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Why I’ve Hit the Brakes on Online Dating During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thanks to the lockdown-inducing behaviour of COVID-19, many of us have been turning to dating apps to keep us occupied. It seems like the perfect chance to create a firm base of contact with other singletons; what else have they got to do other than watch Normal People and bake banana bread? But in these absurd and challenging times, it may be more prudent to break up with apps like Bumble and Tinder and place our attention elsewhere.

I first got into online dating just over two years ago. Swiping left or right on people sent me on a euphoric power trip. From the comfort of my own home, I was able to assess potential suitors as though I was judging fashion on America’s Next Top Model.

I’ll have a bubble bath and then decide if I should swipe right

“Yes to Steve! No to Andy. I can’t decide on Henry because he looks like he lives on a country estate and shoots pheasants at the weekend; I’ll have a bubble bath and then decide if I should swipe right.”

As any dating aficionado will tell you, the novelty wears off after a while. You flick through a sea of faces with lethargic articulation and become complacent. “Nope, his eyebrows are a bit too bushy for me. No way, he’s got Justin Bieber as one of his top Spotify artists; is he trying to win the title for most unpopular bachelor?”

Even though dating apps often leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, it’s difficult to get rid of them. They’re akin to nicotine. You become almost dependent on the attention and the fantasies that spring into your mind’s eye upon seeing a hot person’s profile, wondering if twenty-two-year-old James will propose to you in a Parisian art gallery or New York restaurant. Plus, in our technology-centric society today, single people are given an almost funny look if they claim they’re not on Bumble or an app alike. Social media is the centrepiece of relationship-building and any in-person introductions make you feel like you’re a protagonist in a romantic movie.

Loneliness comes knocking on your door like a fed-up rent collector

Being confined to the house for twenty-three hours a day gets a soul thinking. In the unfettered mire of self-reflection, you can’t help but ruminate over your issues and life’s missing pieces. Loneliness comes knocking on your door like a fed-up rent collector, so adamant on entering you have no choice but to welcome it in. You start to miss old friends and exes, even the sharp-tongued ones.

I can’t tell you how many ex-flings and forgotten people have been hitting me up during this pandemic. It’s been nice to hear from some of them, learning all about their recent life developments and how well they’re coping. Then, in the case of others, I’ve rolled my eyes and let my thumb race on over to the “block” button. Even in my more sombre mindsets, I’ve not felt the desire to try and reconnect with any manipulative old flames.

Yet, for the first few weeks of lockdown, I found myself to be almost a slave to dating apps. I wasn’t alone. Research has discovered 82% of singletons have flocked to dating apps since COVID-19 found its footing on an international basis.

I wasn’t really looking for a relationship; just some spicy friendships that might bloom into something more Breakfast at Tiffany’s-esque down the line. But, even then, the prospect of staying inside for months on end with nothing to do pulled me deeper into the virtual dating scene. Apps like Tinder and Grindr offered me a shot at something new; a chance at challenging the sedentary lifestyle COVID-19 had tried to throw me in.

I put the effort in on these apps. I asked twenty-five-year old Rob what his favourite TV show was, and English student Benjamin what he thought of the feminist interpretations of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I swiped and swiped away and tapped profile after profile, but to little avail. I was ignored for days on end or eventually ghosted.

I find it hilarious men can hold muscle-tearing weights at the gym but can’t hold a decent conversation

I find it hilarious men can hold muscle-tearing weights at the gym but can’t hold a decent conversation, even outside of a global pandemic. But such incompetency (or should I say unwillingness) to converse appears to have been exacerbated by the uncertainty this pandemic spells.

We don’t know when we’re going to hold our loved ones again or walk around the local supermarket without having to wear a mask and gloves. I’ve had countless messages saying, “I don’t know what I’m looking for at the moment” from potential suitors over the years. Now more and more are of the same sentiment. This ubiquitous illness is inspiring a lot of existential dread and introspection in people.

Who wants to talk to a potential future husband if they can’t even see their mother on something other than a laptop screen?

Down the line, it dawned on me. Like myself, the men I had been speaking to had been pulled even deeper into the world of online dating due to our current pandemic. But unlike me, they’d recognised their lack of motivation for finding new connections in the midst of it. Who wants to talk to a potential future husband if they can’t even see their mother on something other than a laptop screen?

I decided to take a leaf out of their books but take their apathy a step further. I stopped dating online completely. There’s no point deciding whether to swipe left or right on Dmitri if a FaceTime call is the closest I’ll get to seeing him in person for a while. The relationship (if one were to burgeon) would have its roots planted in extensive digital territory. I wouldn’t like that.

Besides, I can never control how others will communicate with me, so there’s no point sombrely waiting around for a reply. That energy is better spent on bettering myself and strengthening my mental health and wider perspectives. Then, when I go back out into the world once COVID-19 has been taken care of, it’ll take more than some rich boy with a sweet smile to have me slavishly hung up on external pleasures.

Ryan James Keane

Featured image courtesy of  Lyncconf Games via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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