COVID-19 has inspired many singles to reach for mobile dating apps as a way to explore their options while following social-distancing measures, but swiping right and eventually meeting in person isn’t as simple as it used to be. It appears hookup culture is out.
A study in 2019 found that compulsive use of the app made swipers feel lonelier than they did before logging on. But apps like Bumble and Tinder have seen conversations on the apps surge 19-26% since the start of pandemic lockdowns in mid-March. So why are young adults using apps more than ever? Dr. Jennifer Mieres, a New York City-based cardiologist and author, says it’s likely due to loneliness. “Loneliness causes fearfulness, especially during times like these. Many young adults are thinking about their mortality, which makes us crave human connection," she said. According to Mieres, some of this is due to the fact that we’re missing many of our everyday interactions, like socializing at the office or going out with friends.
While loneliness for singles isn't universal (some may be surrounded by family when they usually live alone), it can bring up feelings of longing for a partner to go through tough times with in solidarity.
So does that mean we’re back to the days of "going steady" and old-fashioned courting? Not necessarily, but we’re certainly entering a more intentional dating environment. Most dating advice will tell you to play it cool, but during these times of serious health risks, you may have to get comfortable asking personal questions early on.
Here are some questions you should consider asking before making an in-person date, according to Mieres.
1. What’s your COVID-19 status? Have you been tested?
Although this feels like it goes without saying, it’s important to ask people what their exposure level has been. Have they been tested for COVID-19 or have they been exposed? Have they exhibited any symptoms?
2. What have you been doing the past 14 days?
You should ask both what they have been doing and who they have been spending time with. They may live with a family member who’s an essential worker or perhaps they have been flouting some of the guidelines that you adhere to strictly. You should also be honest with them about your activity and interactions.
3. Do you wear a mask?
The answer to this question will tell you a lot. Wearing masks has nearly become almost a political statement. If you’re someone who wears masks, but your date doesn’t do the same, that will give you insight into some of their views on health and safety.
4. Have you been dating, when was your last date and are you still dating?
This borders on the dreaded “what are we?” question, but if you’ve been talking to this person over the course of a few days or even a few weeks, their dating or hookup history is a relevant subject to address. If they’ve been going on several in-person dates over the past 14 days, this will subsequently increase your exposure rate as well.
It may feel a bit less romantic to hit a prospective date with these questions before you’ve even gone out to dinner, but if you’ve been cautious during the pandemic, it’s important to know if someone you're talking to shares the same values before you consider exposing yourself.
After you’ve asked these questions, then comes planning the actual date. You may want to take it “slow” with a couple of Zoom dates first, but depending on which state you live in, the local guidance and your level of comfort, you may want to go to dinner or try an outdoor activity.
A lot of this boils down to how much you’re willing to risk your exposure. If you’re not sure about your level of connection with that person, Mieres recommends opting “for the old-fashioned lunch date, where you can always make the excuse of having an appointment afterward so you can head out and minimize your exposure if it doesn’t go as planned.”