I don’t know about you or whether it’s just the condition of my friends (myself included) but there seems to be a prolific obsession with online dating at the moment. Every time I see my friends they are either telling me about the Hinge date they went on last night, showing me outfits for their Tinder date tonight or aggressively breaching privacy laws with an immensely deep Facebook stalk of their new match.
Why is this happening? Has it always been there? Or is this frantic left and right swiping a by-product of lockdown? Why are we all suddenly so keen to package ourselves up in four photos and a few brief (and often questionable) sentences?
A lot of this definitely stems from COVID-19 boredom. Online dating has become a quasi-gaming like form of distraction. It is entertainment in itself. Something you can do with friends, as you watch the TV or standing in the interminably long campus Pret queue.
However, it is not all down to boredom. I think that a lot of the new interest in online dating comes from a sense of grief over the University dating experience that we feel we have lost. We have all been brought up to believe in first dates, term time flings and slightly more shabby ‘Will meets Kate’ type scenarios where eyes meet over the Library water fountain.
I hear a lot of my friends saying things along the lines of “I wanted to meet someone in a club this term” or “I definitely would have a boyfriend by now if it wasn’t for lockdown”. When I hear these things (which I myself am guilty of) I cannot help wondering if we are not all taking to the virtual human shopping aisle to frantically replace what we feel has been taken away from us. Desperately trying to make up for lost time, we are frantically searching for someone who will be lined up and ready to go the moment that lockdown ends. Do we take to Hinge and Tinder as a means to ‘resurrect’ our dating lives? Is it a cathartic mode that allows us to mourn the loss of the traditional dating opportunities, such as pubs and nightclubs, which are no longer available to us?
Perhaps, if anything, the grief we feel at the loss of dating opportunities says more about the culture we live in than anything else. We need to move away from this expectation that University is nothing more than one big ‘shag fest’ and the (essentially ridiculous) notion that in order to ‘live your best life’ you need always need to be ‘having a thing’ with someone.
I am not saying don’t do online dating. Do, but do it for the right reasons and not because you want to self-swerve your life onto the path that you feel it would have taken if not for COVID-19. Online date because you want to online date; not to assuage feelings of loss. Remember that this, like all things, will eventually end and when it does you can loiter around the library water fountain to your heart’s content.
– Lottie McGrath
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