All dressed up with nowhere to go? You might just be one of the self-isolating singles meeting a potential new beau via video chat. Those unlucky enough to be quarantined without a significant other during the coronavirus crisis are seeking companionship (and killing boredom) by swiping incessantly on dating apps like Tinder and Hinge. But what do you do once you have a match? Social distancing recommendations have effectively killed grabbing a coffee or cocktails, and texting can only take a budding relationship so far. Instead, tech savvy youngsters are hopping on Skype, Zoom or other live streaming video services to determine if their sofa sparks are the real deal. Look, first dates are pretty awful. At least in today’s dating scene, hardly anyone ever meets in real life before agreeing to go out, so you’re basically rolling the dice on every encounter. A video first date at least gives you the opportunity to weed out the real weirdos without ever having to leave your home or spend money. But there’s something about intentionally dating through a screen that creeps me out — it’s too impersonal, too apocalyptic. Video chatting with people you know is already quite awkward — The Spectator editorial staff has daily video conferences, and despite all of us getting along, there is difficulty in contending with unintentional interruptions, poor technology, and other off-screen distractions. We’ve even published an etiquette guide for people new to the practice. Those of us who have conducted job interviews via Skype know that it’s even more frustrating navigating such issues while also trying to get to know someone. Mix in the added element of romance and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Jokes don’t come across the same way when an overly pixelated or laggy video obscures a half smirk or an eye roll. A two-dimensional screen can warp and flatten features, making us feel even further away than we are. Physical chemistry is moot when you can’t reach out to graze an arm or hand. Even if the banter is top notch, the popular Netflix series Love is Blind shows us that the vast majority of couples need more than intimate conversation to have a lasting connection. And the logistics of the dates require little effort, the exact opposite of what the modern dating scene needs when so many of us approach each other with nihilism and low expectations. Pouring a glass of wine and hopping on a call is something I’d like to do with an old friend that I’m completely comfortable with, but it seems inappropriately casual for someone I’d like to attract romantically. Some singletons have opted to cook themselves dinner or order takeout before they sit down for their screen-dates, formalizing the process but also forcing their poor date to stare at a close-up of a chewing mouth or risk the faux pas of consistently glancing off-screen. I can only imagine the excuses you would have to come up with to get out of a bad Zoom date: ‘Oh, sorry, my cat has thrown up on my carpet!’ ‘Got to go, my roommate just woke up from her nap.’ ‘Talk to you later, the maintenance man is here to fix my broken air conditioning.’ All seem to be better alibis than the brutally honest, ‘I’ve got nowhere else to escape and zero other plans because I am under government orders to stay inside for the indefinite future, but you are literally too awful to bear spending another minute of my near-unlimited time with.’ It seems much preferable to stay in pajamas and workout clothes and save the piles of date night dresses we’ve acquired in online shopping sales for the end of the quarantine. Provided we don’t actually reach the end times, there will be plenty of opportunities for real life dates in the near future.
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