Early on in the pandemic, a group text among some of my girlfriends erupted:
“I’ve decided to jump back into online dating,” a friend exclaimed. “The guys seem chatty!”
“Quarantine Love Story!” another friend cheered.
I felt more than a twinge of negativity, not at my friends, but at the prospect of online dating . . . again.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that the pandemic might afford the perfect opportunity to find love. Several other friends had shared how enjoyable it was to participate in certain sites that were pivoting to video dating and encouraging CDC safe-dating practices. In fact, so many of my single friends were online dating that I was beginning to feel like I was missing out on some great opportunity.
I’ve had long-standing ambivalence about online dating. I’ve made some nice connections and had a few good dates from it, but over the years, I’ve grown tired of the swiping and the endless text conversations with a stranger, and have developed a growing belief that it’s taking romance out of the dating scene. Plus, the ability to go online to meet someone at any moment has perpetuated a feeling of guilt in me that I’m not doing enough to “get out there.”
Not wanting to feel negative about dating, prior to the quarantine, I’d come to the decision that I could live my active social life and trust I’d meet someone out and about somewhere. So I signed off the dating apps.
Then the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically the stay-at-home orders and social distancing, halted any semblance of a social life that involved events, casual conversations at coffee houses, and meeting new people.
My initial reaction was to wait out the stay-at-home orders. What’s a month in the scheme of life? But as reports suggested that social distancing could be our norm for longer than a month, and as I missed my social life more, I found myself discouraged.
As I continued to hear about the energy my friends were experiencing while online dating, I worked to turn my discouragement into motivation and got back on a few dating sites and apps.
My friend was right—the men I connected with online were chatty. But I’ve never been much of a texter—it takes up a significant amount of emotional energy for me to respond to texts from friends and family if the reply needs more than a couple words. The same goes for emails. So when the entire process of meeting someone to date begins with electronic communication that is exhausting for me, keeping my enthusiasm long enough to get to meet someone in person can prove to be a challenge.
My best connections online in the past had been with men who also skipped the small talk online and were up for meeting in person for a low-key coffee or drink. Of course, in an era of stay-at-home orders, the option to meet quickly is just not there. And my ability to keep up with texting, messaging, and even video calls was even more crippled as I fumbled into my new work-from-home routine, managed the increase of texts and calls from loved ones checking in during these unprecedented times, and fought my own anxiety about the current state of affairs and the future, all of which drained me of most emotional energy.
I lasted online for all of two weeks before I signed off again. What might be working for my friends is not working for me. And so, I was back to trusting that somehow I will meet someone and trying not to feel guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to “get out there.”
Of course, everyone knows that online dating isn’t the only way to “get out there,” but it’s taken a dominant position in the dating culture, nonetheless. Because we have the ability, with just a few swipes and messages, to connect with someone who also is presumably looking for love, it’s far more difficult for a dating woman (or man) to “opt offline” and feel peace she’s still signaling that she’s open and available for romance.
Ultimately, I decided that like everyone else, certain areas of my life are a bit on hold during this pandemic, and I could assess my dating life a little more clearly when the intensity of the quarantine settled.
Meeting someone somehow during quarantine—and beyond
What I didn’t expect was a text from a friend asking if I’d be interested in connecting with a man her sister-in-law knows. Upon hearing a few details about his personality, job, and values, I was intrigued enough to agree to a connection.
As my friend and I talked about the connection, the energy about meeting someone built up. “Kim (my friend’s sister in law) says he’s really genuine and intentional, and really nice.” Upon hearing this, I found myself feeling that twinge of excitement that had been missing in my dating life. Something about having a person vetted by a trusted friend, instead of an algorithm, has me feeling more optimistic about this potential match. Sometimes, friends and family really are good judges of who has what it takes and is ready to commit versus those who are looking for a connection but not commitment.
At the end of the day, we have less control over our dating lives than we feel sometimes, and it’s a fine line between doing our part to “get out there” and trusting that love will come our way when the timing is right for both parties.
If a connection with this man my friend suggested doesn’t develop, I plan to reach out to other friends of mine, in my city and other cities, to see if they know any single men they think could be a good match for me. In a time when events and gatherings are still not prevalent, online dating doesn’t have to be the only way I “get out there” while also trusting I’ll meet the right person at the right time.