The New Normal of Dating in the Pandemic

Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” is now being done literally.

Gloves and masks are indispensable items for going out during the pandemic. Nonetheless, they are only a few of the changes made to dating in this weird time we are all experiencing. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

A year ago, wearing a mask and avoiding physical contact would not have been necessary to go on a rendezvous with someone new. Now, the pandemic has shifted the way we meet new people and thus, changed the concept of going on a date. In a city where dating opportunities appear endless, the dating scene is becoming more and more mundane. 

With the sporadic and growing rates of coronavirus cases, it may be difficult to find a relationship and maintain one while exercising the socially-distanced six feet apart. As we adjust to this temporary reality, the dating sphere continues to look for ways to connect people. While some have increased their presence on dating apps, others are coping with the onset of an unexpected long-distance relationship with their significant others. 

After his girlfriend traveled home to India, Stern sophomore Tej Sai Mummadisingu struggled with operating a long-distance relationship, which only added to the stress the pandemic had already caused. The significant time zone differences made video chatting everyday difficult. It was tough for the couple, who saw each other each day, to suddenly live on separate continents. 

“We went from seeing each other everyday to only being able to text sometimes in a day,’’ Mummadisingu said. ‘’It created a lot of distance between us, and created a barrier especially when it first started.’’

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Couples have to find creative approaches to feel close to one another, or manage unique time zone differences. It is a challenge that is possible to overcome (many couples have historically managed to maintain long-distance relationships), but the pandemic has only intensified these obstacles.

CAS senior Benji P. faced this challenge while he and his then-girlfriend were quarantined separately back in March. Though the couple attempted to preserve their relationship, Benji stated they were unable to overcome their difficulties and hence broke up in early August.

“When I was in my relationship during the pandemic, we were in this really awful long distance thing,” Benji said. “It led to a lot of frustration and separation anxiety. That ‘new normal’ was pretty awful. Now this new normal of trying to find people to connect with is challenging in all sorts of ways.’’

Mummadisingu has learned to value independence from this experience, but still takes pride in his relationship.

It added a lot of strain to the relationship, but brought us closer together when we came back,” Mummadisingu said, who reunited with his girlfriend last August. “It also definitely made us more independent and gave us some alone time, which helped us find ourselves more.”

With virtual communication now more important than ever, online dating apps have become even more of a useful tool to connect people. Apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge offer modes of communication that simulate face-to-face interactions, but these apps have recently left some users unenthusiastic to continue pursuing romantic relationships.

Tandon School of Engineering junior Sebastian Abreu has been active on Tinder since the start of the pandemic, but has recently seen a decrease in his use of the app. 

“To be honest, as the pandemic drags on, I barely message a match even if they seem like a good fit simply because I know that the bond between us won’t grow anytime soon,’’ Abreu said. “I know that I won’t be able to see them as often as I would like because of this whole situation so I don’t start. And I feel like some other people have that feeling too.’’

One of the main challenges of in-person dating during the pandemic is going out while following social distancing guidelines (depending on location).

As long as his date is wearing a mask, Abreu isn’t opposed to the idea of meeting someone outside his phone screen. However, he also believes wearing a mask decreases the level of intimacy.

“It’s awkward wearing a mask, especially when you want to express your facial expressions clearly and when you want to give your date a cute random kiss,’’ Abreu said. “But I will always wear a mask and not question it because it is the right thing to do.’’

Other users are discovering that their intentions of downloading dating apps are more so due to a desire to find companionship amid a time when isolation has consumed our existence.

“I’m not really a savant of the dating app, but you have to do whatever you can to fight back the loneliness,’’ Benji said. “I live alone and I’ve been quarantining. There have been many days that the only other person I talk to is a stranger I met on Tinder.’’

Global Liberal Studies junior Emma Grace has alternated between periods of deleting and reactivating her Tinder account.

“Initially, I looked to the app as an antidote for the loneliness of isolation and dismal realities of our present moment,’’ she said. “Ultimately, I grew increasingly frustrated with other users’ petitions to meet up in person regardless of social protocols and deleted the app. It certainly did not inspire hope.’’

Though dating could always be considered difficult, the onslaught of the pandemic has completely shifted our way of perceiving it. It might seem foreign now, but it doesn’t mean that chivalry is dead ​— the dating sphere just needs some time to adapt to this temporary reality.

“The world of dating is already a mystery in and of itself and unique to everyone,’’ Grace said. “Dating during a pandemic is a mystery set against the backdrop of the unknown.’’

Email Madison San Miguel at [email protected]

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