There’s Tinder, but I’m not looking for a flame, or even a spark at this point. There’s not much point when all the fun dating things are off-limits. The glorious assortment of cafes and restaurants, so many highly recommended to me by locals who are on a first-name basis with the owners by now, are all closed for dine-in services. We aren’t allowed to take away our take-away meals to the nearby parks and gardens, which would be a quirky and fun date idea under any other circumstances. The cinemas show no screenings, the curtains have closed on the QPAC stage (for those who have a little more cash to splash on impressing a date).
I have never felt safe going straight to the home of someone I’ve just met, whether that meeting place is on the campus of an institution I trust, in an otherwise ideal workplace where I value the hiring manager’s judgement, or in the exchange of messages written by lonely people over a dating app. In one way, there is a benefit to lockdown: an easy out, an indefinite raincheck.
When I was asked to write a response to the prompt “Love in the Time of Coronavirus” my mind instinctively went to Tinder, the infamous dating app that needs no introduction. After all, what better way to begin an article on how love and relationships have been affected by a pandemic than to reflect on my own experiences? I was one, the only one I knew, of a group of people I imagined existed who had a single commonality; out of boredom we had downloaded (or in my case, re-downloaded) Tinder in an attempt to find someone to talk to, perhaps with a starry-eyed ideal that it could lead to something more. However, given that I worry about my personal safety and invites out from strangers on the internet occasionally triggers alarm bells in my head, I found that lockdown was in some ways an advantage to me: “Haha yeah, meeting up sounds fun, whenever these restrictions are lifted…” My indefinite raincheck, a perfectly valid stance to take (somehow being busy with uni assignments is not) which people will struggle to argue against for fear of coming off as, for lack of a better word, moronic.
Under the guise of “journalistic integrity”, I started a second Tinder account in order to act as a writer seeking contributions based on real-life experience. I wanted to talk to Tinder users about how lockdown had affected their use of the app, if they had any concerns about meeting up with people in real life or if they had, like me, found something vaguely resembling a silver lining.
I quickly learnt how irritatingly persistent some people would be despite being told no. In a few discussions, every question I asked was answered with an accompanying invite to meet up, come over or video chat. “I don’t think that’s appropriate as I’m using this for professional purposes,” I’d remind them. “Lol but do you think I’m hot?” they’d reply. Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic in which face-to-face interaction should be avoided, this isn’t a deterrent to those looking for love and intimacy, albeit on a physical level. I got the sense in a few of my conversations that not all lockdown restrictions were being adhered to by those craving satisfaction. Make of that what you will.
One user made an insightful comment about how he felt that restrictions had shed a light on how dependent modern relationships are on sexual experiences in the early stages. Essentially, if you can’t hook-up with someone, how are you meant to get to know them? Some people, desperate in the heat of the moment to get to know their matches, were not discouraged by lockdown restrictions. Should they have gone out? Probably not, but people will act in a way that best serves them. In this case, I don’t feel it’s my place to judge.
For users who didn’t download Tinder for the express purpose of seeking sexual relationships, the chance to connect emotionally and intellectually did not go unnoticed. When you can’t meet in person, you have to make do with messaging over Tinder or exchanging other socials. This was another silver lining; the chance to reconnect with people on an emotional level first. And overall, this is been happening in a profoundly positive way. When asked, everyone I spoke to said they had had a positive experiences using Tinder, even in lockdown, and that although they were eager to get back to cafe, garden and cinema dates and start meeting people offline they would probably keep using Tinder too.
I didn’t speak to anyone who, like myself, confessed to downloading the app out of sheer boredom, but I wouldn’t be the only person to have done so. Personally, I fall into the category of “can’t wait to meet people in person”, but it’s clear that Tinder is, at the very least, good for a laugh and a chat during a time when that’s a little harder to come by.