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No sex for singles in times of Corona

Swipe right to talk – being single in times of corona is a challenge. Online-dating apps like Tinder make it still possible to look for love interests. However, recommendations like social distancing make physical contact impossible. Now singles all over the world are looking for creative ways of dating.

By Annemarie Andre

Anika is sitting on her desk chair. Behind her one can see a clothing rack with colorful trousers, dresses and skirts. But as she’s in her second week of quarantine the 23-year-old student of German philology living in Austria’s capital Vienna wears a grey hoodie and a T-shirt. In times like these, fancy dating profiles meet the unglamorous reality. “The more you call each other, the less enchanting it is”, she says, and adds: “On Tinder everybody puts perfect photos, but when you see each other on the video chat, you see the person from a different angle, sometimes unflattering and with skin issues.”

Anika is single for two months now. In January she had a hard break-up after being in a relationship for more than seven years. “After that I wanted to hit the dating market as soon as possible”, she says and laughs. It was also around that time she cut her long blonde hair to a pixie-cut. Anika registered on Tinder and Bumble. On both platforms one has to swipe right if you are attracted to somebody and left if you are not interested. For her it was more like a pastime activity. While watching a movie she would swipe a little bit instead of scrolling through her Instagram feed. She also went on dates and didn’t make only positive experiences. “I had two dates where the chemistry didn’t fit and one guy was extremely sexist”, she recalls.

Usually Anika doesn’t like to chat and talk a lot before she goes on a date. “The disappointment hits you more when you don’t like the person in real life and you’ve been already quite intimate while chatting”, Anika says. That doesn’t fit the lifestyle she has to lead during these pandemic times.

Marianna Kocsány, a psychologist from Hungary, who has opened her own business called Bonding Therapy in Amsterdam, also notices the effect of dating during corona on her clients. “People, who are already quite anxious when it comes to online dating can get even more anxious now”, she says. “Now even a phone call can be something that they are holding on to and if it doesn’t happen they get more doubtful, if the other one is really interested.” Kocsány mentions that even people that are easy going in normal circumstances tend to get more anxious. According to her, small things have more meaning right now. “In normal settings it’s easier to be occupied with other things and not hold on to your date so much”, she says and adds: “Now it’s even more difficult to occupy your overthinking, because there’s not much to do.”

Anika met Lucas* online on Bumble shortly before strict measurements were announced in Austria. Lucas was off for a skiing trip with his parents when the government announced that people should stay inside and are only allowed to go outside for grocery shopping, working if their job requires it and helping somebody in need. Therefore, his family decided to stay on the countryside and did not come back to Vienna.

“We wrote each other all the time and he suggested that we could send each other memes so that it doesn’t get boring”, she says. Then Anika gave him his number so that he could call her out of the blue and she doesn’t have the time to be nervous. “We talked over one hour on the phone, I sat on the bed in my pajamas and he went for a walk”, she says and adds, “when I write with other guys it’s mostly only about sex and that you can’t meet because of corona, but with him it’s different.”

The dating-platform Tinder also notices the differences in people’s behavior in comparison to pre-corona-times. “If measures are taken in a region that prevent community exchange and where people are physically isolated from each other, we see that it is precisely there that new talks take place and that these talks last longer”, says a Tinder-spokesperson.

According to their statistics the number of daily news items have increased by up to 25% in the end of March compared to the previous week in a Europe-wide trend. According to the online platform the current epidemic also changes the tenor of the meetings. People rather tend to share their concern and sympathy and add a phrase like ‘How is everyone?’ to their Tinder-bio instead of a life motto.

Anika’s experience differs from that: “There are a lot of guys outside with bios like ‘Let’s quarantine together’”, she says and rolls her eyes. “Friends of mine also wrote with guys who tried to convince them to meet regardless the situation.” For Anika and her friends that would be out of question. They don’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus further. “The corona crisis makes dating seem less important, it’s an absolute minor matter now”, Anika says.

Nevertheless, she already has plans for future dates with Lucas. Next time they will play ‘Never have I ever’ during a Skype call. Until now they haven’t shared drinks together on a video chat, that’s another plan for the future. Psychologist Marianna Kocsány also recommends to make a humor out of the current situation. “You can really make your video calls fun and a dating experience. Dating right now has its own romance, because if you actually end up together after quarantine, that’s a good story”, she says.

But there’s also a dark side to all of this. “I really notice that I start to miss the physical closeness, even if it’s just a hug between friends”, she says. Anika is convinced that she will go on a date with Lucas after the corona crisis. She is not anxious like she would be before a first date, but has higher expectations for it. Although they’re in touch a lot, Anika misses out on the simple things: the smell, the posture and the feeling when you touch each other’s skin. Still, it will take a few more weeks, until Anika and Lucas can go on a first date in real life.

*Name changed by the editors

Photo: Unsplash | Alexander Sinn