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How dating apps are booming as ideas of romance and intimacy evolve to meet the pandemic’s challenges

Dating is now serious business since one is essentially choosing an apocalypse partner -- couples who have survived the worst together

How has dating changed amid the pandemic? (Source: Getty Images)

“Put yourself out there!” If you’re single, you’ve heard this statement a lot. Never mind that it is vague and overused, but in the time of a pandemic, it’s also the one thing we can’t do. As the world remains in COVID-19’s grip, with countries either in lockdown or enforcing strict social distancing, a singleton’s search for love needs to be put on hold. Meeting people on dating apps comes with risks of its own, but were I to “put myself out there” right now, catching the coronavirus would just be an addition to a long, already existing list of threats.

I envy couples who manage to remain intimate even when miles apart. According to the meme floating around about how dating is now serious business because you’re essentially choosing your apocalypse partner, these couples seem to have it figured out.

Most of my closest friends are in happy, fulfilling relationships right now. Two, who are in a long distance relationship with their boyfriends, told me they keep in touch through text and video calls, watch movies together online, and sometimes even have dates where they eat meals together.
Doing that with the people I’ve met on dating apps doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort.

As my friend Poornima, a 22-year-old digital-content producer based in Noida, puts it, “I’m not on dating apps to talk. So if I’m doing that right now, it seems like doing all the work without any reward.”

“I would like to meet new people and actively look for a more meaningful relationship now. We’re conditioned to shift importance to aesthetics instead of wit, intelligence, or any other positive attribute. Essentially, we swipe for looks, supplemented by mediocre bios,” another friend of mine, Pooja, 22, a student at a university in Toronto, says. So if I’m only focusing on how a person looks, how do I pretend to care enough to sustain a conversation?

Some of my friends who are active dating-app users are treating this situation as an opportunity for lead-hunting. “It’s like I’m keeping a repository for now. I talk to them just so it doesn’t get awkward after the quarantine ends,” says Pakhi, 21, a marketing associate in Pune. However, she admits that the lockdown has made her want to meet more people and form more meaningful connections in the future.

The idea of seeking a casual relationship right now seems redundant. We look for comfort in familiarity in times of uncertainty. We want to retreat into the security and safety of a relationship. These are not things that casual dating offers. From where we stand now, perhaps for once, dating apps and the instant gratification that they offer won’t be enough to sustain us in a time when loneliness and feelings of isolation are peaking.

This is because swiping on dating apps right now has more to do with finding some brief validation of one’s desirability, some sort of anchoring in a world of love that one can’t fully participate in right now. It has little to do with actually wanting to be in a relationship or even just going out on a date. But when I look at those around me who are in relationships, I realise that what I yearn for is to have stability. Unlike in the world of hook-ups, long-term relationships can navigate the lack of physical intimacy that this lockdown has presented us with, and build on the principles of love, trust and companionship.

So hang in there, singletons, because I do believe our apocalypse partners are out there. Hopefully, they, too, are maintaining social distance and washing their hands right now.

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