Mark Zimmerman and Amelia McKahan outside Guerrieri Commons.
Dating during COVID-19 comes with its own set of challenges, and as a result, many are left to question: How does dating work during a global pandemic?
It’s an enigma that seems to have quite the variety of answers.
In an interview with Dr. Lance Garmon, a psychology professor at Salisbury University, Garmon discussed advice and research he discovered surrounding the importance of communication. This research included sources such as Npr.org, Webmd.com and Vox.com.
“The little bit of research I’ve done … I’m intrigued by how many different places online, when they talk about dating during COVID, make it very clear that you [the individual interested in dating] need to have a conversation very early on [with your partner and] you need to discuss what both of you think in terms of wearing masks [in general], wearing [a] mask in a restaurant, [whether] you’re eating out together [and] at what point of the relationship do you progress to the point where you can be close to each other in the same room without wearing a mask?”
Garmon later discussed his apprehension toward advice on online websites, such as Npr.org, who advise many to simply refrain from the continuation of dating people with different ideals and values specifically relating to the virus.
Although Garmon does not feel this particular advice is realistic, he concurs with online resources that emphasize the importance of communication and safety, such as Webmd.com.
“There are a lot of people[all previously mentioned sources] out there that are giving advice, but they’re just kind of basing it on what they think off the top of their head. We don’t really have a lot of research on an unprecedented situation like this. I do think there are some very very concrete ideas — some suggestions — about going slow, being willing to have several virtual conversations as you find out what the person is like and how they’re viewing the same safety precautions as you are, and then you decide whether you want to progress to face to face meetings…”
Additionally, Garmon noted dating patterns found in research that were specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was surprised to see, when I was reading different advice columns, how common it was to see people going back to ex-romantic partners,” Garmon continued, referencing Vox.com and Npr.org.
Garmon explained this was likely due to the bond formed in previous relationships that new relationships lack and are trickier to form during the pandemic due to limited accessibility of other people.
Some are even finding their own social groups particularly saturated because of the pandemic, making it difficult to find and meet new people.
Sophomore Casia Veeck has noticed significant changes when meeting people in general.
“It’s definitely difficult because I’m an outgoing person, I love to meet new people … but now I’m just scared to do that. I don’t want to introduce myself too all these new people who may have COVID or spread the pandemic,” Veeck said.
When dating, Veeck attempted to adjust her dating strategies using online dating apps; however, she felt the apps were often unsuccessful.
“Tinder and bumble — they’re not really helpful at all. Most people aren’t really looking for relationships, just casual hookups which I’m not into,” Veeck stated.
Veeck also felt the online dating apps made it difficult to determine how trustworthy someone was, especially considering the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because usually when you date someone, you find out things after you start dating them and after you start talking, it’s hard to find out something concrete … before you even meet them.”
Modern technology could play an important role in students' dating lives.
Although online dating apps may prove to be difficult, graduate student Kacie Cassar, conducted research in 2018, recognizing social media’s impact in forming relationships which proved to be successful.
“We’re learning that people were using social media to create these foundations and connection which wasn’t their intended purpose, like direct messages. My research focuses on basically sliding into DMs. We found that mostly — almost everyone knows and understands the concept, but not everyone uses it. But for those that do use it, they kind of get what they’re looking for out of it.”
Cassar continued to explain that the time spent communicating on social media via DMs played an important role in the type of relationship achieved.
“Something we talked about in my paper was social penetration theory … People who spend very few days talking usually have hook ups and people who spend weeks or months talking usually have relationship types.”
Additionally, Cassar found additional benefits that set direct messaging apart from online dating.
“It ['DMing'] takes away the pressure of a dating app … It’s just a different type of environment…”
Cassar also addressed the tendency for people to be more “direct” on social media, allowing people to sense what another person is looking for in terms of a relationship.
“…People are a lot more bold on social media than they are in person,” Cassar added, noting “confidence” as another benefit to using social media.
Despite the numerous benefits and success rates found in her research, Cassar discovered DMing was not particularly popular with everyone.
“At the time, we were a little surprised that not more people were using it than we thought … but surprisingly, for those who took our survey, only half of them had been using it. I can’t say there’s any downfalls to it. Maybe a little embarrassment if it doesn’t go your way, but that’s quick/easy — if you delete it, it’s like it never happened”.
Although DMing may not have been too popular in 2018, Cassar theorizes the pandemic will allow DMing to play a greater role in seeking relationships.
“This could be a new way to do it [dating,] especially in a COVID era.”
Cassar feels utilizing social media as a resource would be beneficial to many seeking relationships during the pandemic.
“…You have the internet at your fingertips. This is your way to connect with people … You can see who you have these connections with [on social media] so you’re not talking to a stranger … It kind of gives you a jumping off point already.”
While looking for a potential partner amidst a worldwide pandemic is difficult, dating while in a current relationship comes with its own set of challenges.
Junior Jillian Crosby began dating prior to the pandemic, adjusting to multiple changes as the coronavirus surged the nation.
“Before, we could go out and do a lot together and not be worried. Obviously, the masks in public was just kind of weird. I can’t see her face or give her a kiss whenever I want,” Crosby reflected.
“We had to put off a lot of plans we wanted to make,” Crosby added.
Although this was an adjustment, Crosby and her girlfriend found innovative ways to make dating during the pandemic spontaneous.
“We got to try a lot of cooking in the house. We had a lot of movie marathons. We did a lot of crafts together. Those were some fun things we got to do, and I honestly think it brought us together a little closer because we’re doing more intimate things with each other.”
Crosby continued, explaining the importance creativity played in making dating exciting during COVID-19.
“We actually had our one year during COVID. It was difficult, but we had to find really fun alternatives — instead of going out to a nice dinner, or going to do a really fun activity or something big and extravagant. We made our own big and extravagant thing for ourselves being at home. It was really fun.”
These adjustments were a significant change in Crosby’s life; however, Crosby’s relationship faced a greater challenge when her girlfriend got COVID. As a result, the couple were apart for a month.
“I didn’t get to see her [for] a month and she missed my birthday, so that was really sad…”
“I live by myself, so that was a pretty big adjustment, especially when she got sick and I was alone a lot. It definitely has shown me how much I value our relationship and how important it is to me. So, when we did finally get to see each other again, it was really exciting and fun, and you really enjoy every moment a little bit more. When something traumatic or big happens, it does bring you a together a little bit more because you went through it together and you know at the end of the day you don’t want to lose that other person.”
Although this was a moment of adversity for the couple, Crosby believes it made them stronger, strengthening their communication skills.
“Especially when she found out that she had COVID, we had to be really honest and open to each other … as much as we wanted to see each other and be with each other she had to tell me the truth about when she was exposed … Be honest and play it safe despite all these things that we want to do. I think it made our communication a lot better and just figuring out what’s important in the moment.”
Dating during COVID-19 is certainly no easy feat regardless of your dating status; however, if anything can be learned, it’s the importance of communication during a time of uncertainty.
As Crosby stated, “This is a rule of thumb all the time, but always tell the truth and make sure that you’re just always communicating. Even if the thought crosses your mind like, 'Do you think that he/she should know this?' Then, yes, they should.”
The sources mentioned in this article can be found below:
Coronavirus FAQs: What Are The New Dating Rules? And What About Hooking Up?
Dating During the Pandemic: Online and Restless
By OLIVIA BALLMANN
Photo images by Brad Boardman