As Valentine’s Day approaches, our thoughts turn to romance in the time of the Covid. In a world that has turned ever more virtual, online dating seems an increasingly good idea and dating apps and websites are booming. Lockdown has brought some unforeseen changes and it has slowed down the sometimes frenetic pace of virtual dating – when it is difficult, or actually illegal, to take a promising relationship into the testing arena of real life, lockdown romances are unfolding slowly, as couples message, chat and FaceTime at a leisurely pace, slowly getting to know each other. This tantalising, drawn-out courtship ritual is, in some ways, decorously old-fashioned.
If you’re about to launch yourself into this world, make sure to research the plethora of apps and websites thoroughly before you commit. You will need to examine yourself and your aspirations honestly: are you looking for fun? A good time? Companionship? Long-term commitment? Many apps are free and fast-moving and hook-ups often go disastrously wrong for a host of reasons, and nobody cares because there are legions of new contenders available at the swipe of a screen. This can be intoxicating if you’re impetuous and adventurous, but more reticent, cautious people may feel that it is worthwhile investing in a more exclusive and selective site, where exhaustive questionnaires and complex algorithms seek to find the elusive perfect match.
Do’s and Don’ts
- The pitfalls of posting an out-of-date or overly glamorous photograph have become a cliché, but it’s hard to resist the urge to sell yourself. Remember the likelihood is that, in our current circumstances, you will be taking to the screen early on in proceedings and a video call can be cruelly unflattering.
- Your profile should stand out, so avoid generic hobbies, such as walks in the country and listening to music, and try to give everything you say about yourself a strong personal impact. If you say that you’re an orchid-collector or a jazz fan, you will sound much more memorable.
- Try and sound positive and confident, but don’t lapse into boastfulness – tales of prodigious wealth, professional success or sporting prowess just sound like you’re protesting too much. Conversely false modesty is not particularly charming: you will come across as needy and insecure.
- You may experience many disappointments and false starts before you feel the urge to take things further, but don’t get downhearted. If you’re feeling fragile or desperate, give yourself a break. Take some time out until you’re robust enough to survive the setbacks.
- Once you have made initial contact and feel that you have connected, it’s time to enter the virtual dating world. Prepare carefully. Look at the set-up of your screen, and ensure that your background is saying the right things about you. A wall of books might look daunting, a display of trophies and diplomas may appear to be self-aggrandising, a shrine to family and children may look clannish and impenetrable. Think about conversation starters; a striking painting or poster, or a photograph showing you in an exotic location, or cuddling a pet, or engaged in an extreme sport will all provoke interest and questions.
- Take some trouble with your personal appearance. Dressing up for Zoom dates might look over the top, but lounging about in pyjamas or a tracksuit is just insulting. Do your best to look well turned-out and well-groomed, and remember that messy hair, untended stubble and smudged make-up will be forensically amplified onscreen.
- Ensure that the camera on your screen is at eye-level to avoid unsightly jowls or distorted faces, and take some trouble with the lighting. A soft lamp to the side of the screen will cast a warm and flattering glow, while a bright overhead light will make you look like you’re in an interrogation cell. Ensure that your WiFi connection is up and running smoothly, and that housemates/children etc have been briefed and banned. You’re good to go.
- Covid restrictions will inevitably be a subject of conversation, but keep it light. You don’t want to come across as a moaner, or project anger or frustration.
- Don’t get bamboozled into talking about your ex. If you say too much on the topic, your date will inevitably conclude that you are not really over your previous relationship and you might come across as embittered or belligerent. If you have children, acknowledge the fact but don’t fall into the trap of boasting about them, or constantly referring to them. Even the most paternal/maternal of dates will be dismayed at the prospect of eventually having to relate to these prodigies.
- Flirtation is key. You cannot rely on body language or touch to signal attraction, so you will have to depend on your smile, expansive gestures, laughter and verbal compliments. If commenting on your date’s appearance feels too intimate, say something positive about his/her room, clothes or possessions.
- If all goes well, text promptly or call and say so. Waiting for a call or playing hard to get belongs to an outdated rule book and really isn’t appropriate in the circumstances – virtual dating in a pandemic is complicated enough without game-playing.
If all goes well, and one video call leads to another, you will be keen to meet in real life. In our restricted pandemic world the most socially acceptable way to do so is to go for a walk together (suitably socially distanced) and we thoroughly recommend this as your first date. You will enjoy fresh air and exercise and can get to know each other in relaxed circumstances, far removed from the pressure of candlelit dinners à deux and intimate conversations.