Photo by Sian Bradley
Dating in lockdown must be hard. Unless you've mastered video sex or are sneaking out of the house, chances are that it's mostly been a sex-free experience. Instead, you're on Zoom, or FaceTime, or Houseparty, or any other app generally used for chatting with your boss, trying to look sexy.Beside the obvious not supposed to be having sex thing, the reasons young people are dating during the COVID-19 pandemic are the same as they've ever been: boredom, and not wanting to be alone forever.
Men and women everywhere still need someone who understands them – or can at least make them snort-laugh their way through dinner. Millions have jumped on the apps in lockdown to find that person, with Tinder receiving over three billion swipes in 24 hours in April – its biggest day ever. But what happens when you find the LOYL on the app, but still can't properly meet up with them?I went into this piece thinking I would find people professing their deep adoration for whoever they had met virtually in lockdown. About how they couldn't wait to finally hold someone else's hand within theirs or some other kind of GCSE poetry book level of romantic muck. Instead, it turned out some people had already met or, like most of dating in the time of the internet, had started talking then fizzled out. These are unprecedented times, but not for those chatting and chatting on the apps.
I’ve been using Hinge a lot. You talk to people, then get to the point where you would usually ask someone out but you can’t because of COVID. There were a lot of occasions where potential meet-ups basically faded out and didn’t happen. There’s only so much you can say online. But there was one girl… We got along quite well and got comfortable, to the point we could say anything. We were talking for a good three weeks. She asked if I wanted to do a Zoom call. Before this I was adamant I wouldn’t do a Zoom date, but we did one.
“IT'S MADE ME REALISE HOW IMPORTANT TOUCHING IS”
It was a bit strange at first and felt like a job interview. It didn’t help that it was on Zoom and we didn’t drink. Because we’re both geography nerds, we had a few in-jokes about that and used this app called Sporcle. It was ok, but felt uncomfortable. I hate awkward silences and you can’t touch each other. But I thought it was a good thing to do, because if we were going to meet in person, it would be weird talking to someone for three months and not having seen [their face on video]. So we did another chat, this time on FaceTime. That was better; it felt more personal. We did a Netflix Party too and watched Gasper Noe’s Enter The Void.It’s been difficult trying to find ways to make things interesting. You can only talk about so much when nothing is happening in the world. When Boris said we could do two metre meet-ups, we met up. The first half hour was strange… We kept bumping into each other and having contact. It wasn’t easy to social distance. When we sat down, there was an arbitrary line drawn between us. It made me realise how important touching is to flirting in general. When you’re limited to eye contact and charm, it’s hard. We found it very very tough. We were both really frustrated. Following that, we had a talk, and met up again and decided to be a bit more lax. — James*, 22
I video dated three girls. They were better than I thought they would be. With the first two girls we agreed on getting some booze in. Basically whenever I had a date, I would finish a bottle of wine. My housemate who isn’t furloughed would be coming into my room asking me to keep it down.
“YOU THINK: WOULD WE REALLY BE DATING IF WE WEREN'T IN LOCKDOWN”
I ended up having four video dates with the first girl and by date four, our patience had worn thin. Where do you go next? We hit a juncture. We ended up having a park date in Hyde Park – it was nice, but the virus was so prevalent it was hard to do anything beyond sitting in a park and hanging out. A bit further down the corona timeline, the second girl asked me to come over to her house, in the middle of our video date. She lived by herself and there were some precautions, so I did.I haven’t planned for when lockdown ends. The second girl fizzled out too. When you start talking about post lockdown plans, you think: are we hanging out now, because we know we’re a safe bet in lockdown, or would we really be dating if this was in non-lockdown times? So that ended. A few weeks later I ended up going over to someone’s house and having a one night stand. — Brad*, 32
I broke up with a long term boyfriend pretty much a month before lockdown. It was weird timing, which I think anyone who has broken up around that time would agree. You would usually get out and start seeing people, but that just wasn’t an option. I downloaded Hinge when we first went into lockdown out of boredom, then deleted it because it was too weird to be on a dating app at a time when we didn’t really know what was happening. Then I downloaded it again a few months later and started talking to a guy and had a Zoom date.
“I WAS WHO I AM ON A REAL DATE, WHICH IS: A DRUNKEN MENACE"
I was surprised by how normal it was? I guess it is doubly weird because I haven’t dated in three years. Not only was it my first Zoom date, but my first date in a really, really long time. I drank a whole bottle of wine in my room. We chatted for a few hours. I was who I am on a real date, which is: a drunken menace. At one point I made him talk to my flatmate and fucked around in the kitchen for ten minutes.There have been a few people I’ve been talking to. There was someone I spoke to at the beginning of lockdown, but it felt like weird timing because the world was so uncertain – not that it is much certain now. I’ve been speaking to someone new at the minute and I would be up for doing a video call for him. I would never have thought to do it before, but three months in, I’m so bored. I’m flitting between people. The dating apps are like the wild west. People will come back after not talking to you for a few weeks. I think everyone is looking for attention at the moment – anyone to talk about anything with. — Daisy*, 25
I’ve just been doing loads of FaceTime dates. I like doing those as a first date, because it’s nice to be able to date from bed and not have to leave your house. It feels low risk. Usually I’ll have a glass of wine or two – and the other person will as well. I’ll talk to them for an hour or whatever.One interesting thing I’ve found is that – for lack of a better word – the market has opened up globally. Back in February, I was interested in moving to another city so I did a bit of a Hinge world tour and changed my location. I wanted to see what the vibe was in a couple of cities by looking at the people there. I have been talking to people in places like New York, Berlin, Amsterdam – whatever. I’ve noticed in the past couple months, men are doing the same. I’ve had a guy who matched with me who lives in Scotland, but changed his profile to London. That happened with a guy in Florida. It’s brought an interesting dynamic. If you get to the point you’re going to want to meet those people, when is it ever going to be realistic? But it’s been fun to compare experiences of how quarantine is going in places like Berlin and New York.
“THE PEOPLE WHO ARE BREAKING LOCKDOWN TO HOOK UP ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO DON'T USE CONDOMS”
The conversations are a lot more intense. You’re having conversations that are way more serious – I spent Friday night talking to a guy about the politics of protesting. You have these conversations quite early on, because there’s so much going on in the world. I’m really honest with telling people I’m overwhelmed. I think communication between people has generally improved while in lockdown.What has shocked me is how many men will invite you over for a first date, especially on Friday nights, like, "Come over for some wine and takeaway?" Absolutely not. I would never do that on a normal first date, anyway. I would meet in public for a first date. Now there’s the risk of that, on top of the virus, it’s just way too risky. I’m shocked so many men are inviting me over and I wonder how many people are breaking lockdown for first dates. The people who are breaking lockdown to hook up are the same people who don’t use condoms. — Jules*, 27@ryanbassil* Names have been changed