Had I written this one week ago, it would have read differently. Had I written it a mere day ago, it would have read differently. But here we are, today, in these uncertain times.
As a dating coach (yes, you read that correctly) who focuses on clients’ online dating lives, it’s been a particularly interesting time.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is no joke, and what started as a handful of clients asking me what to do about their dating lives is now almost 100% of clients. Should they take a break from the dating apps? Stop meeting people in person? Ban the first date hug or kiss?
A week ago, I would have told them — in fact, I did tell people — to do what they felt comfortable with, whether that meant going out to meet someone new or not. Now, every client has opted to cancel all upcoming first dates, and I agree with that decision in order to “flatten the curve,” as we’ve added to our lexicon in the last week.
Despite not actually going on dates, statistics show that when people are home more (rain, snow, mandated telework), dating site usage goes way up. Why? What else is there to do other than mindlessly (though, I recommend still using discretion) swipe through Bumble or Tinder while using your last ply of toilet paper? Many people will not hold back on making connections online, even if those dates can’t come to fruition quite yet. When chatting online, though, the topic of coronavirus will inevitably dominate conversations. While you can, and should, address the topic of the day/week/month, try to branch out and talk about yourselves a bit. Just like “How’s your day going?” gets monotonous after a while, so does, “How are you holding up?”
Should you schedule a virtual “date” in the meantime? Whether or not to schedule a Facetime or Zoom date is completely up to you (Bumble even has its own video technology), but remember that you can only learn so much from someone from a voice or even a video screen. My recommendation? Wait until you can meet in person, especially since the topic of conversation is inevitably going to be about coronavirus, which, again, isn’t exactly the sexiest way to make a great first impression.
The other option, of course, is to put dating on ice for a while. In fact, recently, Tinder sent a message to its users saying, “Tinder is a great place to meet new people. While we want you to continue to have fun, protecting yourself from the coronavirus is more important.” OkCupid also got in on the action, adding this question to their long list:
“Does coronavirus affect your dating life?” I bet if you answered this question with a “no” on March 10, that your answer was the opposite by March 17. (Luckily, you can change your response to OkCupid questions once every 24 hours.)
In the meantime, you can still clean up your profile, keep your wits about you, and continue the quest to put yourself out there, in whatever form that takes for you. As far as updating your profile, here are a few quick tips to get the ball rolling:
1. Use only five photos.
Less is more when it comes to photos. Don’t give people the chance to dismiss you based on one photo they don’t like. (Except on Hinge, where six photos are required … unless you upgrade your membership.)
2. Don’t be generic.
People would rather read that you like to eat Hawaiian pizza on Tuesdays (why?!) than simply that you like to go out to eat. The more specific, the better.
3. Be proactive.
The goal of online dating is to get offline. Don’t collect matches and never write to them. Challenge yourself to try to turn as many matches into dates as you can … when you can actually get out and date again.
4. Think outside the box.
Just because you’re able to make selections based on height, level of education, or a certain mile radius doesn’t mean you have to. Try expanding your parameters — you never know who you might meet.
With this disease spreading, no one knows what the future holds, for dating or for life’s new normal. In the meantime, you can at least search, connect remotely, and get prepared. And if none of this sounds appealing to you, then take time for yourself over the next several weeks — invest in the things that you love (even if that’s a new series on Netflix), keep in touch with family and friends virtually (maybe even with a drink in hand), learn a new skill, whatever makes you happy. And then, when you are eventually ready to get back out there, you’ll be armed with stories, maybe some more sleep, and a more positive outlook on life.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.