Operation: Virtual Dating (During COVID-19)

On a Friday night at the beginning of March, I finally did it. My neighbor came over with some red wine for liquid courage and we signed up for an online dating app. Honestly, I’ve always been a little leery about online dating and the potential risks that could come from talking to people I didn’t know – but hey, it’s the way of the future, right? 

I had finally gained time management and decided to actively make time to date. Because of my rigorous teaching schedule, I don’t really get out that much – teaching fitness classes when you’ve stayed out too late is the actual worst. I figured it was highly unlikely that I would meet someone in my apartment or on trail walking my dog (the only two places I really went) and decided to give online dating a try.

One of the best (and truest) memes I’ve seen!

There’s plenty of apps and websites out there – Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Grindr, Tinder, eHarmony, Match – and I chose Hinge. Hinge uses some type of algorithm to match you with people based on your mutual friends on social media. On all sites, you create your profile, starting with some cute pictures of yourself (obviously with the best angles showing how fun, cool, and adventurous you are), and list your basics (age, height, etc), and then add in some fun prompts about yourself. From there, you can like someone’s profile or start a chat – each app is different.

I joined Hinge, made the profile, and began to chat with a few guys through the message feature. A few days later, COVID-19 hit. Social distancing had been put in place, and the city was about to shut down. So – what would be next? How do you date during a global pandemic when there’s nowhere to go? One thing I quickly discovered: there are literally no rules when it comes to online dating during COVID. (Aside from the actual strict government rules, that is.)

I was shocked at the number of guys who use the app to simply hook up with girls. Blatant invitations to come over late at night, strange requests for indecent photos, and gross sexual comments. Had it always been like this – or was it due to COVID? Maybe online dating wasn’t my cup of tea after all. But as time went on, I found that not all of the guys were like that.

As Hinge started to suggest “dating from home” through FaceTime and phone calls, I found a lot of men were interested in chatting on the phone and texting. I texted with a few – most didn’t keep my attention or vice versa. Was this because there was no connection or would it have been different if we had been able to meet? Some texts progressed to calls – again, most couldn’t hold my attention. Once, I found out that one of the guys who kept calling me (unanswered, may I note) was sending my friend weird messages on the app at the same time. That’s the funny thing about dating apps – it’s definitely a small world. It was strange to see someone appearing to be so persistent yet pursuing other people at the same time.

I did end up meeting someone from the app to go on a “socially distant walk.” I don’t know if it was the COVID situation getting more serious or if we just didn’t have a great connection (honestly, I think it was a mix of both), and while I wouldn’t describe the walk as horrible, it was definitely a little awkward. Note: if you’re not feeling a  walk with someone, there’s really no good way to decide to turn back around and walk home. I recommend talking to the person on phone/FaceTime a few times before you meet up with them (PS: Hinge Walk Date Guy: If you’re reading this, know that you were super nice and I really do hope you find a cute girl.)

As COVID progressed, I honestly lost a little interest in dating. It was the same routine – match with someone, ask how their quarantine is going (weirdest pick-up line ever), have small talk for a few days, talk about wanting to do things but not being able to…and then it fizzles out.

I never thought I would ever do a “virtual date” via FaceTime when it was first introduced by the app – it was weird and lame. But as adaption sunk in, it seemed to be the new normal. I did end up texting with this one guy for a few days, which progressed to a phone call. We seemed to have a good connection, so a virtual date was set up and we hopped on FaceTime.

Now, a phone call is one thing – you can finish working out 10 minutes prior to your call and still end up having a great conversation while your clothes are still sweaty. But a FaceTime first date? This was brand new territory. First of all, what the hell do you wear? How dolled up are you supposed to get to waltz around your living room? Do you have to wear pants or was this a “waist up” kind of thing? Would I use my computer so I didn’t have to hold my phone the whole time, or would I sacrifice comfort for good lighting and angles? So many things to think about.

Virtual date – all dolled up to go nowhere. But hey, it was fun putting make up on for the first time in awhile!

I chose to put on some light make-up, curl my hair into light waves to make it look like I hadn’t just curled my hair to sit on the couch, and wear my Enlite lululemon sports bra (because it gives me two boobs and not uniboob – and let’s be honest, I haven’t worn a real bra all quarantine), and a black v-neck t-shirt. I did sacrifice comfort for angles and lighting, and I used my phone to FaceTime.

Here is a question: Do you drink on a virtual date? Typically, I would drink a glass of wine or two on a first real date. For my first virtual date, I didn’t feel the need to drink but I think it was due to feeling a great connection from our phone call. It’s a personal choice – I wouldn’t recommend getting wasted while you FaceTime someone but don’t see the harm in having a drink or two if it helps you feel more comfortable.

So at 730PM, my phone rang and our virtual date began. It’s funny looking back – at the very beginning, envision two people sitting up straight up on their best behavior, trying to figure out sound quality and device stability while trying to casually sit on the couch. Our FaceTime date lasted for two and a half hours – so by the end of it, imagine two people laying back on their couches, showing off their dressier shirts and workout shorts, snuggling their dogs. My phone almost died twice, so I had to move to the kitchen counter to charge it and talk at the same time, and his iPad actually did die once. 

Pros of virtually dating: I was able to wear athleisure and sit next to my dog the entire time on a first date. If the date gets awkward, you don’t need to worry about an exit plan – you can wrap it up and say you have to go, and then explain later via text or phone call that you’re not really feeling it. There’s no pressure to awkwardly hand-shake, hug, or kiss at the end. The nicest thing about my virtual date – there were no distractions! No waiters coming over to ask questions, no people watching, no trying to figure out where to go next.

Cons of virtually dating: If you’re really feeling a connection with someone, it sucks you can’t physically see them or know when you’ll be able to actually get together. Since you’re using your device to FaceTime, I suppose you could get texts/calls during the date. I would hope that people would have the same courtesy as a normal date and keep replies to other people to a minimum if possible. Virtual dates have the potential to be really awkward – but hype yourself up first, write down some questions if you need to, and tell yourself in advance that it’s okay to end the call if you aren’t feeling it.

Perhaps there will be a Part 2 to this as COVID dating continues – but overall, less than impressed with the dating app scene and caliber of respect from some of the men, but pleasantly surprised with virtually dating. If you date online or are thinking about trying it, check out my advice below – hope that it helps!

Online Dating Tip: Be intentional with your profile. Who are you trying to attract? Ladies – there’s no need to show off your body or hold a drink in every picture. Give a little hint of what you’re working with, but make the men earn anything else. Gentlemen – I can’t even count how many profiles I’ve seen that look like they are trying to attract bros. No one cares about your golf swing. No one cares about your big ass truck, and for the love of God, take off the hats and sunglasses. We want to see your face and we don’t want to get hatfished. Smile with your teeth….the dog pictures can stay.

To all: don’t use photos in a close embrace with a person of the same gender you are trying to attract – no matter how good you look in the photo. It’s confusing and now I’m wondering if you’ve recently broken up with someone. Sidenote: if you have recently broken up with someone and your Instagram is linked to your dating app, please do us all a favor and delete the pictures of your ex from your Instagram.

Online Dating Tip: Someone told me once that “a lot of the good catches” will put their age as 65 (the max) so they won’t pop up in searches but can still view all of the profiles. For “better results,” try expanding your age to 65 and see what happens.

COVID Dating Tip: Do not use this as an acceptable excuse to have a first date at someone’s home. Let me rephrase that – if you are just trying to hook up – do whatever you want. But if you are expecting to explore dating someone long-term, do not have a first date at someone’s house. Yeah, I know – there’s nowhere else to go. It’s tricky – do have lots of phone calls, do have FaceTime calls, and do go for socially-distant walks in the park. It is awkward? Yeah, a little – at first. But if your intention is to get to know someone, the best chance of doing that is going to be when you eliminate factors (late night, at home, alcohol involved, etc) that are just going to lead to hooking up. Hooking up on the first date typically leads men and women to two different places – which isn’t going to get you closer to a relationship with that person.