By Emma Love, Third Year Politics and Sociology
For many of us, the Coronavirus pandemic has been one excruciatingly long dry spell. The nature of Covid restrictions has dramatically shrunk students’ social circles, thereby reducing the number of opportunities to meet a new sexual or romantic partner.
Pre-Covid, the average student had probably, at one point or another, downloaded and used a dating app. However, they were hardly an essential tool in modern dating. If they weren’t your thing, you could very easily strike up a conversation with an attractive coursemate or find your one true love on the dancefloor at MBargo’s.
Over the past year, the doors of the hospitality industry have been swinging open and shut, disorientingly shifting the rules of the dating game. A drunken night with a beautiful stranger on the Triangle seems a distant memory, with clubs yet to reopen after their closure last March.
The pandemic has certainly changed the landscape of hook-up culture, and many students have reported turning back to old flings. One student I spoke to said that they’d returned to previous hook-ups, specifically someone they knew from home. After talking online, they invited their home hook-up over, but to no avail. The encounter was awkward, with the mood being killed even further when a drunken flatmate stumbled into the living room with balloons and a cracker. A night out would have been a much more preferable scenario for the hook-up, they said, as copious amounts of alcohol would have eased inhibitions and provided an excuse to spend the night together.
Dating apps have begrudgingly become a necessity for the pandemic singleton. However, one student emphasised that this does have benefits. Searching for connection on Hinge, Tinder and Bumble can be trivial – people get bored easily, and with hundreds of potential matches available, you’ve got to keep the conversation interesting. No one wants to talk to someone with dead chat.
According to this student, investing effort in Hinge conversations has allowed them to ‘think about things more’, gaining a greater understanding of what they like. Dating also became a more compartmentalised part of their life, neatly stored in 15MB of digital storage space, allowing them to focus more on the final year of their degree.
Covid-19 has altered the nature of relationships, too. National lockdowns presented a potential challenge for new lovebirds, pushing the early stages of many relationships into the digital sphere. Another student I spoke to saw this as a blessing, rather than a curse. Usually, they’d assume the worst in potential partners, expecting them to be in it just for sex. Lockdown shut that possibility down – if you weren’t interested in anything further, you wouldn’t invest time and energy into long iMessage conversations or FaceTime calls.
Although this year’s blended experience hasn’t been ideal, perhaps it has one upside. With campus mostly shut, the likelihood of an awkward encounter with an ex-partner or hook-up has massively decreased. For the more relationship-averse amongst us, this has been a blessing. One student commented that this ‘took the worry’ out of dating, making them much more open to the idea of a long-term relationship. Lockdown removed the potential claustrophobia of seeing too much of a new partner around campus, allowing them to explore the relationship at a more comfortable pace.
With the hospitality and events industry slowly opening back up, the world of dating seems to return to some level of normality. For those looking for something casual, this is a great relief. Although the pandemic has provided some great ghosting excuses – ‘I’m sorry but I can’t meet, I’m worried about Covid. Maybe some other time?’ – its push towards digital dating hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes. Dating-app haters have been forced to either comply or regrettably turn back to previous hook-ups.
However, Covid may have been a blessing in disguise for the commitment-phobes amongst us. The anxiety-inducing, obligatory ‘talking stage’ is no more. If you don’t like someone, just sack it off – it’s not like you’re going to bump into them at Source Cafe. The isolation of the pandemic has been a challenge for new couples, but those still standing have found a true connection.
Have you tried online dating during the pandemic?
Featured Image: Epigram / Patrick Sullivan