
Indeed, COVID-19 has fueled some highly entertaining conversations. Take, for instance, this one sent to HuffPost from a single woman in Los Angeles:
Ah, nothing like Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis drilling a deep shaft into an asteroid to get you all hot and bothered.
Online dating profiles have also been edited accordingly.
Hinge has a prompt that says, “You should *not* go out with me if…”
McQuin changed her answer to: “Hand-washing wasn’t a part of your daily routine prior to coronavirus.”
Watson has left her Hinge profile as is, but she did make some quarantine quips on Tinder.
“Currently my profile says: ‘Looking for a corona bae: Together we could quarantine and chill, stay six feet apart, and wash our hands a lot.’”
The most popular tagline in the days of COVID-19 (besides “I have toilet paper”)? “Let me take you out before corona does.” Romantic!
Of course, the pandemic has tossed some cold water on burgeoning relationships, too.
Michelle Elman, a 26-year-old life coach from London, started seeing someone new a week before social distancing began in the U.K. She’s been quarantined for 14 days; without in-person dates, she’s starting to feel like she’s in a long-distance relationship.
“The conversations have definitely kept my mind off my illness at the moment and it’s a great distraction, but it’s also frustrating because without seeing each other, it will probably result in it fizzling out eventually,” she said.
Andrew Cassidy, an insight researcher from London, had just gotten back into the dating scene in January. He’d met a cute guy and the two planned several theater dates. They even managed to nab some highly sought-after “Dear Evan Hansen” tickets.
“Of course, then they suspended production ― cue dramatic crying,” Cassidy joked.
“So now, we’re currently describing ourselves as ‘casually dating,’” he said. “The guy is currently in self-isolation after a housemate showed symptoms, and I’m headed back up to Newcastle to avoid being stuck in London during a lockdown, so it’s a lot of not knowing when I’ll be able to see him again.”
Cassidy and his love interest went on their first FaceTime date this week, sharing dinner and drinks over the screen. It was lovely, he said, with the exception of one thing.
“I’m usually someone who likes to try whatever food my date is having, so having two separate meals with no chance to steal whatever they’re eating was probably the hardest part about this whole thing,” he said.
“We’re getting used to it,” he said. “We miss the whole holding hands aspect of it, but it’ll just make it all the more exciting when the lockdown is lifted!”
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus