Culture Community How Dating During the Pandemic Is the Same — And How It's Not By Starre Vartan Writer Columbia University Syracuse University Starre Vartan has been an environmental and science journalist for 15-plus years. She founded an award-winning eco-website and wrote a book on living green. our editorial process Starre Vartan Updated May 19, 2020 Virtual dating CROPPED. Share Twitter Pinterest Email Culture History Travel Sustainable Fashion Art & Media Holidays Community Get in the right frame of mind before your call so you can enjoy it and be yourself. (Photo: F Armstrong Photography/Shutterstock.com) This isn't the first time people have dated without meeting in person. And it isn't the first time people have fallen in love during a pandemic — in fact, Hemingway wrote about his own experiences several times. But it is the first time looking for love during a pandemic has been so safe and easy. And you don't need to go on the weirdly prescient dating show "Love is Blind," where dates happen inside isolation pods, to use it, either. That's all thanks to technology, which can both connect us via dating apps to people who share our interests and provide a platform to go on virtual dates. With many of us having plenty of time on our hands, there's never been a better time to really get to know someone — and a date could even be a good distraction. "With a lot of uncertainty and stress that COVID-19 brings, it is important that people continue on with their lives as normal as possible and for many that includes dating," Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Dating.com told MNN. Data shows that plenty of singletons have already figured this out: Dating sites have reported increases in all kinds of communication: Bumble has had around a 25% increase in usage in Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco since the pandemic began, and Hinge saw a 30% increase — along with increases in in-app calls and chats. Hinge even launched a "date from home" feature. Dos and don'ts of virtual online dating The key to having a successful online date is the treat it like an in-real-life date as much as possible. (Photo: Travelerpix/Shutterstock) Just like dating in real life, there are guidelines for dating virtually. Don't assume it's just like a chat with your best friend, both of you slouching on the couch in pajamas. Here's what Sullivan suggests: Look presentable: Even though you're probably sitting at home for the date, still get dressed up and look your best. You want to show the person you're interested in that you care about the date and that you took time to get ready to talk to them. Make yourself easy to hear: Find an empty quiet space where you can hear yourself and your date with no outside distractions. You want to make sure your date has your full attention, just like if you were out at a restaurant. Schedule the date (and "arrive" on time): If you're text chatting with someone for awhile and decide you want to hang out with them, bring up the idea and schedule it — the same as you would for a real date. Ask for a day and time they are available and put something in the calendar. Be a good conversationalist: To kick things off, ask them how they are or how their day is going. Have some questions in mind to ask to get the conversation going, because talking over video chat can be a little awkward at first. Virtual dating may be here to stay The coronavirus is upending many parts of our lives, and some of those changes might be permanent. So some of the above might even be lessons that we'll take into the future of dating. After all, as Sullivan points out, "Facetiming is a fun way to hang out no matter how you met." She thinks virtual dating will become a "normalized" way to find a partner. After all, there are advantages to dating virtually. For one thing, it takes away the limiting aspect of dating only those who are geographically near you. "With virtual dating, you can connect with people all over the country and really see who is out there, making finding your other half a little easier," says Sullivan. And getting to know someone via chat or the phone, then meeting a few times virtually, can definitely be safer, since the risk of sexual assault is very low. It's also a bit easier to assess a date when you're not distracted by other people, a cool restaurant, or overly loud music. Perhaps virtual online dating can even be a better way to date than meeting in person, at least for the first few getting-to-know-you conversations. Sullivan agrees: "Once the COVID-19 outbreak dies down, people will be able to go out again and mingle, but a lot will still keep virtual dating in their back pocket just to keep all options open." Of course, virtual doesn't get rid of all the challenges of dating — there are still shallow jerks and bad pickup lines galore, but there are more possibilities than ever for connection, too.