In February – back when the world was normal – Netflix aired first time series Love is Blind, a reality show experiment exploring whether it’s possible to build deep connections and fall in love, blindly. So, with 2020 on pause, is dating in lockdown a similar experience?
Date locations closed, social distancing making it impossible to meet, the UK population grounded by Boris Johnson – many may automatically think the global pandemic has ruined any opportunity for romance. But with the popularity in dating apps soaring over the last few years – especially within gender minority groups, according to recent research – it comes as no surprise that lack of human contact has uncovered a new sense of need within LGBTQ+ singletons.
“People are turning to dating apps out of boredom”
“Before lockdown, I found I lost interest in Tinder” says Rachel Townsend, 29, of West Bridgford. “I think it’s possible that more people are turning to dating apps out of boredom. I have gained a lot more matches and I find people are more open to talking.” Finding a match just before Boris Johnson announced the country’s lockdown, Rachel has been talking to someone for only a couple of months.
“At the start I thought it would be a bit strange, talking to someone you’ve never met for so long, but in terms of getting to know someone it’s proved to be an organic, fresh start,” Rachel says. “It’s helped me a lot.”
It’s a date
But what comes after the apps? It was once a matter of deciding what to do, where to go and what to wear only a few months ago. Now, virtual dates on Zoom and FaceTime seem to have taken over LGBTQ+ lockdown love lives by storm.
“The first date was makeup and nice clothes but by the third, I was slumped on the sofa wearing a cardigan I don’t even wear out of the house” says Francesca Elver-Fiddimore, 30, of Mansfield. After talking to someone on LGBTQ+ dating app Lex in early March, Francesca found quarantine rules prevented them from meeting.
“We began our virtual dates with just chatting, but on our last date we actually ‘went’ to a museum,” Francesca says, “and now we have a whole list of ideas for virtual dates we’re working through.”
Pre-lockdown, Rachel found dating slightly uncomfortable. “I’ve always felt that you don’t really get to know each other, there seems to be great pressure in having to meet people straight away,” says Rachel, “whereas this situation is allowing us to live in the present, as the future is unclear.”
Francesca agrees, saying “lockdown has given us the opportunity to get to know each other before we introduce a physical relationship and all the logistics of that, as we live an hour apart and both have kids from previous relationships.”
“Living in a pandemic makes it a lot harder to get laid”
But for Anna Ington, 31, of Clifton, who is in polyamorous relationships with two people, there comes an element of challenge. “I am finding that distance is more challenging than finding conversation,” says Anna, “it’s a lot harder to converse over the phone than it is in person.”
Being in a long-term relationship of almost three years with her person-friend, and newly formed four-month relationship with her girlfriend, Anna hasn’t turned to dating apps during lockdown. “Poly is like an all you can eat buffet,” Anna says, “you can have all you want but you’re not obliged.”
With that said, Anna organises her time between both partners.
“Honestly, having two relationships can be easier as you’re not relying on one person for all of your needs,” Anna says. “They also each have other partners so it’s not just me giving them attention.”
As is perhaps highly relatable, Anna says the struggle of being lonely is poorly affecting her personal needs. “What I’ve learnt from living in a pandemic is it’s a lot harder to get laid!”
Similarly, Francesca says, “Virtual and online dating can sound really positive, but the absence of human contact is a major issue.”
Rachel adds, “It is frustrating. Although social media, dating apps and virtual dates are good ways to stay connected, we need human contact.”
It is clear the LGBTQ+ community are willing to adapt to current situations and explore new profound ways of dating, but is it possible to love through a phone/computer screen? “Using technology to establish queer community in this time has been invaluable,” says Francesca.
As the world patiently waits for 2020 to resume, Rachel says that: “Patience is also key in new relationships. Use this time to talk and get to know each other.”