“Maybe we could hold hands with those claw toys,” says Jason. He is my latest match on Tinder. A week ago I would have found this to be a really bizarre opening line, but now it’s probably the closest two strangers would (or should) get to physical contact. Every day, the restrictions put forward by the CDC and the government grow more stringent. This means that while a couple of weeks ago doctors were saying that it was okay to meet people on a date, today we are being instructed not to leave the house unless it is absolutely essential. It is day 10 of isolation, and my Tinder has never been livelier. I’m messaging dozens of strangers, and I have no idea if or when I will ever be able to meet them. Leave it to a global pandemic to give me more matches than I have ever gotten in my entire life. Is this love in the time of corona?
Like pretty much every college student in the nation, I saw myself go from a young, independent, thriving student to literally asking my mom if I could go to the gym and work out. (For those of you wondering, the answer was no). The government also said no a few days later when they shut down all the gyms in New York City. In a few short months, the coronavirus changed everything for the entire world, and it seems like every day I get a new update about the dangers of leaving my house. If I shouldn’t see my closest friends, I find it difficult to rationalize meeting up with a stranger. In fact, with all the restaurants, bars and coffee shops in New York City being ordered to transition to takeout or delivery only, there’s nowhere to even go on a date. The New York Department of Health also issued a guide to safe sex during the pandemic, and they specifically advocated against online dating for the time being.
So then what is the point of Tinder anyway? For me, I guess it’s a way to feel more connected to anyone, literally anyone, during a level of isolation that I have never experienced in my life. Coronavirus has pervaded every conversation I have had with anyone, online or in person, over the past few weeks, and in a way, it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling freaked out and stir crazy. For me, Tinder has also become another distraction, like television, movies or books. More people are downloading Tinder for this very reason, even though the chances of meeting up in real life anytime in the near future are slim to none. Tinder users generally spike at times when people are more likely to be indoors, like a snowstorm, but coronavirus is a whole different ball game. People aren’t trapped inside for a day or two; it’s for the foreseeable future. Skype dating and Bumble video calls have become a more popular way for people to connect without having to leave their houses, which is a dream for anyone who has ever wanted to wear sweatpants on a night out.
The one thing I take away from Tinder during this crisis is that social interaction is a part of being human and that we as humans want to be connected, even in times of crisis that we have never known in our lives. That being said, dating apps aren’t really built for courtship, which it seems like the world will be reverting to since users might be forced to chat with someone for weeks or months before it is safe enough to meet them in person. For most people during this crisis, Tinder is a distraction, not a way to really get to know new people. For that reason, I advocate logging off for the time being and connecting with the people you already know. Check-in on your friends and families, the people that you really care about. Tinder will still be there for you when we come out of this crisis.