Any single person knows that dating is hard in "normal" life, but when you add a global pandemic into the mix, well, it just gets way more complicated. Speaking as an unattached person in quarantine, I've definitely had my ups and downs. There have been moments where I've been perfectly fine with being single and quarantining alone, and I have enjoyed the freedom that comes along with that—you get to do whatever you want to do! Order any takeout your heart desires! Sprawl out on your bed and hog all the pillows and blankets!
But there have also been moments of extreme loneliness where an Instagram black hole will get me thinking about how fun it would be to quarantine with someone you love and days when I actually crave cuddling with someone. (It's important to note that I am 100% not the most touchy-feely person on this planet.) And of course, there have been a lot of trials and tribulations when I make an effort to open the dating apps. It's been a lot of messaging that leads to nowhere.
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The added complications to dating during a global pandemic seem endless. It's harder to chat with someone on an app and meet up for a drink at a crowded bar the next day. There are a lot of questions that come up. "Are you social distancing?" "Who do you see regularly?" "Do you wear a mask?" A lot more effort goes into a first date than in "normal" times. For many people, the vetting process is a lot more extensive.
And everyone's opinions on dating are different during this time. Some people are dating and meeting up with people (hopefully as safely as possible). Some people have sworn it off until this is all over. And others might be just doing the virtual-dates thing. But one thing's for sure: Dating apps are pretty much the only place to connect with someone at the moment.
Ultimately, whether you decide to date right now depends on your own personal preferences and your own comfort levels, which isn't very different from pre-pandemic life. It's okay to try to look for potential partners right now just the same way it's okay to take a break and deal with some other things that might be happening in your life. We're all trying to get through this time in whatever way we can, so what's helpful for you might be different from what's helpful for your friends.
But if you do want to date, all hope is not exactly lost, according to Logan Ury, Hinge's director of relationship science and author of How to Not Die Alone. "People can still have a great love life despite the pandemic!" she says. "There has been a huge boom in virtual dating, so users are still finding ways to date in safe and creative ways. We predict that daters will continue to turn to online dating to meet new people outside of their usual community. In fact, 78% of Hinge users reported they expect to meet their match in 2021 through dating apps. As you navigate the new dating landscape, don’t rush it! There’s no set amount of time it takes to connect with someone, so make sure you don’t get caught up in comparing others around you."
To help you navigate the dating apps in quarantine, Ury shared some dating tips to keep in mind. (A lot of this advice can be applied to post-pandemic life, too.)
1. Don't Be Discouraged
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Ury says this is one of the top pieces of advice she's given during this time. "While the pandemic brought a lot of things to a halt, it didn't stop dating!" she says. "At Hinge, we've seen people invest even more effort into their dating lives. Last year inspired our users to slow down, reflect on who they're looking for, and date in new ways."
2. Don't Overthink It
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Easier said than done, right? But this can help. Ury said that a top 2021 dating resolution for Hinge users was not to overthink their dating lives and to be more in the moment when they find a relationship. Overthinking can sometimes lead to things that could stall a budding relationship, like self-doubt or projecting.
3. Be Honest With Yourself
Relationship experts have said that this slower time can be the perfect opportunity to really think about what you want in a relationship and a partner. Self-reflection can be a powerful tool. "Before you jump back into dating, you should take some time for self-reflection and diagnose your bad dating habits," Ury says. "What are the patterns and behaviors that have been holding you back? Are you too picky? Not picky enough? Ask some close friends for feedback if you're struggling to identify these on your own. Commit to breaking these habits as you start dating again."
4. Be Clear and Intentional
And when you have an idea about what you are looking for, you can be more intentional with your dating behaviors. "With the pandemic being a long period of positive behavior reinforcement, we are encouraging users to embrace this newly found intentionality and be more straightforward with their intentions as they reenter the dating world," Ury says.
5. Cultivate Positivity
"This has been a difficult time for everyone, so it's more important than ever to make self-care and mental health a priority when dating," Ury says. "Mindset matters! Whether you think the date will go well or you think the date will go poorly, you're right. Stay positive as you put yourself out there."
6. Keep an Open Mind
When I asked Ury for some smart ways to navigate the apps, she recommended keeping an open mind. That can be hard for some people (like myself), who might be stuck on looking for a certain "type." "Can you increase your age minimums and maximums? Expand your geographic radius by a few miles/kilometers? Allow yourself to be surprised by who you connect with when you broaden your horizons," she explains. Hearing that did make me think that maybe I was closing myself off from some opportunities.
7. Refresh Your Profile
Your profile might need a refresh. The best advice? Be yourself. "Include photos and prompt responses that show us who you are and what makes you unique," Ury says. "Think of your profile as your opening line. Include specific things that you enjoy talking about because that's what your matches will engage you on!"
When it comes to photos, variety is key, and you want to represent all sides of your personality. Ury recommends adding a mix of photos that show humor and vulnerability. She also says that photos featuring events and activities tend to do well. Show people what you love about yourself.
And be specific with your wording. "This helps you stand out from the crowd and show the real you," she explains. "For example, instead of saying, 'I want someone who doesn't take themselves too seriously,' say, 'I'm looking for someone who loves puns and singing during car rides as much as I do."
8. Send That Message
Sometimes, you've got to shoot your shot, right? According to Ury, your best chance at getting a response on Hinge is sending a message within 24 hours of matching with someone. For conversation starters, she recommends asking them questions and starting to discover who they are beyond their profile.
What gets tricky, especially in pandemic dating, is you could find yourself messaging back and forth with someone for a really long time but feel like you're going nowhere. Ury suggests keeping in mind the messaging sweet spot. "Four to five days of chatting before you initiate the date is often the ideal timing," Ury says. "It gives you enough time to build that foundation of trust, but it's not so long that the momentum drops off." And the first date doesn't have to be in person. Technology really makes it easy to do video chats.
9. Keep in Mind These Messaging Dos and Don'ts
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When it comes to messaging someone, Ury recommends not taking forever to respond. "Don't play the waiting game and allow too much time to go by in between messages," she says. "You want to keep the momentum going and respond to text messages as soon as possible. Successful daters are responsive and keep the conversation going."
She suggests asking thoughtful questions and skipping the small talk. "Don't ask someone cliché questions like, 'How was your day?' We're in a pandemic—the days are the same!" she says. "Instead, you can ask them about something you noticed on their profile to learn more about who they are."
10. Try a Virtual Date
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Virtual dates are pretty much the norm these days, and Ury says they're here to stay. "While not identical to seeing someone in person, a video date gives you the chance to explore someone's personality, the sound of their voice, what makes them laugh, and what makes them tick," she says.
If you're worried about it being uncomfortable, Ury adds that it might be less awkward than expected. She says 67% of Hinge users said they found their video date more natural than they thought it would be, and 81% said their dates were not at all awkward.
It helps to remember that we're all figuring out virtual dating, so a little bit of compassion and understanding for yourself and others might make things better.
11. Make Your Boundaries Clear
As things start to open up more, you might find yourself venturing out on in-person dates again (while still following COVID-19 guidelines). When that time comes, Ury says the best approach would be to make your expectations and boundaries clear from the start and to not feel pressured to do anything you're not comfortable with. "One of the most important things for couples to learn how to do is have hard conversations and navigate differences, so this is an opportunity for them to experience that early on and see how they do," she explains. "Before COVID, couples would not have a 'hard conversation' until the DTR (define the relationship) stage, but now, there is a new relationship milestone that happens earlier—an early conversation in which you discuss how you're approaching COVID safety precautions. This is a silver lining because we've found our users are becoming increasingly skilled at navigating challenging conversations earlier, a necessary skill for all successful long-term relationships."