Single Missourians looking to date in a coronavirus world still can, but you might have to shake-up your style. It’s not like you can go to a movie, dine out at a restaurant or go to a bar or club together in person. Kale Monk, University of Missouri assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, says most of what happens on an in-person date can be done virtually.
“Like eating together, you can do this on Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime or Zoom,” he says. “Or, you can watch a movie together using the party feature on Netflix that allows you to host a long-distance movie night.”
Monk says people have been meeting in the virtual world with games like Animal Crossing, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, or Second Life for a long time now. You could also play almost any in-person game on a video call – it just might take some preparation, creativity and adaptation.
“You might try a lively game of charades on a group date, for example. Someone could also share their screen on Zoom and you could play trivia or a party game. I personally like the game Quiplash or Fibbage,” Monk says. “There are also apps devoted to playing games from a distance like Houseparty and even Snapchat now has a games feature. You can also play Scrabble – via Words with Friends – or find card games online, or if you both have Legos you can have a competition on a video call.”
Monk says many museums and zoos are also offering free online tours that could make great virtual dates.
“This is your opportunity to take a partner to the Louvre in Paris on YouTube or take a look around the Cincinnati Zoo,” he says. “Then you can have conversations about their favorite piece of art or the funniest animal and discuss why they felt that way.”
Since the coronavirus was declared a national emergency, many dating apps and websites like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge or OK cupid and Plenty of Fish have experienced a surge in sign-ups and user activity. They have adapted to the pandemic by adding features like voice messaging, livestreaming, or video calling in app. Monk, a relationship scientist, says online dating has several benefits.
“Including access to larger pools of potential partners, the ability to communicate online before meeting, the ability to find partners who match based on perceived compatibility with some sites,” he says. “And more simply, online dating is convenient. You can browse options in your pajamas – that is pretty darn appealing!”
Monk says recent studies have demonstrated that even before the coronavirus, contemporary couples are more likely to meet online than through more traditional means of meeting people. According to Monk, meeting through friends, bars and restaurants, college, work, and church still rank in the top ways to meet for many.
However, Monk says research shows that more options aren’t necessarily helpful because those searching for someone can get overwhelmed with choices, like finding a needle in a haystack.
“Obviously, your options may not be as vast if you’re in a rural or more secluded area and you’re focused on geographically close partners – but more options can actually limit our ability to connect with people or you might avoid making a decision or lose some interest in the process when you feel overwhelmed with choices. While it is great to have standards and be selective, if we are constantly ‘relationshopping’ for the next best thing and monitoring for other options, that could encourage us to miss out on what is right in front of us,” says Monk.
He warns that when things go back to relatively normal, relationships and partners might look different than during this period.
“Disasters and times of crises can temporarily change people as we adjust to periods of upheaval,” he says. “It’s similar to what I tell my students who met partners studying abroad. Living in a foreign country and dating someone abroad can be really exciting. People are likely to be more adventurous and really willing to expand themselves to try new things and be spontaneous. That might change when you return home and get back to life as normal…where we get comfortable with our routines and fallback on old habits. Although this pandemic certainly isn’t a fun adventure, it can force us to act differently for a period of time. And in all relationships, people tend to put their best foot forward and that effort might wane as they get more settled or comfortable in their love.”
If you swipe right and want to go on a traditional date with physical distance and local stay-at-home orders in mind, playing tennis or golf, fishing, biking and geocaching could be options with some modification.
Monk says putting the brakes on dating during the pandemic is also not a bad idea if you don’t feel ready or you’re feeling overwhelmed by the national emergency.
During this period of physical distancing, Monk reminds Missourians, both single and in a relationship, to stay connected to family and friends.
“We are wired to connect. From the minute we are born we are looking to others to meet our attachment needs and others can soothe our concerns through social support,” he says.
In fact, loneliness is considered a public health risk.
“For example, we sleep poorly when we are lonely, lonely people have higher blood pressure than those who feel socially integrated, and loneliness can interfere with our immune system and increase inflammation and stress hormones,” says Monk. “Feeling alone is also widely discussed as a risk factor for depression and suicidal ideation. These are all potential explanations for why lonely adults are twice as likely to die prematurely than their more socially integrated counterparts.”
But Monk says in this time of increased self-isolation, it is important to distinguish loneliness from isolation. He says being quarantined or self-isolated does not mean you have to be lonely.
“The CDC recommends we stay at a safe distance to limit the spread of the virus, but that does not mean we have to cease all forms of social contact even though many of us will grow to miss physical touch if we are in solitary confinement for a long period of time – and that is a valid concern,” he says.
Kale is also a state specialist for Extension. The University of Missouri Extension also offers a wide variety of classes that people can take together and discuss to help keep people connected during this solitary confinement. You can learn new knacks like gardening, cooking, or brush up on parenting and relationship skills.
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