If dating was hard before the pandemic, it has since become seemingly impossible for many, as the fear of contracting COVID-19 looms in the air like anti-mood music.
Because looking for love in traditional ways and avoiding COVID-19 exposure can be difficult to balance, some Arkansas singles have adapted their dating habits to the constraints of the pandemic. In order to safely meet romantic partners and/or friends, some locals have begun using online dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge.
Vince Guthrie, 20, a Fayetteville resident, started using Tinder off and on before the pandemic to form friendships and meet potential partners, he said. Guthrie said he thinks he has been more successful with online dating since the pandemic began.
Being more of a face-to-face person has made it harder for him to connect with individuals, he said. Through Tinder, Guthrie has made around 20 new friends since the start of the pandemic. He has even been able to connect with some old high school acquaintances, he said.
“I’m just there to meet people for the most part,” Guthrie said. “I’m just trying to find people that have the same interests. I’ve developed friendships with people that I never thought that I would ever get along with. It’s a really cool thing.”
An August 2020 survey found that many U.S. singles have implemented new rules for themselves and their dates when meeting new people in person. Just over 20% of respondents said they insist both partners wear a mask during the entire length of the date, according to Match’s Singles in America survey. Twenty-one percent of singles said they ask if their dates have adhered to social distancing guidelines, and some refuse to meet up with their connections until they have received a negative COVID-19 test.
Carter Brooks, a junior, has implemented some of these rules for his dating life, he said.
“Before I even see somebody for the first time, I have to see that negative COVID test,” Brooks said. “Once that happens, I pick a place outside to hang out for the first time. After that, we can progressively start doing stuff inside and in close proximity.”
Brooks also said he would only remove his mask if he felt comfortable enough with his date during the first or second meet up.
Like Brooks, Guthrie said he gets tested for COVID-19 before his dates, but he also takes a post-date test to make sure he has not contracted the virus. Of respondents to the Singles in America survey, 16.3% said they ask their dates if they have been tested for COVID-19 prior to going out.
Over 20% of respondents said they are more wary of who they kiss or touch than they were before the pandemic, according to the Singles in America Survey.
To help limit their exposure to COVID-19 even more, some singles, like Katelyn Fox, a 23-year-old Little Rock resident, have abandoned dating sites and begun only dating people that they know and work with.
Katelyn Fox has chosen to take a step back from online dating because of the worry and awkwardness that might arise from trying to meet strangers while adhering to social distancing guidelines and mask mandates, she said. Katelyn Fox has mostly been taking part in stay-at-home dates.
“I am a homebody, so I do enjoy having people over and being in that comfort setting,” Fox said. “I do really miss going out. I miss dressing up and meeting strangers. (But) I will (still) do more of the homebody stuff once this is over. I will embrace it.”
Andrew Fox, a junior, has gone on three Tinder dates since the pandemic began. Much like Katelyn Fox’s dates, Andrew Fox’s dates consisted of going to someone’s home. Going to where one of them lives takes away from the stress of being around people, but it also makes the date feel like less of an occasion, he said.
“It feels like a way more casual thing,” Andrew Fox said. “It doesn’t feel quite as much like a date.”
Of the Singles in America survey respondents, 38.8% said they were not ready to have in-person dates yet, because they thought it was too soon.
While some are making at home dates their new norm, a select few are trying their hand at video dating. For others, the idea of video dating is more awkward than the new routes they are already taking.
Fox, Guthrie and Brooks said they have never made use of video dating options, and do not plan to. The Singles in America survey reported that 81.5% of respondents had not participated in a video date during the pandemic.
“There is nothing more awkward and weird than having a video chat with a total stranger,” Fox said.
Andrew Fox and Katelyn Fox are of no relation.