This morning I read that 1 billion people are in lockdown. Many are together with their families; husbands, wives, children and in some cases, grandparents others are not so lucky. In the UK, 49% of the population over 16 are single, and 15% of the adult population live alone. For those people, their lifeline is the internet, and their social contacts have become primarily virtual.
Life will not return to normal for at least a year, probably longer, maybe never. This is a fact. There are three ways out of this: vaccination (12–18 months away), herd immunity (two years away), or permanent changes in our behaviour that allow us to keep transmission rates low. This means that in the short to medium term our day to day life will be majorly disrupted and many of the changes that this upheaval will carry well into the future.
Yes, the world will change, but nothing will change as much as human relationships. With the touch of a hand having the potential to kill you, it will be used sparingly and only in special cases. Gone are the days where you would meet someone in a bar or club and find yourself snogging them before the evening’s out.
With the lockdown came instructions from the British Government that couples must either commit and move in with each other or remain apart. Even young people on their first tentative steps on the dating scene are expected to show maturity well beyond their years and commit to one partner early in the game …Because, let’s face it, what is the alternative?
With bars and restaurants closed and face to face meetings out of the questions dating apps are seeing a serious spike in usage. According to an article on CNBC: “Bumble, a dating platform favoured by urban millennials and Gen Z singles, saw a significant increase in messages sent in cities under shelter-in-place mandates. From March 12–22, Bumble recorded a 21% increase in sent messages in Seattle, a 23% increase in New York City and a 26% increase in San Francisco.”
Even though it would appear at first glance that the dating scene has gotten harder for singles in lockdown or shelter-in-place locations, for many there has been an improvement. Virtual dating has seen a boom and represents a significant change in the dating scene that is likely to carry on beyond the lockdown. Most of the dating apps are now offering new options for couples to meet online, and this has been a welcomed change from texting or talking on the telephone. Dating from home through live streaming is such an obvious improvement to online dating that one has to wonder why it took a lockdown for it to materialise.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is the value of facetiming? For starters, it will eliminate many awkward, torturous or cringe-worthy real-life encounters with the wrong people. Being able to see how your date moves, talks and generally conducts themselves behind the safety of a screen can make a face to face contact much more reassuring.
When you are on a virtual date, you don’t need to wonder if you should kiss/snog once dinner is over. You don’t need to decide where to go or who gets to buy drinks or pay the bill. By removing these distractions and the pressure of physical contact, daters can concentrate on getting to know each other better and open up the channels of communication. New couples can forge relationships based on shared interests and mental attraction because it is less threatening to reveal parts of your true self to a person that you may not meet physically for several weeks or even months. At the same time, as the relationship deepens, so will the desire to touch and be together. In a way, the lockdown will resurrect of long-forgotten dating rituals. Lovers may say and hear things like:
“You are the stars hidden by clouds. I know you’re there even when I can’t see you. Your shine peeks out and reaches me in the depths of my soul. Tell me your arms are long enough to reach me across oceans. Tell me someday we will be together, somehow, some way. Tell me that this love we have can survive being together as well as we’ve survived being apart. Tell me we are more than the chasm of our divide.”
― Jacqueline Simon Gunn
Things will slow down in love but in a good way. Hearts will grow fonder; minds will meet, and new dating habits will teach the value of openness and communication. I am hopeful that amid death, disruption and economic collapse, we will remember and revive something beautiful.
I am already seeing a distinct change in what is valued on social media. There seem to be more posts promoting connection and fewer displaying vanity. With nowhere to go and no one to see, the useless posts whose whole purpose is to show off wealth and beauty, have gone the way of the dinosaurs. These vacuous displays of vanity have been replaced by offers of community assistance by everyone from yoga teachers to highly paid celebrities.
Can it be true that we are becoming kinder and our society more connected? If this is indeed the case, then this virus has a benign side to it. Perhaps, we are beginning to realise the vacuous, transitory nature of the things we used to hold dear. A week locked up in a flat alone can strip way much of a person’s frivolous vanity and let what really matters bubble to the surface.
No man is an island and the rules of social distancing are making this crystal clear. Isolated humans are aching for each other’s love and company. And what is love after all other than deep human connection? Might it be possible that we will discover love’s true nature as we strip ourselves of the layers of pretence? Will the isolation imposed by Coronavirus remind us of the value of a lover’s touch and the warmth of a long-awaited hug?
I am hopeful that what has started as run on toilet paper, lost jobs and locked up people will end up being the beginning of a new era of romance, connection and honest communication. I am optimistic that what our society discovers during this extraordinary period will extend beyond the lockdown and social distancing and I am looking forward to a materially poorer by emotionally richer world for all of us to enjoy.
“Although in two different cities,
We had a candle light dinner together.”
― Jyoti Patel, The Mystic Soul
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