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Dating during coronavirus, Love is Blind
Netflix’s Love is BlindVia IMDb

How people are getting creative with dating during social distancing

From video chats and virtual speed dating, to a Love is Blind spin-off, no amount of self-isolation can stop serial daters from getting their fix

If being trapped inside with your family or housemates wasn’t maddening enough, for single people, the prospect of not dating (or having sex) for the next few weeks, months, or – dare I say it – years (not really), has sparked innovative new ways to connect.

As the world adapts to life in near-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic, daters are having to adapt their usual woo-ing strategies. Leading the charge is a viral project called Love is Quarantine, based off – you guessed it – Netflix’s hit reality series, Love is Blind, in which single people date without ever seeing each other, before proposing, moving in together, and walking down the aisle.

In Love is Quarantine – created by 27-year-old Thi Q. Lam and his 28-year-old housemate, Rance Nix – the ‘pods’ (individual rooms in which contestants dated) are cells on a Google spreadsheet, while ‘dates’ are 30 minute phone calls. Hopefuls apply via a Google doc before Lam and Nix match them up. Once selected and their calls scheduled, people are asked to record their dates (in their “pandemic pods”), which are then uploaded to the project’s Instagram page. The contestants also provide self-recorded follow-up interviews, and every night of dates marks a new ‘season’ of the show.

“Some of the dates went really well,” Nix told The New York Times. “Some of these couples were talking on the phone for over an hour. We’d text to check up on them, and they were still talking.” He added: “Any way we can lift spirits, that’s what we’re here for.”

Much like in Love is Blind, once the contestants have decided they like each other, their faces are finally revealed – though this time to the Love is Quarantine Instagram followers, as opposed to each other. “Our crowd favourite @redgaskell and @brookealexx,” writes one post, accompanied by a side-by-side photo of two contestants. “The age difference didn’t matter! They like each other! They have exited the pods!” Another post, introducing daters Katie and Steve, said: “OMG they matched and talked all night! They said they want to leave the pods and reveal themselves as a couple!”

“We’re excited and super grateful for the opportunity to share some positivity and light especially during these difficult times,” Lam said in an interview with the NYT. “We’re going to do this as long as we can until we get our jobs back.”

For those who don’t want to share their dating life so publicly, video chats provide a private respite from the boredom of isolation. In recent weeks, dating apps have had to adapt to life in the times of social distancing (sorry), introducing new features that can help users date while isolating from the outside world.

As reported by Mashable, this week, ‘exclusive’ app The League announced new video dating features – including the ability to video chat without exchanging numbers, and adding a 10 second clip to your profile – as well as a free membership period of two weeks. As part of the membership, daters will get the chance to use the app’s speed-dating feature, in which users will go on three video call dates lasting two minutes each.

Similarly, old school dating site Plenty of Fish has introduced a livestreaming feature, allowing users to chat to potential matches for 90 seconds before deciding if they want to have a one-on-one call. “I’m excited to offer this free feature to our members,” Plenty of Fish CEO Malgosia Green said in a press release, “in the hopes it allows people to have fun and build meaningful relationships virtually, while face-to-face interaction is temporarily limited.”

Having being forced into self-isolation, London-based Hinge user Luke* has turned to video dating after being unable to arrange an IRL date with someone he’s been talking to for weeks. “The video date was his suggestion,” Luke tells Dazed, “and I’ve been bored and a little lonely, and was into the dystopian idea of it.” Although he feels “a little apprehensive”, Luke believes the date will be “an experience”.

“He’s suggested sending me money for wine, so he’s ‘buying me a drink’. I guess we’ll drink and chat, though I have no idea how it’ll progress further – I won’t be kissing the screen!” – Luke*

“He’s suggested sending me money for wine, so he’s ‘buying me a drink’ and getting candles too, which is cute! I guess we’ll drink and chat, though I have no idea how it’ll progress further – I won’t be kissing the screen!” Luke adds that “it’s important for us to continue doing things we usually would (as much as we can) during these difficult times”. He concludes: “I date, so why not try to date in the age of corona?”

Katy, who also lives in London, has turned to video dating after self-isolation stopped her from going on a second date with someone she met on an app. Speaking to Dazed, Katy explains: “After loads of WhatsApp back and forth, I decided on a video date, partly as a Black Mirror-esque ‘joke’ (though not enough of a joke to not put make-up on and change out of my curry-stained pyjama top). I figured if it was painfully awkward, I could just hang up and blame it on my parent’s prehistoric wifi.”

“Armed with some pretty decent lighting, lots of wine, and a YouTube stream called ‘Ambient Tavern Noise’,” Katy was ready for her date, which wasn’t “as awkward as you’d think”, though, she explains, “the lack of physical contact is… frustrating”. She adds: “We’ll do it again in a few days, but I’m finding it so fun that I’m taking the opportunity to flirt with a few other guys and girls, mainly via Instagram. Nothing like a captive audience, I guess!”

“Constant texting means you build up a picture of a person that they can never live up to, so I didn’t want to end up doing that over a whole quarantine period and then realise they’re actually super weird” – Katy

Katy says she prefers to video call as opposed to texting because she finds that “constant texting means you build up a picture of a person that they can never live up to”. She adds: “I didn’t want to end up doing that over a whole quarantine period and then realise they’re actually super weird.”

Another dating app user, Sarah*, says social distancing has led her to sext a lot more than usual. “I’m not usually that fussed about going out and finding people to sleep with as I tend to hate everyone,” she tells Dazed, “but now I know I can’t go out, I feel like I might die if I don’t (have any sexual contact). On one occasion, this had started with us asking if you can catch (coronavirus) via sending nudes, and ended with us sending pictures – think: shortness of breath and a rising temperature,” she says.

“Nothing like a killer global virus to get you in the mood,” Sarah concludes. “Shame I’m currently self-isolating at my mum’s.”

Look back at our exploration of how coronavirus is impacting our sex lives here.

*Names have been changed