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Video dating in coronavirus quarantine: “I dressed up and did usual going out routine”

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Megan Murray
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It sounds like something from the plot of a post-apocalyptic novel, but thanks to coronavirus quarantine video dating is officially ‘a thing’. But what is it like? From getting dressed up to sit on webcam to the awkwardness of logging off, Stylist investigates. 

Although the effects of coronavirus are a lot more serious than sparking a new dating trend, this time of quarantine has undoubtedly changed the way we socialise and interact as a society – which is actually pretty fascinating.

Grandparents all over the country are getting to grips with FaceTime, while groups of friends are having a House Party every night (via the eponymous app, of course) – but what about the singles? Is this their time to sit back and twiddle their thumbs? Absolutely not.

We may have only been in official lockdown since the start of the week but dating apps have quickly adjusted and first dates via video have already well becoming ‘a thing’.

Dating app Bumble has reported that in the last week there’s been a 21% increase in the amount of video dates happening, while dating site The Intro has changed its USP from organising in-person dates for users (based on their location and availability), to setting up video calls for them instead. 

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“I’ve done three video dates already since last week and it’s so fun, I’m honestly so excited about it,” says Emma Jones, speaking to Stylist.co.uk.

Jones has been dating in London for a while, but liked that The Intro does all the hard work for you: after you’ve matched with another person’s profile, you enter your location and availability and the app suggests five venues at times and places that should work for you both, equidistant to where you both live.

“The whole point of the app is to get rid of the chatting before the date. I have a pretty full on job where I can sometimes be working 100 hour weeks so I liked that it removes the option of keeping up small talk before seeing each other. Communication is only opened two hours before you meet so that you can let them know if you’re going to be late or something,” she explains.

Although she joined the app a month ago she hadn’t had chance to try it out before the pandemic happened, so Jones is jumping into the dating pool via video, which sounds like a unique experience. 

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Jones explains that she likes the idea of video chat, but as it’s a new concept it’s interesting to see that people still feel awkward about putting it into practice: “We still don’t have a social construct that makes it an easy transition to go into a video chat. Bumble, for example, sent me a notification this morning which said: ‘ask your date out on a video chat’, but that doesn’t feel natural.”

She continues: “The reason this app is good is because you don’t awkwardly have to ask someone if they’re okay with talking over video. The app now makes that a standard and sets it up for you. It means you’re thinking ‘I have a set time, I have something that feels like a date that I’m going to get ready for’ – and it’s really fun.”

So, what is video dating actually like? “I’m loving it,” she answers enthusiastically. “I’ve been treating it and preparing for it like I would a real-life date. I’ve been getting ready as I usually would to go out – the works. My girlfriends knew I was going on this video date; everyone was squealing with excitement. I planned to eat dinner beforehand and then I literally did my going out routine. I was putting on my music, doing my hair, putting on my make-up – and I felt so good for it.”

In some ways it still feels like a social experiment. Jones has felt aware of how certain etiquettes change when having your first date with someone over a camera, and the potholes of navigating that. 

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“I poured myself a glass of wine for my date, but then I thought… does that look weird? What if he isn’t drinking? If we were at a bar we could have had that conversation as we sat down or while we were ordering, so I didn’t know if it was inappropriate to come on camera with a glass of wine already in my hand. I kept it out of shot until I saw he had a beer,” she says.

Another idiosyncrasy of the video dating world is, how long do you stay on the call for? Think about it – if the night has run its course there’s usually an easy excuse to hand as to why you might need to go home. Whether it be a long commute, an early gym session in the morning or big meeting tomorrow, but now none of these apply.

“It can be a bit awkward to be like, ‘anyway…I’ve got to go and… oh do LITERALLY NOTHING in my flat,’” she says.

“Actually, I was chatting with one guy and it got to 9.30pm and I said, ‘okay well I’m going to get ready for bed now’ and he was like – ‘when do you go to bed?!’ I laughed it off and agreed but, you know, went offline anyway,” Jones recalls.

But these aren’t horror stories – in fact, Jones emphasises that she enjoyed all of her dates; most were over two hours long. They were all nice people and she’s arranged to chat to one of them again. 

It’s just that, well, two hours of staring at a screen, completely focused on someone is a long time. Without the buzzing atmosphere and distractions that come with a bar or a walk, it can be quite intense to talk for longer than that which inevitably means that someone needs to make the move to log off. 

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All in all, she says she would definitely recommend it. The lasting question that she thinks singles haven’t worked out yet, though, is ‘how long are you willing to video chat for, because when will this all be over?’

Dating in quarantine while a deadly virus dominates news headlines sounds like the plot for a post-apocalyptic novel, but this is the reality for those trying to find love in a time of Covid-19.

Jones elaborates: “The questions I’ve been asking myself are; do I want to video chat them and again and would I meet up with them in September or whenever. 

“That’s the big question right now and that’s what people who are video dating are going to have to figure out – do you invest time video chatting without being able to meet them, potentially, for months?”

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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