Boston dating landscape turns virtual amid pandemic

A couple kiss on the river bank in Havana, Cuba on March 12, 2018. Photo by Bilin Lin/BU News Service

By Bilin Lin
BU News Service

BOSTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges in the love lives of many young adults, for both those who are looking for love and those who already have steady partners. 

Many universities are operating remotely this semester. While offering classes on campus, others have implemented safety precautions and restrictions that have altered how many students socialize. 

With restrictions on in-person interactions, more people have been turning to online dating during the pandemic as a way to meet new potential partners. According to Business Insider, Match Group, which owns and oversees many popular online dating platforms including Tinder and Hinge, saw an increase in new users during stay-in-place orders earlier this year. 

While some may feel there are safety concerns involved with meeting people from dating apps in person, that hasn’t scared college students away from dating apps entirely. 

Yasmine Blaylock, a junior at Northeastern University, was not an active user of dating apps until the pandemic started. Although she has been talking casually to a few people on Tinder and Hinge, she has not been physically going out on dates.

“Most of the time I’m talking to people who don’t go to my school, so I’m a little bit more cautious about opening up,” said Blaylock. 

Blaylock said she would potentially consider meeting up with another Northeastern student in person due to the school’s testing procedures for students.

“If it’s someone that goes to my school, I’d be more open to it,” Blaylock said.

While she currently gets to know her matches through texting and FaceTime, Blaylock also said she would consider the possibility of meeting some of her matches physically in the future.

Others have succeeded in finding love during the pandemic.

Online dating has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by amrothman/Pixabay

Alden Cowap, a 26-year-old data analyst, met her boyfriend, Will, on Hinge in August. This is the first time she had found a partner through online dating.

Cowap said she was not overly concerned with meeting people in person during the pandemic and takes precautions while on in-person dates.  

“If we’re going to a park, we are going to sit six feet away from each other wearing masks,” Cowap said. Cowap said they usually take walks or sit in a park for their dates.

Cowap said differences in handling the pandemic could be a barrier in terms of online dating currently.

“I think it would be really tough if the person you are interested in wasn’t necessarily on the same page with you with regards to COVID-19,” Cowap said.

She also said there is more transparency required when dating during a pandemic, especially when living with other people. 

“I’d never had to ask my roommates, like, ‘Hey, is it okay if I kiss this person I went on a date with?’” Cowap said. “But during the pandemic, you sort have to be really open about that sort of thing.”

The pandemic also presented challenges for those who were in steady relationships before the pandemic started. 

Ariane Vigna, a junior at Boston University, was separated from her girlfriend when Vigna left the country to her home in Paris, France, during the spring break, right before the U.S. border closure. Vigna and her girlfriend maintained a long-distance relationship for six months. 

Vigna said it could be difficult to avoid confrontations with a long-distance partner, especially when dealing with the stress that comes with living through a pandemic. 

“It’s hard not to let that impact your relationship, and it’s hard not to take it out on each other,” Vigna said. “It has definitely taught us to take care of ourselves before we see and talk to each other, make sure we are in a good headspace.”

Vigna also said there is a loss of intimacy that comes with not being able to see a romantic partner in person. 

“It’s not the same thing talking to the screen, and you can’t even look at each other in the eye and hug, and that is very hard,” Vigna said. “You only have words to comfort each other.”

Since Vigna’s return to Boston, she has been able to hang out with her girlfriend, grabbing coffees outside and taking walks.

Vigna said she hopes BU amends their pandemic visitor policy going forward. The current policy does not allow any outside visitors in dorm buildings.  

“There should be one way to just add one guest per month, and it could only be a BU student,” Vigna said. “Make sure that you know they are compliant as well, and they have to have their green badge.”

Vigna said a more lenient policy could provide students a way to receive physical intimacy from their friends and significant others, as lack of physical intimacy during the pandemic can be damaging to students’ mental health. 

“You want to make it livable for students,” Vigna said. “Because if you want people to respect the rules, you also have to make them a little easier to respect, and respect people’s mental health as well.”

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