Diversity & Inclusion
COVID-19 / Lifestyle / Social media

The good, the bad and the shirtless: Lessons from a year of virtual pandemic dating

Here's what we gleaned about looking for love in the time of COVID-19 from the personal anecdotes our Technical.ly and Generocity community shared with us.

Pandemic dating? (Photo by Pexels user cottonbro, used via a Creative Commons license)
A version of this story originally appeared on Technical.ly’s sister site, Generocity, which covers the social impact community in Philadelphia.
As if dating weren’t weird and stressful enough.

For the past year-plus, the single among us have also needed to worry about whether potential suitors are taking a pandemic seriously.

Then there’s the matter of meeting people in the first place. Bars and other settings of chance run-ins have been largely out. Accordingly, the number of users of dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, Grindr, etc. soared, as did the time people spent on the apps. Such apps have even announced new Biden administration-approved features that boost the profiles of vaccinated users. (It “may be the first time the White House promoted digital matchmaking,” notes one report.)

“I had the great misfortune of becoming single for the first time in my adult life just six weeks before the pandemic hit,” a media professional told Generocity. “I took a few months off to focus on myself — not that there was much choice when I couldn’t leave my apartment — and then in the fall, felt ready to try my hand at dating. To the internet we go!”

Along with the increased dating app use, posts suggesting how to successfully date online proliferated in the early days of the pandemic — though perhaps none of them was prescient enough to prepare people for what they’d experience as the pandemic wore on.

“I can say the virtual dating really is quite awful,” a lawyer who works for local nonprofits told us, “between people not knowing how to work a camera, making you nauseous because they are walking around while holding their phone, showing up without a shirt on or taking the call from bed, and having their child in the background while we are on the date.”

The pandemic changed dating IRL, as well.

Technical.ly reporter Paige Gross, in an article from July 2020, wrote about how her dating priorities had changed: “Instead of wondering if the date was going to be a dud, I wondered who’s in his quarantine bubble, if he lived with any ‘essential’ workers or if I could possibly be exposing him to the virus.”

Here are a few pandemic dating lessons we gleaned from the personal anecdotes our community of newsletter subscribers shared with us. (And, as you’ve probably already noticed, we promised anonymity so that they’d really spill the tea.)

1. Algorithms are not always your friends.

  • “First up [for me] was an OkCupid profile that lasted, quite literally, 30 seconds after going live. That first match or two the algorithm sent my way — yikes. A girl’s gotta have standards. I took a few weeks off before trying my hand at Bumble. I found that a ‘F*ck it’ attitude made the experience less scary — because there’s something terrifying about being vulnerable on the internet by way of admitting you’re looking — and had a few fun chats with a few sane-sounding people.”

2. Time is on your side (until it isn’t).

  • “We changed some plans to meet up in person to instead meet via Zoom. Yeah, it was weird! But the way to make it less weird? Joke immediately about how it’s weird. Then move on. We both got delivery from Han Dynasty and were soon surprised to realize two hours has gone by. We continued texting for a few weeks, but eventually it fizzled out.”
  • “We are about a half hour in when the guy says he cannot believe I do not remember him. Apparently we had gone out in person once before years ago. The problem with Zoom is you can’t take a minute to recover or hide your facial expressions, so I could not even pretend I remembered. That date ended soon thereafter.”

3. Dating from home has its advantages (and its disadvantages).

  • “[On a FaceTime date] I didn’t need to travel anywhere to realize I didn’t feel a connection with someone.”
  • “If it turns out to be a bad date, I am home already with my bottle of wine!”
  • “My very first Zoom date, the guy left the screen not once, but six (!) separate times to get a new beer (and once to go to the bathroom) in the span of an hour. I like a drink or two, especially on a date, but that was excessive.”
  • “I was doing one of those online speed-dating things (one of the companies that does it is called Cityswoon, I’d actually recommend trying it!) I was on my like third speed-date of the evening, and my cat jumped up on the table behind me, where you can see him on camera. Pretty soon, my cat starts puking off the side of the table, easily in camera view. So instead of drawing attention to it by getting up, I just awkwardly try to block him with my body. That date didn’t go well.”

4. The person you knew before the pandemic isn’t one you want to know now. Happily, the opposite also happens.

  • “[I] started quarantine dating this guy I met in person in February. Things were going pretty well until one day the end of March we went out to get some take away food. After we left the restaurant, I used hand sanitizer and handed it to him. (I should note that my mother has a condition that makes her extra vulnerable, so I was trying to be extra careful.) He proceeds to go off on me for a half hour about how I am manipulative and controlling because how dare I try to change him by suggesting he use hand sanitizer. End of that one.”
  • “The person I’m dating now? An old friend who hit me up in the Instagram DMs. After a few back-and-forth catchup messages, his offer of a ‘pandemic coffee date’ led to, indeed, a coffee date, then many more. I do wonder if we wouldn’t have reconnected without the stuck-at-home boredom of the pandemic. Either way, despite social media’s many, many horrors, I’m glad to have it to make these relationships possible during an otherwise lonely time.”


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Companies: Generocity
Series: Generocity / Coronavirus

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