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What is the point of dating now?

Rebecca Jennings May 28, 2020 for

“I’d love to be able to wear crop tops and go out dancing and make out with strangers,” Genevieve, a 27-year-old public relations specialist, tells me. It’s her first summer as a single woman in London, after all, and the crop top-wearing and kissing is the best part.

But in London, as in major cities across the globe, there will be no sweaty dance parties this summer. This, unfortunately, is only one of a great many complicating factors for people who are attempting to date during the coronavirus quarantine. Standard questions like, “Are you free this week?” or, “When was your last STD test?” now feel quaint compared to the myriad cosmic obstacles to two people meeting and hooking up. “Is it ethical to hold hands?” and, “Do I really like this person or am I just stuck with them for the foreseeable future?” are now real concerns, often ones people are forced to make without even meeting each other face to face.

That doesn’t mean folks aren’t trying. On Tinder, users have been messaging each other 20 percent more frequently, and average conversation lengths are around 25 percent longer, according to the company. Now that nobody’s traveling, ironically, location matters less than ever: Tinder briefly allowed users to access a paid feature where you could set your location anywhere in the world, “and it went crazy,” Tinder CEO Elie Seidman says. The company will soon launch Global Mode, where users are served potential partners from all over the world, regardless of where they live.

It’s very possible that the way we date now — more virtually and more carefully — could become part of the “new normal” that society has been clumsily crawling toward since quarantine began. While some of the side effects of the pandemic on potential relationships have been positive (as Sable Yong argues in GQ, now is the time to shoot your shot!), dating has always been hard, and for the most part, the coronavirus has only complicated coupling.

I asked people to tell me what kinds of new questions they were grappling with while dating in quarantine. They ranged from the immediate (is there a way to make Zoom dates less horrifically awkward?) to the existential (should I even be dating right now?). During our interviews, the most common sentiment shared by all of them was this: What’s the point?

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