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COVID-19 brings a new perspective to Valentine’s Day. With sudden lockdowns and nowhere to go, people across the country were forced to spend extended time with those in their household, which has encouraged more intentional relationships with roommates and family. While social distancing has also transformed the dating experience, the restrictions on hookup culture are paving the way for deeper conversations and longer-lasting relationships.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP IS WITH YOURSELF
In the beginning, quarantine was welcomed as a time to rest and to try new things. As weeks turned into months, the time at home was transformed into a space for deep self-reflection. Our primary companion became ourselves, and without a schedule full of events or community, there was little to distract us from our own minds.
For some, the ample time for self-reflection encouraged them to think about what they are looking for in a relationship. After taking the summer to think about his life, single people like Eric Nentrup returned to the dating scene and found that people’s increase in self-reflection has resulted in “less superficial dating opportunities.”
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS
As people learn more about themselves, they can pursue relationships with intentionality. Singles in America, an extension of the dating site Match, found that 44% of singles in 2020 had deeper conversations with dates. They also cite that people wanted to know the political opinion of their partner by the second date, an indication that surface-level conversations are no longer cutting it.
“When you take a single person who is not getting their social needs met by all of the people who they would normally see outside of their home, they actually have emotional bandwidth to engage in a much deeper way,” said Jeffrey Hall, the director of the Relationships and Technology Lab at the University of Kansas.
Along with every other part of our lives, how we date and meet new people has had to change drastically. Dating apps have had more traffic and are helping their users connect in new ways—namely virtual dates. The dating app OkCupid recorded a 700% increase in virtual dating in May of 2020, according to the Atlantic.
THE FUTURE OF DATING
According to the American Psychological Association, recent studies show that 60-80% of college students in North America have “had some sort of hook-up experience.” However, those are pre-pandemic statistics. Casual sex has decreased dramatically over the last year for all singles. With physical intimacy now off-limits, singles have shifted their focus toward building authentic relationships instead of getting distracted by sexual potential.
Dating looks different for many in various Christian circles, but Biola University and the broader Christian faith generally do not support the concept of casual sex. So, naturally, the idea that people are hooking up less seems to most like an improvement. This decrease may not last beyond the pandemic, but while these restrictions are in place, it is possible that our extended times of self-reflection and lack of social interaction have made room for deviating values.
UNEXPECTED CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
This will be our first—and hopefully the only—Valentine’s Day during a pandemic. Though the changes our world has made were involuntary, they may prove profitable in the future of dating culture. Challenging life experiences, such as going through a global pandemic, pave the way for a greater capacity and appreciation for relationships. The need for community has been exposed, and when life returns to normal, people will eagerly return to in-person dating with an emotional depth they did not have before.