Think back to the pre-pandemic days of dating. If you wanted to meet up with someone, that meant texting back and forth, choosing a location, making reservations, getting dressed up, traveling, and paying for dinner and movie tickets and drinks — without having any sort of assurance that you'd even click. I'm getting tired just thinking about it.
IRL dating has always required an investment in time and energy, but quarantine was a game-changer: Dating became something you could do from home, with little-to-no effort. Phone calls and video chats quickly replaced in-person dates. And while it might have felt strange at first, everyone in lockdown soon accepted it as the new norm. But will society see the long-term benefits of virtual dating once the world begins to open back up?
There are, after all, many benefits to starting off online. Taige, 34, tells Bustle that pre-quarantine, it used to take three hours minimum for him to meet up with someone. "I didn't date much before due to my schedule and the effort involved," he says. But while social distancing, he found himself opening up to the experience, since all he had to do was pick up the phone. "It's given me more dates because it's more convenient and easier, and fewer bad in-person dates," he says.
Jasmyn, 29, felt the same sense of relief once she started using the video chat option on Bumble. "I always struggled with having the time to date," she tells Bustle. "Between work, my passions on the side, and my own social life, it [was] hard to put the time and effort into a first date when you can possibly be met with disappointment." She would often back out of first dates because she didn't want to get ready and commit to spending hours in a bar or coffee shop. But the video chat option has alleviated all that stress.
You can screen out all those 'hard passes' without taking the time and money to meet someone in person.
When asked about the long-term benefits of virtual dating, many experts point to this very thing; the ease of video calls, and all the time they save. "It's an efficient way to screen out all those 'hard passes' without taking the time and money to meet [someone] in person," Laurie Berzack, MSW, a relationship coach and dating expert, tells Bustle. There's also the fact that freedom is only ever one click away if the date ends up going downhill, Berzack adds. And for many, that's another massive perk.
Gone are the days of awkwardly waiting for a bad date to end because the server has yet to bring the check, or worse, finding yourself in a situation that feels unsafe. Instead, you can assess someone's vibe before meeting up in real life. As psychotherapist Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher, MA, CAGS, LMHC, tells Bustle, "Virtual dating allows you to get to know someone within the safety of your own home... alone. It allows [you] the luxury of actually getting to know people."
Because you now have the option to see a person's face, read their body language, and get a feel for how the conversation flows, you're essentially skipping a few steps ahead on any given date. As Jasmyn says, "Video chats were the easiest way for me to solidify the initial attraction. There were times that I wasn’t sure, but once I video chatted with my date, I would have a better gut feeling."
Experts also say kicking off relationships with a virtual date can make for a deeper connection in the long-run. "Virtual dating has made many [people] invest more in quality conversation and consistency rather than the physical trappings of lust and meeting in person," Bree Jenkins, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. Remember what it was like to attempt witty banter while in a crowded bar? "Virtual dating provides a great breeding ground for deeper connections and mental and emotional stimulation," she says, if only because you can finally hear each other.
I realized that the virtual connections that I made in quarantine were real and magical.
Great conversation was a pleasant surprise for Brigette, 32, who began virtual dating from home. "I realized that the virtual connections that I made during quarantine were real and magical," she tells Bustle. "They were built on a strong foundation because of the very fact that you’re forced to put in effort from the get-go." Video chatting not only helps you figure out what you're looking for in a partner, Brigette says, it also makes it easier to see if there's a connection before deciding to meet up with someone in person. "I'm definitely a fan."
Virtual dating offers countless benefits, from saving time to boosting safety, to creating space to actually get to know someone before diving headlong into each other's lives. But will it change the face of dating forever? Jenkins believes people will always choose in-person dates over video dates since humans can't help but crave physical contact. But she also sees no reason to stop taking advantage of these assets, just because the world has begun to reopen. "Virtual dating will simply add to that process," she says, "by allowing people to connect more conveniently and test out their chemistry before they meet in person."
Laurie Berzack, MSW, relationship coach and dating expert
Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher MA, CAGS, LMHC, psychotherapist
Bree Jenkins, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist