How COVID-19 reshaped the dating landscape

MOIRA MCINTEE, Managing Editor

Romance isn’t dead, but it looks a lot different. Two years of social distancing changed more than just how we buy groceries – it changed how we date.

Dates went virtual, and texting for long periods of time before ever meeting became the norm. Established relationships even felt the pressures of isolation.

“[My friends] thought it was going to be a break and they just wouldn’t be able to see each other for quite a bit of time, like two weeks or a month. But it wasn’t a month, it was a whole entire year,” business major Criten Davis said about her friend’s relationship. “They used online video chats every week, they played games and all that stuff. They made sure they checked in with each other and with their families.”

Not all relationships fared so well during this time, however.

“I dated a guy for a year, and we got engaged the Christmas before COVID,” TRIO peer mentor Bronwyn Banks said. “And then during COVID things got crazy. He lost his job and that really got to him. We were going out to a friend’s and he just went ballistic and ended up calling me a few choice words. And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it. I’m done.’”

Now that restrictions have lifted and the pre-pandemic dating scenes are open to the public again, dating is trending differently and transparency is key.

“This time I feel like I’m a much healthier person mentally, physically and spiritually,” Banks said. “But I’m not forcing it, I’m not chasing after it.”

Phrases such as “see where things go” and “open to” reached all-time highs in dating biographies this past year, according to Tinder.

COVID-19 didn’t push a desire for marriage, and daters seem to be seeking more open-ended relationships after two years of pandemic-driven uncertainty.

However, while the type of relationships might be more fluid, personal boundaries have been reinforced.

The word “boundaries” is being used more than ever in dating profiles, up 19% according to Tinder. Asking others to wear masks appears to have made people more comfortable enforcing other rules and expectations in their lives.

“I have two kids and one thing I don’t want to do is keep bringing multiple people into my kid’s lives,” Banks said. “When God is ready for me to date somebody then I’ll be here.”

Changes in online dating profiles aren’t the only transitions in the single community. Many are choosing to stay away from apps and websites entirely. Now that the opportunity to find love in real-life situations is an option again, many are interested in giving that a chance.

“I find [online dating] a little weird, I’d much rather find a person just casually in my life instead of looking at them through my phone,” Bahena said. “But I just don’t see dating as a necessity.”

Bahena has urged his friends to stay off of dating apps as well. Making connections through the internet and Instagram messages feels disingenuous to him and shouldn’t be used as the first point of contact.

“From my experience, it just did not work out,” he said. “My friends are all pretty happy now. Some of us aren’t dating and that’s okay, but not worrying about responding to messages fast enough makes dating way better.”