In the weeks before the first lockdown was announced, many of us (singletons) were dating pretty hard, myself included. So much so that on Valentine’s Day of 2020, I opted to spend it with my best single friend instead of a boy. Whether that was a choice for either of us or not is totally besides the point. Anyway, we played a points game on who could get the most amount of phone numbers each, free drinks, whatever, and who ever won got a month’s worth of free bagels from the (best ever) bagel shop down the road—in case you were wondering who lost, it was moi.
As much as I love casual dating, my Valentine’s game opponent had extroversion down to a T, and me on the other hand… well, let’s just say my ears tend to ring from the inside when I’m in the spotlight. It’s a week away from being a whole year later, and dating (or dating distractions) couldn’t be more different. Other than the obvious differences, how has dating fundamentally changed, and will the extroverts or introverts ever date in the same way again?
Logic would expect dating to halt altogether for single people over the course of the ‘stop and start again’ global lockdowns, but surprisingly quite the opposite happened. Over the past year, the dating world thrived, thanks to technology. Dating app usage surged despite the turmoil, and Tinder happened to be, by far, the most popular, with over 50 million sessions per week worldwide according to the Financial Times.
To the external eye, all singles that date are mostly walking, walking a lot for that matter, somewhat but not entirely aimlessly. Walking is ideal—you can talk about down right anything without feeling studied by whoever you’re on a date with from across a sticky table. You can also distract yourself from ‘filler talk’, meaning: people tend to talk about the things that they might think about when walking alone, like what’s actually going on in their lives, due to the lack of being studied by their date.
When you’re moving around and being distracted by externalities, the filters fall away. I can’t tell you the amount of utter uninteresting rubbish I’ve spewed over a low lit bar table and a grumbling stomach, just to fill the silence—that’s filler talk. Walking actually allows for silence, what you both see around you drives the conversation for you, and it feels natural that way.
Dating these days also encourages honesty in some ways; COVID-19 has brought out all shades of deepest darkest behaviours, and being ‘too busy’ just isn’t much of an excuse, not to mention ghosting—it’s much more tolerated now than it was before, not saying that this is a good thing, but also sorry not sorry. The difference between now and the first lockdown of 2020, is that expectation has been (almost) abolished, and that’s kind of healthy in my opinion.
There may be a change in terms of what people are fundamentally looking for when it comes to dating—stability, intimacy or companionship to name a few. Those casual daters from before might just want something a little more consistent, because social interaction is at a minimum, therefore lockdowns favour couples. In a broader sense, it favours relationships in general, which is surely a good thing. Were you ever one to say ‘I can count my best friends on my hand’? Well, in the UK, that’s what the rule book says we have to do with bubbles.
Before this shit-storm of a virus plagued society, we could all meet up with, or hook up with, a handful of different people at different times of the day or night. Relationships now have become much more precious, and purposeful, simply by choice being enforced. The greatest question is whether this will influence us after this is all over, which it will be eventually, albeit never forgotten. Lockdowns have seen a lot of long term relationships break up, due to the uncertainty of external life feeding into our internal lives, which again as sad as it truly is to see so many couples break up—they have done for underlying reasons, and in the long term will probably prove to be for the better.
I could argue that before the pandemic there was too much choice, now there is the same amount of choice, but what’s different is that people actually have to choose—again, this is a good thing. “Some things are definitely going to change for the better,” argues chartered psychologist, lecturer and author Doctor Audrey Tang when speaking to Harper’s Bazaar. “Dating is fun, it’s flirty, it’s enjoyable. One of the things people have missed is the idea of being able to dress up and go out and have that excitement. But if we’re not clear with our expectations, then we can end up connecting on so many superficial levels that, when it comes to actually being serious, we find out we don’t want the same things, we don’t have the same views on religion or marriage or children or even where this relationship is going. With Covid, there’s less room for game-playing.”
That all being said, sometimes the game playing is what actually makes dating fun in the first place, both for introverts and extroverts. According to the 2021 SKYN Sex and Intimacy Survey, sex in quarantine is more frequent and adventurous, despite heightened anxiety. In the same way that relationships come to ultimatums far quicker, sex is being treated like we have nothing to loose.
39 per cent of respondents in the survey reported experiencing an increased sex drive, more orgasms are happening (twice or more within a single session baby). More than a quarter of respondents reported starting a new romantic relationship since the start of the pandemic, and 78 per cent of those have ended up in a relationship, and of that 78 per cent, 31 per cent said that they slept with their partner faster than they normally would have. Will these stats in particular continue after lockdown ends? Arguably, I think they’ll increase. 41 per cent of respondents reported starting a ‘friends with benefits’ situation.
It was predicted that, unsurprisingly, there would be a baby boom. However, Brookings Institution has estimated that the US birthrate alone will decline by 7 to 10 per cent in 2021, which amounts to about 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births. 34 per cent of women stated that they wanted to get pregnant later than before the pandemic started, or wanted fewer children. Why?
Well, to put it simply, multitasking effectively is a myth. Forbes contributor and author, Sian Beilock, wrote that “There’s an unspoken expectation that women are responsible for keeping their families’ lives as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible—all without the support systems on which we used to rely. It’s this invisible labor that makes it impossible for many women to consider growing their families during the pandemic.”
All I can end off with is that we’re in for an interesting and drastic change, which will undoubtedly only be realised in hindsight when we’re out of the COVID-19 chrysalis, and I’m excited for it, but I hope none of us are waiting for it. Singleton valentines this year won’t be for drunkenly gambling with strangers and best friends, but dating is, evidently, still worth the walk. Extroverts, welcome to an introvert’s comfort zone, and introverts, send the damn text already, you can jolly well walk on your own again once this is all over.
The coronavirus outbreak is only now starting to seriously affect the UK and the US, and everyone is panicking. Here I am, working from home during what seems to be the end of the world. People are scared, confused and unsure about what lies ahead. Have we got enough food in the house? Am I really going to do all my meetings through video calls for the next month? Even worse, am I really going to be unable to date people for a whole month?
Reaching ultimate boredom because you’re stuck in the house is one thing; self-isolating and therefore missing out on many great dates—and, potentially, great sex—is another thing. Here’s how the coronavirus is impacting our dating lives and what you can do to make things just a tiny bit better.
Speaking with some friends about whether or not they were still using dating apps and if so what for, one just stated what should have been obvious to me: “it’s making people horny innit.” Well, it turns out it actually is. Hinge has become the ‘place to be’ for thirsty coronavirus pick-up lines. Tinder is kindly asking its users to wash their hands and avoid touching their face—let alone go any further than chatting through the app. People are home, bored and swiping through profiles just to get a distraction from our constant anxiety-inducing pandemic newsfeed.
Add self-isolation to general public health concerns, and people feel lonely, panicked and desperate for some company. Friends that were ‘on the market’ for a few months have decided to delete their dating apps completely, justifying this by explaining that opportunities are much slimmer and that nobody seems to be talking about anything else at all. “Dating during a pandemic is just… different,” said one.
Screen Shot spoke to a Tinder spokesperson about how the app was approaching the outbreak and what measures it was taking to inform people to stay safe. “Tinder understands that our members are oftentimes meeting new people in-person, and given the current environment, we wanted to remind them of the precautions they should take. All of the suggestions shared are from the World Health Organization, and we are making it easy for everyone on Tinder to find out more by linking directly from the app to the WHO site.” In other words, at the moment, there’s not much the app can do apart from encouraging people to avoid meeting for dates.
However, while it looks like regular activity is continuing on Tinder, the dating app just recently had to cancel the release of its apocalyptic-themed in-app video series called Swipe Night. The company had planned to release the first season of the show offering a five-minute interactive story where users made choices to progress the narrative. These choices would then appear on the users’ profiles and would be used to match them with others who also took the same action. Apocalyptic theme put aside, this actually sounded like a good distraction. Another one bites the dust.
The same can be said for other dating apps such as Bumble, Hinge and Grindr. And while the reasons behind this drought are more than justified, FaceTiming matches and having phone sex might not cut it.
That’s where Feeld comes in. For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, Feeld is a dating app for people interested in polyamory, kink, swinging and other alternative sexual preferences. Speaking to Feeld’s head of PR Lyubov Sachkova, Screen Shot asked about the app’s new way of facilitating intimate interactions. “Being online is what everyone seems to be doing now, more so than ever. What that means for dating is that while people might not be meeting in real life they still would want to connect with like-minded individuals and create connections, chat and get to know one another,” explained Sachkova.
So what is Feeld doing better than the rest of our dating apps? It is introducing a feature that will actually relieve us from our self-isolating horny state. “We recently launched a project titled For Play where you can digitally touch, tease and flirt with others”. If you decide to enter the For Play universe, you will be transformed into a floating avatar that both mirrors and completely abstracts your features. Your ‘orb’-like avatar is then assigned to a digital room where you can play with up to three other live participants.
What’s the deal, some of you might ask. “We are aiming to create a multi-sensory digital experience that stimulates sight, touch and hearing. So hopefully in this time of social distancing we can still feel the positive effects of human touch even if only digitally for now.” While we’re all stuck inside losing our mind over the tiniest thing only because we can’t deal with being isolated for more than two days, For Play gives you the chance to get a tiny bit of gratification and thrill over bumping your orb against someone else’s—sounds dirty, I know.
What we can take away from this is that dating will not be the same for a little while. Whether you decide to keep on using dating apps to chat online or have already deleted Hinge from your phone, we can all agree that self-isolation is, technically, making meeting new people harder for everyone. It’s all about your determination now. Are you willing to date through FaceTime? If not, For Play seems like the safest (and funnest) option.
So, what are you waiting for? Want to bump your orb against mine? Just make sure you wash it first.