Love in the age of COVID19

Online Dating

UPDATE (16/03/20): It’s hard to believe that this article was written just two weeks ago. The world has changed so much and continues to do so on an almost hourly basis. As such, we’d like to warn you that much of the advice is out of date, and as the Coronavirus is now a clear and present danger in most countries where our readers are based, we thought we should update you.

‘Social Distancing’ is already being advised, and it’s widely expected that many territories will join Italy and Spain in a lockdown which could last weeks or even months.

As such, you might think long and hard about whether you want to do any meetups at all. Of course, the chatting, flirting, getting-to-know-you part is the perfect way to pass the time if you’re stuck in the house. It might even mean that when you do finally meet, you can skip the getting-to-know-you and go straight to the physical stuff. It’s the Playa’s dream.

In researching this update, we found that there’s an alarming lack of official advice on most dating sites’ homepages and blogs – and that needs to change. We’d like to see all sites that invite face-to-face contact with the public to issue clear guidelines.

We’re sure they’ll do the right thing and we’ll update this page as the situation changes.

In the meantime, we’d advise that you limit your dating to online for now. Remember that you can be infected with COVID-19 and be contagious before you show any symptoms.

Spread love. Not germs.

(Original article 5/3/20) As the threat of COVID-19 (aka the Novel Coronavirus virus) grows, leading to entire cities being locked down and major events being cancelled, we’re all being asked to increase our personal hygiene.

But how does that affect that messiest of pastimes – dating?

There’s little doubt that all that awkward exchange of bodily fluids, close proximity and even hand-holding is a petri-dish of germs. So what’s a horny person to do?

The advice coming from the dating app community is… a little confused.

Tinder users are being warned that being safe is “more important” than fun and dating. Scrolling through the app triggers a pop-up warning of the dangers and giving the standard advice about hand-washing and not touching your face.

Jewish site JWed is offering a range of virtual dating options for clients who are in quarantine or fear being exposed to a slight cough – clearly planting its flag on the side of caution and self-isolation.

Meanwhile, Hinge, which is more about the long-term hook-up, is playing fast and loose – offering no advice, and announcing a $100 gift card to anyone who goes out and meets a match tomorrow (Friday).

Whilst there’s little doubt that all platforms will have to come up with a coherent plan at some point, the spectre of a proper, full-blown pandemic is putting them in an awkward position – how to meet your customers’ demands without terrifying them out of ever swiping again.

After all – if you open an app that starts screaming at you that you’re going to die of Coronavirus, you’ll probably stop dating, shave your hair and join a monastery. That’s not a great business model.

So what does love in the age of COVID-19 actually look like?

Fundamentally, it’s a question of common sense. For a start, if you’ve got any kind of lurgee, then perhaps don’t meet up with anyone – it might not be Coronavirus, but your first impressions don’t matter much if your intended’s second impression of you is three days in bed (not in a  good way).

Just because it’s not an STD, it’s still not cool to infect your future f-buddy.

All that said, we’re not about to tell you to wear a hazmat suit. There’s been a lot of sensationalist reporting of this topic, and we’re not about to join in.

So let’s start with the simple things. Don’t talk about it. But don’t not talk about it either. There are several wags who have changed their dating profile to reflect the news, or have actually set up new profiles for the virus itself.

Yes, funny. But chances are if you’ve thought of it, someone else has and there’s nothing more irritating than seeing 15 people all make the same joke. That’s less funny.

Equally, don’t spread rumours, fake news, or disinformation. This is a real thing, and people are really dying of it. You’re not helping – you’re just increasing the levels of hysteria.

In fact, perhaps the most important thing is to be honest. If you’re a bit of a germophobe, it’s probably better to admit it earlier. Maybe set expectations before you meet – “I’m not a hugger on first dates” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say.

The current advice is that shaking hands is OK. That may well change as the disease spreads, and there are already lots of alternatives being mooted – tapping shoes, bumping elbows and our favorite, the Namaste bow. But if you’re a hand-shaker, make sure you’ve washed your hands.

Maybe that first impression could be you walking through the door, rubbing alcohol gel on your hands. It’s certainly one way to excuse yourself from turning up stinking of alcohol.

Human nature is to touch ourselves. No, not like that – but our body language goes haywire when we’re interested in someone – flicking hair or brushing your face are fairly obvious, but there are more subtle actions too. For example, you might put your hand near your mouth to subtly draw attention to your pouting lips. You probably don’t even know you do it.

Thing is – your orifices – the facial ones specifically – are the most likely ways that nasties enter the body. So all that peacocking needs to be followed by more hand sanitiser or a quick trip to the bathroom for a hand wash.

Incidentally, and despite claims in the less reputable media, gargling with bleach is really not a good idea – it’s not protecting you from Coronavirus, or anything else. It won’t protect you from halitosis, but it might mean that your first date ends a nurse pumping your stomach.

In short, and to be completely unsensational about it, at the time of writing (early March 2020) there’s really no need to stop doing what you’re doing, unless of course you’ve come into contact with someone infected with Coronavirus.

That might sound incredibly lackadaisical, but the other option is to cut yourself off from the rest of the world, and that’s a complete overreaction.

As far as we’re concerned, keep swiping, keep matching, and as long as you keep handwashing, you’re doing all you reasonably can – life goes on, and so it should.

The main thing is to communicate. Dating has dealt with enough of taboos over the years. Don’t make this another one.

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Chris M

Chris M

Chris has worked in technology journalism for over a decade, and brings his nerdy expertise to looking at what goes on under the hood of sex tech.

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