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Online dating during quarantine is rough

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column on dating during a pandemic.

Jill has been quarantined in her small apartment in a Cleveland suburb for two weeks.

She was in close contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 and, under doctor’s orders, was required to stay away from others for 14 days.

“The problem is, I had just met this guy,” Jill said. “Well, kind of.”

“We hadn’t met face-to-face yet,” she clarified. “We matched through a dating app, and we were supposed to go on a first date.”

That first date never happened, Jill explained. Once he learned she would be indisposed for two weeks, he lost interest.

“I was kind of bummed because we had so much in common,” she added.

Jill, a recent divorcee, has been using dating apps (four apps, to be exact) and interacting with potential dates, but has never found the spark.

“He wasn’t a good match if he wasn’t willing to wait for me, right?”

Jill’s not the only relationship-seeker testing the pandemic dating waters.

Most who are dating online during the pandemic allude to the strangeness of meeting someone for the first time, even if it’s only a video first date. But they also like the comfort of meeting people from home via a smartphone or laptop.

“Everyone knows what’s going on these last few weeks, so you’re really not the oddball who’s trying to meet someone new,” said Cate, a mom who is recently single.

Cate fully admits to looking for a long-term relationship, and the thought of sharing the story of how she met the love of her life might be strangely romantic.

The problem is, she hasn’t met him yet. “He’s out there. I know it,” she added.

Cate sounds optimistic. She also fully accepts the challenges of video dating and first date jitters.

Anyone who has done it knows that dating has never been a sure thing or an easy process. Video adds a new layer of complexity, but it also might offer opportunity to learn more before it gets too serious.

“Even when we were free to go wherever whenever we pleased, we still had to work for it,” Jill said. “That part will never change, even if that persons on the other end of a (webcam) or sitting right beside you.”

What’s clear from the single people I spoke with is that video dating, even first dates, force you to talk, to share and to listen to each other. You can still pick up on subtle nonverbal cues, get hints of personalities and learn a little about your new friend’s living situation.

“I’m occasionally impressed by what’s in a background or foreground on these video dates,” Cate added. “If the guy has tasteful wall art, that’s a point in the plus column.”

Although the first guy was a bust, quarantine hasn’t stopped Jill on her search for love. She soon made another match and has her first date online.

“Our first date will be over video. I already know what he looks like, but it’s only from pictures. I want to see him, like see him,” she said with added emphasis on the second “see.”

Jill adds that if you do it right, it will have you both anticipating that first, real, post-quarantine date.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adam earn.com.

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