The pandemic has changed the dating scene for many students at the University of Kansas, forcing some to transition to online dating and FaceTime dates instead of in-person interactions.
Zach Green, a junior from Fresno, California, said he once had a virtual date in his room, fully aware that his roommates could hear everything that he was saying. He was trying to practice social distancing, so he talked with his date over the phone while the two watched the same movie from different locations.
Because of the pandemic, dating apps and virtual activities have become increasingly more popular. In November of 2020, the 20 most popular dating apps saw 2 million more active daily users than the year before, according to Apptopia.
Dr. Jennifer Mieres, a New York City-based cardiologist and author, said in an interview with Today that people are turning to dating as a way to connect with others because they’re missing out on smaller everyday interactions.
“Loneliness causes fearfulness, especially during times like these,” Mieres said. “Many young adults are thinking about their mortality, which makes us crave human connection.”
Green said he turned to online dating websites because he missed being able to flirt with people in person.
“I would just casually flirt with a lot of people,” Green said. “Then, once COVID came, that ability kind of stopped, and I was like, ‘oh I gotta get validation from somewhere else because I can’t get it in real life anymore.’”
Green also said that his reasons for dating changed from being more casual to trying to look for something more serious.
“I didn’t ever actually want to date anybody [before], but I like being able to get casual attention from people,” Green said. “But after the pandemic started, and I just didn’t get that, I was like, ‘that kind of sucks. I’m kind of lonely sitting alone at home all the time.’”
One problem that can arise with relying on dating as a way to connect with people is that it can be hard to find real and meaningful connections online. According to a study published by Elon University Journal, 41% of participants among Generation Z college students said they found social media had a negative effect on their dating lives.
KU junior Drew Windish from Wichita, KS said that meeting people online does not allow people to get to know someone the same way one could in person.
“We sort of have this in our minds that you meet someone [in person], and then it takes time to develop that relationship,” Windish said. “But, in some instances, it’s instantaneous, particularly with dating apps.”
Another challenge Windish found from going on virtual dates was that he did not get to see everything about the person.
“It’s kind of dangerous to go on a bunch of virtual dates because then you build up this image of who they are, and most likely, you’re going to build like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” Windish said. “It’s going to be unrealistic, so when you actually meet them, it’s your fault for thinking that they’re this different person than they actually are.”
The way around this is to make sure you do not present or create a false image of yourself to the other person, Windish said.
“It’s worth your time to be yourself because the more you build a persona that is untrue, which is really easy to do by the way, the more you’re wasting your own time,” Windish said.
People today are trying to be more authentic on their dating apps, according to Tinder Newsroom. They say that users have started to be more honest about who they are and what they are going through.
Tinder is expecting more users to meet in person this summer, with more bios including “go on a date” and an increased use of the words “vaccine” and “antibodies” in users’ bio.
Even with the vaccination rollout, the pandemic could have lasting effects on the dating world, the New York Times said. 40% of Gen. Z Tinder users say they will continue using video chats as COVID regulations lift.