opinion

Dating during lockdown: Can coronavirus make us appreciate the power of conversation?

Daniel Harding ponders how the LGBTQ community can move away from quick judgements in these new and uncertain times.

2020-03-26

As I flicked open my dating profile, I realised that the men of London had been busy.

I must confess, I’m usually one of those dating app participants that forget they even have the app. When I do remember, I slowly respond to potential suitors, only to discover that they’re now engaged to be wed.

“Hello, I’m Daniel, a flaky dating app user.” Hi Daniel.

Last year I had embarked on a year-long dating quest, dating 100 men in 12 months. It was a mix of dates from apps and meeting people organically. To be clear, this was just dating and not sex*, an exhausting and interesting process.

But after so many dates, it was now 2020 and the year of 100 dinners was behind me. I had already refined my dating criteria to be a little bit more brutal. So, when dusting off the app, I had expected some messages to be waiting for me.

However, as I looked at my inbox, I quickly realised this new spike in interest wasn’t just down to my slow responses. There were messages from both old and new prospects. Fresh likes, swipes and new bursts of interest.

It looked like I wasn’t alone in my work from home boredom.

Like many, WFH had quickly lost its sparkle after just one day. I was craving human interaction and mindless chatter, a major driving force behind reopening the dating app. And clearly, I hadn’t been the only one.

Research has found that 82% of singles have turned to online dating during the coronavirus outbreak. Idle fingers had been busy swiping and seeing who else was out there.

In a time where the world continues to shut down, it was clear that the need to reach out and not feel alone, was more important than ever.

We’re a nation that are constantly present, so in 2020, isolation and social distancing are a foreign concept. Therefore it was only natural to seek out communication, in whatever way we can.

So, as the supermarkets continue to struggle with stock, it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of ‘fresh meat,’ online.

I had heard of some men using hook up apps to have a final fling before lockdown. Something I had chosen to avoid, having enforced a temporary sex ban as part of my new dating criteria.

Not to mention that I’m currently too busy thinking if I’ve washed my own hands enough, let alone if the man on the end of the phone has washed his.

But during these uncertain times, conversation, in whatever guise, has become key.

My single friend told me yesterday that they were worried about a lock down status as they lived alone. They feared for their mental health and what this might do to them.

In reference to dating apps, they told me that they were communicating on them more than ever and also open to who they swiped for.

Quick judgements were out of the window and, in a time of need, barriers were being lowered for friendly chats. It was true what ‘they’ say: in a time of need we really do come together.

As I myself engaged in fresh conversations and blasts from my past popped back up, I indulged in this rare moment of positive communication. With so much ‘bad news’ the light relief of app-chat was more than welcome.

For some, it’s a final fling, for others it’s someone to fill the lonely void and for me, who knows where it could lead. While my first dates at the moment might be a FaceTime call over beans on toast, it’s a comforting thought to know that we aren’t alone.

In these uncertain times we have a real chance to reconnect and recharge. A chance to start new conversations with interesting people and try again with old flames.

Reopen those WhatsApp groups that you laugh with, the Facebook messenger chat you share memes in and check in on those old friends. It’s never been more important to chat.

After a long day of WFH, I’m now finally going to shower and put on a shirt. I’m off to a virtual dinner (in my flat) with someone called Matt, I just hope he’s worth missing Netflix for!

*A few led to sex

Daniel Harding is a journalist and producer. Follow him on Instagram.