Dating During a Pandemic: College Edition

I thought dating was hard in 2019. When the pandemic hit, I remember thinking, “Thank God I’m not single!” However, I spoke too soon. As a freshly minted single woman living in a college town during the summer, dating was…not easy.

Dating apps were my first move. I actually found that I was having meaningful conversations with many of my matches—they wanted to get to know me for once. Given the pandemic, people are more hesitant to meet up in-person, so they want to make sure there’s chemistry before an first in-person date.

I insist on a FaceTime date before any in-person ones, to at least make sure we get along before I indulge in the risk of meeting up with a stranger. If someone is not interested in a FaceTime date, that indicates a clash in values to me and we would probably not be the perfect pair anyways. Woman with mask on laptop Photo by Engin Akyurt from Unsplash

As a woman, I have always taken precautions before dates. I would meet up in public during the daytime, have friends keep an eye on my location, and have an escape plan. Now, there is an added risk of COVID-19. Precautions include meeting up outdoors, wearing masks, and reducing in-person contact. Unfortunately, many of these precautions require collaboration by both parties. I found that some of my college-aged peers were not interested in doing so.

Although this is not my personal pandemic coping strategy, for many young people, it’s a choice between the lesser of two evils. What is more dangerous: COVID-19 or social isolation? So then, lack of precautions become the social norm. It is possible to meet new people while minimizing risk by staying outdoors, wearing masks, and staying six feet apart. If and when you decide you are interested in someone, you can assess the risk they pose and then engage in physical touch. Many college students are not used to doing this, so I’ve found it to be a good exercise in boundary-setting.

Even that leaves a crucial point: online dating is not perfect. Right now, online dating is our best option. Given that you can’t meet people in-person, dating apps allow us to see what is out there without actually being “out.” On the other hand, with so many options, it’s difficult to connect with any individual. In my experience, the best ways to meet new people in 2020 are through a part-time job, through mutual friends at small outdoor gatherings, maybe at a dog park, or through a “Zoom party.” Photo by Edwin Hooper from Unsplash

A friend of mine met his girlfriend through his church’s youth group on Zoom. I moved into a new apartment complex and went on a few dates with a neighbor. Existing friendships can turn into potential relationships. 

And if none of that works for you? Wait out the pandemic, or take on the risk of going to big social gatherings. The choice is yours: is dating worth the risk?