Break is over, Valentine’s Day is approaching and cuffing season is well underway. And after months of social distancing and pandemic-induced isolation, many of us are feeling extra deprived of human connection. But with COVID-19 cases still on the rise, finding a companion to cuddle up with during the winter months is harder — and riskier — than ever before.
In the past year, we’ve reinvented how we communicate with others — and the dating landscape has become more virtual than ever. Dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble have always been around, but many have seen a spike in first-time users since the pandemic began. According to Apptopia, a data company, the top 20 dating apps have gained 1.5 million daily active users this year.
This influx of dating app users presents challenges, especially since it’s riskier to meet matches in person. To limit the spread of COVID-19, dating app companies have been making moves to discourage in-person dates. Tinder has implemented a video dating feature, while Bumble allows users to display their dating preferences, whether it’s completely virtual, socially distanced or socially distanced with masks.
Here are our tips for navigating virtual dating in a pandemic:
- Think before you swipe. Check in with yourself and decide what you’re comfortable with early on so you can share any safety concerns with others from the start.
- Communication is key. Bumble’s Dating 101 in 2021 guide encourages users to have what they call the “COVID conversation.” Make sure you and your match are on the same page, and avoid making any assumptions — everyone’s comfort level is different. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and unmatch with someone if they aren’t taking the same precautions.
- If you do decide to meet up in person, make sure you take the appropriate precautions. (The CDC’s guide to personal and social activities is a great place to start.) Clearly communicate any potential exposure to COVID-19, and make plans to get tested before and after.
- Keep in mind that outdoor dates are almost always safer than indoor ones. Dating isn’t always a walk in the park, but right now, it literally can be!
- Ideally, put a pin in plans to meet in person. The COVID-19 era has introduced us to so many new ways to connect virtually, whether it be video chats on Zoom or scheduling a movie night via Teleparty.
Despite being physically isolated from one another, we are still finding ways to be social. And it’s not just dating apps – between 46 percent and 51 percent of U.S. adults admitted to using social media more since the pandemic began. Until it’s safe to resume in-person interaction, do your best to keep your community safe by taking advantage of the many ways to connect virtually with new friends and significant others.