2019 was supposed to be “hot girl summer,” but that flopped. 2020 was planned to be the year, yet COVID-19 put a wrench in that because it’s hard to be unapologetically you when you’re cooped up in your home and have shame-watched all of Riverdale in the span of a week. But is Hot Girl Summer canceled in 2021 yet again?
Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that vaccinated people can be unmasked both indoors and outdoors with each other (if your city doesn’t maintain its mask mandate), you might be reconsidering your summer plans to catch up on more trashy TV. Even in areas where you will still need to mask up, many are excited to return to everyday life with trips to the park, beach, museums, movies, and concerts. This brings up the question of dating, which has shifted during the pandemic. Last year, dating websites and apps saw a decrease in users looking for casual relationships. OkCupid reported a 20% decrease in users looking for hookups, and a study by Singles in America found that 63% of the 5,000 respondents are spending more time getting to know potential partners. This was met with a sharp increase in virtual dates. However, even now, there remains an 11% decrease in single millennials and Gen Z who think they will be in a relationship in six months, according to a survey published by GWI in March.
It’s still too early to see whether dating will bounce back as vaccination rates continue to rise and cities begin to fully reopen this summer. I asked college students whether they plan on dating this summer, and the answers and rationale varied. However, what was consistent among the students I spoke to is that many don’t trust those around them to follow COVID-19 protocol.
“[I] didn’t want to be that freak asking for vaccine card proof.”
Michael, 21, a senior at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill thought that dating was irresponsible if you didn’t know that someone was truly vaccinated. He’s made the decision to not date this summer because he “didn’t want to be that freak asking for vaccine card proof.”
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask to know whether people are being safe and are putting others in danger,” he tells Her Campus. “If they aren’t vaccinated, if they are COVID-positive, then it’s also on me for enabling that kind of behavior.”
UNC-Chapel Hill was forced to send its students home one week into the fall semester back in August. Michael referred to it as “disappointing but not surprising at all” and cited it as one of the reasons he wants to remain off the dating market for this summer. “You just don’t know,” he says.
Olivia, 21, a senior at the University of Michigan, couldn’t help but agree. “The guys on Tinder just look like they are superspreaders, and I went out with people in the fall that were. I became uncomfortable with not knowing, so I took some time off from dating,” she says.
“I became uncomfortable with not knowing whether people were vaccinated, so I took some time off from dating.”
However, recent vaccine developments and the announcement from the CDC have changed her perspective on dating. After a slew of bad dates with people and even going out once with someone who didn’t inform her that he was COVID-19 positive, she now looks forward to meeting new people this summer. “People were being super irresponsible, and they still are, but I’m much more likely to date now that people are vaccinated. Their actions no longer can hurt as many people.”
Dating was already a mountainous challenge, and it has only gotten harder. Dating throughout the pandemic has required people to put a lot of trust in those they’re seeing that they’re remaining safe with COVID-19 protocols and that they are telling the truth about their COVID-19 negativity and their vaccination status.
While even those with the vaccine can contract the coronavirus, the odds of that are far lower than those who are not vaccinated. To some, that has made the idea of dating more palatable.
For Sophia, 20, a junior at New York University, the pandemic has made her more “selective” with who she chooses to go out with. “I’ve always been picky. When girls message me on dating apps, I’ve been the person to not always respond,” she says. “I might do that more now because even though I’m only looking for something casual, I only want to spend time with people I really like talking to.”
“Even though I’m only looking for something casual, I only want to spend time with people I really like talking to.”
This was another point of consensus among the college students I spoke to: even for those looking for just a hookup or a casual relationship, the person — rather than the idea of having a significant other — has begun to matter more than it did before the pandemic. Many found that they were rejecting people at a higher rate because they didn’t meet all of their qualifications. There’s nothing wrong with being picky about who you spend your time with, especially in a global pandemic. Students are more willing to wait for someone they really like rather than jumping into something in the meanwhile.
Ryan, 22, a senior at the Ohio State University, mentions that he has begun talking more with people before he asks to meet them in person. He attempted virtual dating at the beginning of the pandemic, but he felt like he couldn’t share his love of hiking and cooking properly if they never met face-to-face.
“I tried it, but honestly I hated it so much. It really sucked,” he says with a laugh. “Will I find a boyfriend this summer? Probably not, but I’ll have more fun trying this way.”
“No one’s been taking the pandemic seriously in Florida for a long time,” Emily, 19, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, adds. “I’m going home and I’ve been talking to a few guys. We’ve never met, but we’ve been talking since at least winter break, so I’m excited to finally meet them and see where it goes.”
“I don’t want to spend my nights on a bunch of first dates. I want to be with my friends who I haven’t seen in a year.”
Making the most of their summer is the focus of many students. For many, that means working 9 to 5 at a job or internship, for some that means travel, and for others, summer will be that time to catch up on all that sleep lost during the semester. All and all, people are using this time to improve their life in some way whether it be through their resumes, relationships, or health. Since the pandemic had such a negative impact on many young people’s mental health, some are easing back into normal life while others cannot wait to make up for lost time with loved ones.
“Even though I’m not going on dates, I cannot wait to see people. My friends from high school, my brother, I know they’re vaccinated so we have big plans,” Michael says.
Ryan eagerly agrees. He has a road trip planned with some of his friends for later in the summer and hopes to take advantage of the warm weather. “I’m interning remotely, so there will be a lot of days where I’m calling in from somewhere with my friends.”
Friendships seem to take precedence over new relationships among the college students I spoke to. All but one explicitly mentioned prioritizing friends this summer. While Zoom parties have been a way to keep connected over the last year, many want to take those relationships away from the computer.
“It’s been way too long since we’ve all gone out together, so we’ll do that as many times as we can, even if that means canceling a date or two.”
“Last summer, I was a hermit and it really disrupted my mental health,” Rachel, 22, a recent graduate of New York University, says. “Maybe this will change as the summer progresses, but I don’t want to spend my nights on a bunch of first dates. I want to be with my friends who I haven’t seen in a year, so I’ll definitely be focusing on that a lot more.”
Olivia spent the year doing TikTok trends like presentation nights and watching movies with her friends from home. Now that they’ve all returned back to their hometown for the summer, she plans to spend most nights with them. “I want to date this summer, but you can’t compare that to going to brunch with my friends,” she says. “It’s been way too long since we’ve all gone out together, so we’ll do that as many times as we can, even if that means canceling a date or two.”
Overall, no matter what students plan to do, it seems like hot girl summer is back in full swing. Whether that means going on data, reuniting with friends, or even bringing your latest Netflix binge outside for a few hours, hot girl summer is about being the most confident version of you. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for someone or enjoying the single life — as long as you’re feeling amazing.
OkCupid. (2020). Love in the Time of Corona: Massive Spikes in Matching, Messaging and Virtual Dates Around the World.
Singles In America. (2021). A Dating Renaissance. Match.
Morris, T. (2021). Dating in 2021: Swiping Left on COVID-19. GWI.