The pandemic has not been kind to singles. Social distancing rules and lockdown measures have taken the romance and fun out of dating. Despite the fact that it’s hard to get jiggy from a distance of two metres with a face mask on, messaging on Tinder increased by 52 per cent during last year’s lockdowns.
Many of the disparate demographic of those without partners have been isolated without support bubbles during lengthy periods without any social contact. It’s no wonder that almost half of Hinge users have been on a video date. And daters on Bumble can choose to meet virtually, socially distanced or distanced with a mask.
Now restrictions are easing, it will be interesting to find out what happens on the dating scene as things get back to normal. Meeting in fancy restaurants and trendy bars is certainly more appealing than the muddy rainswept trudges of typical walking dates.
Research by dating app Bumble shows that singles are taking dating more seriously since suffering the loneliness of lockdowns, with 46 percent of users looking for a long term relationship.
A lot of singles must have been tempted to break the rules but we have no way of knowing to what degree. Public Health England reports that positive results for gonorrhoea dropped by 58 percent between January and May 2020 suggesting the pandemic was a passion killer for all but the most ardent.
I’m willing to speculate that online porn has surged in popularity and that singles who would never have considered sexting are happily exchanging images of their body parts with absent potential partners.
Some countries have taken pity on the unpartnered. In Holland, singles were allowed to choose one sex buddy. And, in Melbourne, Australia, two people in an ‘intimate personal relationship’ were allowed to spend the night together.
The pitfalls of virtual dating are many. You’re much more likely to be ghosted by someone you’ve never met in person and catfishing scams are easy when there’s every excuse to never meet. Meeting a complete stranger for a walking date in a park or the countryside also has its risks.
A friend of mine reports having several friends who have fallen in love with men they have yet to meet in person. These are not naive or gullible people but mature women travelling hopefully through the minefield of online dating. They may well be disappointed with the reality of men who are adept at embellishing the truth to make themselves seem a better catch than they actually are.
Younger singles, who are more likely to treat sex as a leisure pursuit than something requiring the commitment of a relationship, have had to make do with much fewer dates and no physical contact unless they want to break the law. That may also mean visiting relative strangers at home sooner than is safe once chilly walking dates lose their appeal.
Amongst the single clients I’ve seen (online of course) over the last year, some have found love against all the odds. Social distancing has put the brakes on intimacy and given couples the time to properly get to know each other before all the messy physical stuff clouds judgement. With unrestricted access to potential partners, most people jump in and commit to a relationship without fully understanding the person they’re with. I put countless divorces down to the rush to coupledom while still only revealing the edited highlights of character and personality to each other.
The dating world makes love, trust and commitment elusive as so many make promises they have no intention of keeping. While dating apps are no longer exclusively for casual hook-ups and have evolved into a universal go-to for those seeking relationships, the rules are unclear and expectations often unrealistic.
In history, whenever there’s been a crisis, like plague or war, it’s followed by a period of excess. After the Great War was the Roaring Twenties. More spending, socialising, eating, drinking and maybe a baby boom will signify the end of the pandemic.
Dating has always required hope and optimism. Maybe the singles will lead the way for this century’s own roaring twenties. A decade of decadence and pleasure seeking after the privations of the pandemic.