Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Our contributing editor tells us her experience of online dating during the Covid-19 pandemic

Written by: Charlotte Bendkowski

Its 1am, I’m stood in my parent’s kitchen eating cold popcorn chicken, alone, waiting for my tea to brew, alone, wondering, ‘why am I so single?’.

Sound familiar? The dating scene has naturally slowed down amid the current pandemic, but online dating has grounds to flourish, and it has done exactly that. Aside from an unexpected increase in banana bread making, one of the most interesting outcomes of this lockdown is the unavoidable realisation of how alone all of us singletons are. I, for one, have been turning to dating apps far more than ever, to try and find my soul mate, or at least for now, someone to make the time pass faster.

Globally, an estimated 2.6 billion people have been locked inside their homes due to the measures put in place by their respective governments. With restaurants and bars closed, and casual hook-ups out of the question, how will we entertain our lust for love and intimacy?

The answer? Digital fulfilment.

For this reason, dating apps have been thriving off the boredom we are facing from being stuck inside. With no possibility to meet new people in real life, we have been forced to fulfil the empty void via dating apps.

I took it upon myself to have a video call with a potential interest, and whilst in the lead up I was cringing and thinking of excuses to cancel, it wasn’t half as bad as I expected.

Even before lockdown, dating apps were a great way to meet new people, online platforms connecting people looking for romance, friendship, and even work. With the issues of meeting and social distance playing huge roles in the lack of meet ups, dating platforms have found their way around this. Tinder, being late to the party has announced an in-app video calling feature, to allow people to have a screen-to-screen meet, mimicking the date scenario as best as possible. Bumble had already introduced a video call feature last year, and Hinge launched its own ‘date from home’ feature at the start of lockdown in march, with guidelines from WHO, and safe dating outlines popping up in the app automatically, after you have been matched with someone a few days.

I took it upon myself to have a video call with a potential interest, and whilst in the lead up I was cringing and thinking of excuses to cancel, it wasn’t half as bad as I expected. We kept it polite, short and simple. A general introduction, what we are both up to in our lives (not much at the moment) and then a few classic first date questions, where did he see himself in 5 years? Does he want children? All the usuals... I left the call feeling optimistic, but a bit disheartened. Even in 15 minutes I knew he wasn’t for me, and I hated myself for being so judgemental. But when you know, you know. Onto the next.

Online dating is different now, because physically distancing ourselves from anyone in these times of uncertainty is prompting people to try and seek out meaningful and genuine connections, and these are being sought out online.

After introducing the ‘date from home’ feature in March, Hinge experienced a 30% increase in messages among users, and over 70% of its users up for a virtual date.

But why is the lockdown making me think twice about my previous love interests? This all engulfing feeling of being alone has intensified during lockdown, and manifested into my daily thoughts. Thanks to dating apps I have had more men reach out to me than ever before, amid the circumstances. I wake up to 2-3 different men messaging me, a few hinge notifications, and recently after posting a bikini pic on Instagram, I had a surge in men actually sliding in my DM’s (LOL.) I was even graced with the dreaded and hilarious message from the ex, which was swiftly deleted and blocked, but afterwards I did find myself giving the gesture more headspace than I usually would. Why are we reconsidering the red flags, and emotionally unavailable men from our past, just for the sake of some company?

After introducing the ‘date from home’ feature in March, Hinge experienced a 30% increase in messages among users, and over 70% of its users up for a virtual date.

I have found myself texting men I have previously dismissed into being unsuitable, just out of pure boredom. A guy I have been on and off with for years recently reached out claiming to be a new man, and under normal circumstances I would ignore the message, but I have found myself agreeing to see him, post lockdown.

Men I dated years ago have all been reaching out, and whilst I am somewhat confused, I can’t help but have the undying curiosity as to why?

According to relationship consultant Dr Earim Chaudry, ‘If you are single, you have probably never felt more single in your life. And without physical contact with our friends and family, many of us are placing more value on dating’. It seems we are turning to online platforms to try and fix the burning desire for self gratification, and human interaction.

NSFW subscription-based social media platform OnlyFans has flourished, and seen accounts grow by 25% in some cases. Tinder downloads are up by 13% according to a spokesperson for Sensor Tower. Additionally there was an increase in 20% in the apps voice and video call feature, as well as an increase by 21% in the messages sent in the US alone.

For this reason, quarantine will aid and encourage more sexual exploration in the younger population, in particular generation Z. People seem to be sending more nude photos and explicit videos with partners and social media followers whilst isolating. With the lack of human contact, photos, video chats and sexting are the closest thing we can get to it currently. The rise in these activities comes down to the bizarre circumstances that, as a nation we find ourselves in. With uncertainty engulfing us, those who have previously not engaged in sexual-digital behaviour for fear or risk, are becoming more explorative via online platforms.

I have found myself messaging men I have previously dismissed into being unsuitable, just out of pure boredom.

However, when embarking on the mission that is online dating, there are risks. I have been in the position of fancying the pants off someone whilst being in the chatting phase, getting to know each other, all before meeting. Then getting the date organised (pre lockdown), and 15 minutes in, I realise I have no physically chemistry with him. This whole exercise turns out to be a waste of time, and I could have given my attention to someone else who I have a fiery connection with, but of course I can only gauge the real connection upon meeting.

With many of us turning to dating apps to entertain and fill an empty void of loneliness, we are ultimately all judging someone based purely off looks. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Raya, all dating apps, in fact solely judge someone by means of attraction first and foremost. I am sure I’m not the only person who needs to be physically attracted to someone in order to fancy them, but I have previously developed a strong connection with someone who I did not find attractive at all, and that connection has stood the test of time, far longer than a connection with someone who I have been head over heels attracted too from the start. But in online dating circumstances, I would never have swiped him right and given him a chance. Have we totally missed the plot with online dating?

I have been using dating apps on and off for about three years now, and during that time I have had the full spectrum of personality types of men, but during this pandemic, these traits are heightened and I have found the truth coming out, is it the urgency for human contact?

The digital daters to look out for...

The hygiene freak

First up is the germaphobe, his profile will read ‘looking for a lady to laugh with, watch documentaries and wash their hands for 30 seconds, 20 times a day’. Being in lockdown has blown up his muscles as fitness curbs his jacked-up germ anxiety, and within 5 minutes on matching, he sent you an article about how germs are spread on petrol pumps.

The blissfully unaware

Now we have the dude who doesn’t seem to realise there is a pandemic going on, he disregards all of it and doesn’t ‘believe in social distancing’. He has a sardonic sense of humour, and casually throws around lines like ‘let me take you out before corona does’, until you realise, he is deadly serious and suggests you come over. He claims he already had the virus weeks ago, but wasn’t able to get tested and didn’t have the normal symptoms, but assures you it ‘wasn’t that bad’, and that its probably better if you get it so you can develop immunity (eye roll).

The wannabe Lear

The hopeless romantic, who is rather enjoying the slow-paced lifestyle that quarantine has bought about. He’s probably reading Nietzsche in a sun dipped corner in his profile picture, he’s either an English graduate, or an out of work model/actor, who always thought of himself as the modern-day Shakespeare, so has written you a poem in awe of your golden locks and blue eyes in your profile picture (how sweet). It’s a great start, he’s expressive and emotional in his daily love messages, something you have previously struggled to find in a partner, until it suddenly stops when he matches with another women, who saw him in his one man production of King Lear.

The (disappearing) thirst trap

Then we come to the thirsty sexter, he makes it clear in his profile he is ‘only looking for fun’. There is probably not much too this guy, then what he offers over text, but sometimes that is all a girl wants? He has a talent at jumping from ‘heyyy’ to ‘I am unhooking your bra’ in a matter of 60 seconds, and his profile picture is probably him holding a beverage or laying down donning his best bedroom eyes. Once lockdown is lifted, he will vanish into the online dating ether.

The boy without cabin fever

Next we have the city boy, turned naturalist. As soon as lockdown hit, he was out of the city as quickly as a wasp round an ice lolly. He is now at his country cabin full time. He doesn’t say much, but posts photos of the beautiful sunsets over the woods near his cabin. He exclaims in ‘how simple the life is here’ and that he has everything he could possible need, ‘running water, wi-fi, food…but not you’, yes you! He can’t wait to show you his cabin when lockdown is up, and the beautiful nature that engulfs it. But actually, who don’t you come now? Its only 2 hours out of the city, you can enjoy the simplicity together, why don’t you pack a bag and…NO. This clever cabin lover has used nature as bait to reel you into a potentially very dangerous situation, Joe Goldberg would be proud at his efforts.

The needy seedy guy

The guy who is desperate for another human’s touch, he looks normal enough on his profile, and he probably was before the crushing loneliness of being alone in lockdown hit him. Now he is looking for someone, anyone stupid enough to come inside and wait out the quarantine with him. ‘omg, you like dogs? Me too! And you love watching films? Wow, I feel like this is fate’, and soon he will be convincing you that you were supposed to match, and this really feels ‘like its meant to be’. Swiftly followed by ‘so I haven’t left my flat in 6 weeks, I am totally healthy and so I think you should just bring your stuff and move in whilst this is going on, and I just need to have comfort in another warm body pleeeeeaseeee?’. I suggest telling him you have Covid-19, and then unmatching him.

The loud yob

The essential supply hoarder, who offers you pasta and toilet roll in exchange for a boob picture, his profile picture is him smiling smugly in front of a pallet of toilet rolls. He is also grossly overweight and sports a high vis jacket to the supermarket and loudly expresses his disgust towards the government at the checkout girl. I would suggest he isn’t your prince charming, but if you need toilet paper…

The tree hugger, do-gooder guy

Now is the time for the humanitarian to flourish. He is a slow texter, but that is probably because he has his hands full of bags of food to donate to the local shelters. When he isn’t doing the work of Jesus, he is walking his adopted dogs in the park, and simultaneously picking up litter, all whilst facetiming you so you can see the nature in his area. His Facebook page boasts fundraiser after fundraiser, which he tells you about, insisting that you shouldn’t feel pressure to donate, and that ‘charity work isn’t for everyone’, and his profile picture is a group of NHS nurses holding up a thank-you sign, with half of his face at the front. Subtle. He could be a winner, but it does look like he is the fitness sort who doesn’t wash regularly.

The guy who cries, a lot

Lastly, the emotional drunk, who’s profile consists of film quotes, in particular from the mid 90’s, which he refers to in most conversations as ‘The Golden Age’. He works in media marketing, but makes his own films, and was totally devastated that the film festival was cancelled because he was debuting his short indie flick. He may have lost his job within the first few weeks of lockdown, and subsequently spends every waking hour re-watching Golden age classics and picking apart the mise-en-scène and the shot types. He suggests it will be more fun to do with you, or rather at you, until you are so uncomfortable with his inept ability to realise how utterly dull it is for his every second word to be ‘angles’ or ‘grain’.

Dating during lockdown is certainly a unique experience and can be very fun. Just make sure you are safe and sensible and utilise the in-app features. Romance could flourish, and solid foundations for a long-lasting relationship can be built if you do it right. Online dating should be fun, and a time to learn what you do and don’t want in a man. With each match you dump, the closer you get to finding the one who is meant for you.

Share your dating stories with us, we would love to hear them.


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