My brother Michael, 27, hates online dating. The pandemic has not helped this feeling. I asked him to tell me about it.
Throughout 2020, Michael has been on a slew of dates, but he hasn't made a connection that he's felt really good about. The dating scene feels more competitive than ever and with higher stakes. Everybody is swiping to find the person who might help the pandemic feel a little bit less lonely.
His assumption isn't wrong. To quote some data from Match, the company that owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and a bunch of other dating sites: "58% of single app daters shifted toward more intentional dating due to the pandemic."
Michael, who works in policy and communications, says part of his struggle dating this way is that he's terrible at texting. He says he has a tough time getting his personality across through text on a screen. I think he fears not being able to see—or know—how he's being perceived. To get past this, he started cold-calling his Hinge matches.
Once he exchanged numbers with a match (he does not have a problem in this arena), he'd call them up. I was horrified to learn this. The thought of calling strangers you might want to date makes me shudder.
"I got tired of going on first dates that were just a waste of time," He said, describing a time where he found out his date was vegan. Though he still makes the vegetable pasta she recommended for the serving of spinach it gives him, he didn't see her again. "That’s why I started calling people."
And the calls weren't a total bust. While one girl picked up and told him never to call her again (and then kept him on the line to chastise him), another stayed in touch for months. Mostly, the pandemic just gets in the way.
For one, COVID-19 precautions inject more awkwardness into already-awkward first dates.
"It makes it really difficult to kiss after a date," Michael told me. "Especially if we both have masks on. It's like, do you ask to unmask to kiss? The flow is really interrupted."
Michael has had to accept that he's taking a risk since he can't really know how seriously someone he's meeting is taking the pandemic, aside from gauging their comfort on masking or social distancing. He feels guilt over putting his roommates at risk. Michael said he hasn't brought anyone home to his house yet because he couldn't bear the thought of infecting anyone with COVID-19.
"I just don't want it to be me that gets people sick, you know?" He said. I had a recent nightmare that I did just that, so I get where he's coming from.
One girl he's seeing also isn't comfortable bringing someone into her shared house during the pandemic.
"We haven’t had any time to hang out by ourselves outside of our fucking cars," Michael said. "It’s just ridiculous."
Aside from potentially infecting his roommates and loved ones, Michael's big headache with dating right now is momentum. COVID-19 throws everything out of sync. Normal dates are interrupted by new restrictions, like when indoor dining shut down again in Oregon (where he lives, ladies) and Michael and his date had to eat their takeout in the trunk of his car. Or when people started quarantining before the holidays to see their families for ill-advised gatherings, they'd stop interacting. Without constant texts or in-person dates, interest faded, Michael said.
He's not glum, though. The dating is a fun distraction, but he's not taking it too seriously. He thinks he's had decent success during a pandemic and that the dates will accelerate once this is over.
"I'll have so much more follow-through," he said, referring to more in-person gatherings.
If anyone is in the Portland area and wants to date my brother, let me know.