ISO-lated love

Updated: 23 March, 2020 11:13 IST | Anindita Paul | Mumbai

Far from becoming irrelevant, online dating is experiencing a surge during times of social distancing. But in its new avatar, it's slower, more patient and reminiscent of old-school romance

The quest for true love is never easy. But during the ongoing pandemic, the odds become even tougher, just as the allure of companionship becomes that much stronger. While dating apps and social media often get a bad reputation for stripping modern relationships of old-fashioned romance, they may prove to be self-quarantining millennials' only shot at finding companionship, in these uncertain times. In fact, experts point out that the increasing popularity of 'virtual relationships' may even bring us back to an era of simpler, gentler and more involved courtships and romances.

Relationship counsellor Aman Bhonsle explains, "Social distancing is compelling millennials to come to terms with the concept of delaying gratification, which they are not accustomed to. Most people are accustomed to immediacy — everything we need is available to us at the push of a button or is a single swipe away. This immediacy also typically extends to dating and relationships; but is now suspended because of the ongoing pandemic. In fact, singles are now having to take a hard look at what excites them about connecting with others, even when the latter is not physically present." Further, he adds that the need for social interactions is as basic and urgent as the essentials that many are stocking up on, in these severe times. Even if supressed, this need never really goes away. People demonstrate it through their attachment to plants or animals or even objects. It is important to address this need; without social contact, you can easily enter a space of anxiety, loneliness and self-doubt."

Aman Bhonsle and Shahzeen Shivdasani
Aman Bhonsle and Shahzeen Shivdasani

Love by any other name
Interestingly, the absence of physical dates hasn't dampened the gusto with which singles are using dating apps. On the contrary, a recent survey by US-based dating app KinkD reveals a surge in new downloads with users seemingly preferring the safety of on-screen to real-life interactions. Shahzeen Shivdasani, author of the millennial dating book, Love, Lust and Lemons, says that thanks to social distancing and no physical contact being allowed during this time, "people must become creative and get to know the person they want to engage with, much prior to an actual date." With government authorities urging citizens to stay home as far as possible, people now have much more time at their disposal than ever before. This means that you're much less likely to be 'left on read' and more people will be willing to trade texts for long, heartfelt phone calls. Shivdasani goes as far as to predict that virtual video dates will end up saving relationships.

Bhonsle points out that the digital age offers several ways to continue being present in the lives of those you care about — these can range from video chats to websites where you can play virtual board games with each other, to even Skype movie dates. And if you were already exploring the possibility of a committed relationship, the pandemic can actually help you assess whether or not the relationship will stand the test of time. "For the relationship to survive in the long term, partners must understand that you can't let circumstances dictate your agenda; it has to be the other way around," he says.

1 A deeper bond

Harshada Lokhande

Being in a long-term relationship can actually lead you to take your partner's presence for granted. In fact, I had grown quite accustomed to a routine of meeting my fiancé once or twice every week. Not being able to see, touch or feel my partner for the last two weeks has taught me to value his physical presence. In fact, my fondness for him has grown as I have had the opportunity to step back and acknowledge my need for him and his role in my life. Today, we connect frequently over video calls. Having more time to talk to each other has made our relationship much stronger.

Harshada Lokhande, 27, art director

2 Sometimes, you need someone to talk to

Sucheta Thakur

Being socially quarantined can starve you of meaningful conversation. After a few days, you run out of things to talk to your friends and family about. For me, dating apps have filled this need to forge new connections. It also helps that there is no urgency for them to materialise into physical dates. I can take my time knowing people, their personalities and their priorities before determining how I'd like the relationship to proceed. Every conversation doesn't necessarily have to culminate in a relationship — just having someone to talk to can be enough at isolating times like these.

Sucheta Thakur, 28, blogger

3 United by our love for games

Somali Bajpai

I have been living away from my family for the past ten years. In the last two weeks, however, I have felt the impact of social isolation more strongly than ever before, as my college-going roommate has left for home and I have also been instructed by my employer to work from home. Activities like binge watching and painting were part of my routine lifestyle; I simply could not come to terms with engaging myself with these pursuits around the clock. I also began to crave human connections. This led me to download gaming apps that let me connect with players from around the world. Simply knowing that there was another human being at the other end made the experience more reassuring. Interestingly, even my male friends who otherwise shy away from texting or phone calls are quite eager to socialise via gaming apps. I have also been sharing screen grabs of these games on my social media accounts, and this has encouraged friends that I had lost touch with to reconnect with me in this unconventional way.

Somali Bajpai, 26, marketing manager

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First Published: 23 March, 2020 10:16 IST

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