Love in lockdown: Dating for the single and quarantined

It’s the viral love story of the quarantined era: a New Yorker asks his neighbor out using a drone, leading to a FaceTime dinner and a face-to-face encounter⁠ – with social distancing precautions, of course, courtesy of a huge plastic bubble.

If you’re similarly single and quarantined, but unfortunately unequipped with drones and plastic bubbles, just take your chances at finding love, flings, and everything in between online.

Now that traditional meet-cutes are pretty much out of the question, here’s how the online dating scene for twenty-somethings has changed.

You’ll have more company 

Tinder and Bumble, two of the most popular dating apps, reported increased use as social distancing measures were implemented. In the US alone, Bumble saw a 21% increase in in-app messages after March 12. Meanwhile, Tinder reported a 10-15% spike. That means more fish in the sea for the single and available! 

It’s the same in the Philippines for Jason, 23. “I started using Bumble more often because I assumed there would be an influx of people on the app.”

Just don’t expect too much

We’ve all been deprived of social interaction for the past couple of months, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s eager to find love. 

A lot of people log on to apps out of boredom, and unfortunately for those craving serious relationships, this still holds in the post-pandemic dating scene in the Philippines. So despite increased potential matches, keep in mind that others may not be looking for anything serious – or anything at all. Miguel, 28, says, “You could see in people’s profiles that they signed up just because of the lockdown.”

Kyle, 28, says these people aren’t too interested in connecting with their matches. “They seem to be not too inclined to serious dating. I just ignore these profiles when I do match with them.” 

But you never know when you’ll find love 

Leo, 26, found love when he least expected it. He’d been using Bumble for a while, but it was only after the lockdown that he found someone with whom he clicked. They’ve now been together for a month, and he has since deleted the app. 

Despite downloading Bumble out of boredom while quarantining, Diana, 23, has also met someone. “We’ve decided to date after the pandemic to see if we’re better off as friends or more than that.” 

Virtual dates fill the void

This is how online dating used to go: you match, exchange contact deets, transition the conversation off-app, and, if you play your cards right, meet up IRL. For now, though, you’ll have to play out your first date during a video call.

Certain elements of dating remain the same. “It seemed like a real date because I was able to get to know the guy,” shares Diana.

Plus, kilig can still be conveyed through digital screens. “I never thought I’d feel a strong sense of nostalgia for locking eyes with someone, even if it’s just through a video date,” says Kyle. 

But Diana was initially wary. “I wasn’t sure if he would be as decent as he was on chat. It’s easier on Telegram because you can be more cautious with your words.” 

To establish a degree of comfort, Jason and his match sent each other pictures and clips of themselves before they finally went on a date. 

What exactly does one do on a virtual date? Jason and Diana’s go-to ideas include wine nights, movie or series marathons, or simply conversations to get to know each other better. Others tailor their dates to common interests. Kyle plays PUBG Mobile and Overwatch with his matches, while Leo enjoys hashing out social topics during video calls.

You need to groom yourself as you would for a regular date – from the waist up, anyway. If you and your partner are ready to take things further, you might have to extend that grooming waist down. 

 For those unwilling to let social distancing get in the way of getting some, cybersex is an option. Kyle says, “I've tried it because the 'thirst' is real. I was upfront about it once we clicked emotionally. Communication is still key, virtual, or otherwise.” 

“It’s definitely scary at first. But as long as you trust the person and they’re willing to jump in as much as you are, then I guess it’s ok,” Jason adds.

Nothing beats relationships IRL

Miguel is concerned about the uncertainty of when he’d get to come face-to-face with his matches. But relationships built online may fizzle out before matches even get a chance to meet in person. 

First meetings over Zoom can be awkward, the lack of physical intimacy frustrating, and the technical glitches tiresome. Without actual dates to sustain the connection, matches quickly lose interest.  

“You have to really up your texting and video call game. When you're not photogenic or you rely on fun experiences to be the foundation of your dates, it's a bit difficult. Role-playing can only do so much. You can't imagine that you're ice skating together,” says Jason.  

He stopped talking to his match after two weeks. “Things got boring. She's still a student, and she has no classes. Nothing new was happening.” 

It’s certainly difficult to keep conversations interesting when you’re both stuck at home. But as Enzo, 27, puts it, “There’s no commitment, so you can bail out any time.”

Prioritize your well-being  

If you’re feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety – which are perfectly normal during this time – distracting yourself with the temporary highs of swipes and matches might not be too healthy. 

Instead, ask for support from trusted and loved ones. Paola, 25, is open to meeting matches after the pandemic, but adds, “With or without ECQ, I still have the friends I talk to often, so I don’t really need other company.”

Feelings of loneliness, exacerbated by months of self-isolation, might make this seem like the worst possible time to be single. But some are taking the time to indulge in well-deserved self-care instead. 

 Kyle says, “I have all the me-time I want. And I have a legitimate excuse to not see people and save money in the process!”

Diana enjoys resting well, working out, and reading self-help books. “Yes, being with someone is amazing. But because of the pandemic, we should focus on our self-growth and inner peace.” 

Online dating fatigue is an actual thing, and once you’ve reached that point, it’s time to stop thinking that ~ The One ~ is just one more swipe away. If your search for intimacy is becoming exhausting, it’s perfectly fine to give it a break. 

You’ll have plenty of time if virtual dating becomes part of the new normal for a while, after all. – Rappler.com

*All names have been changed to protect their privacy