How to Online Date While Social Distancing for Coronavirus

Updated: Jun. 30, 2022

A single woman and a committed couple share how they are dating during Covid-19 quarantine while still following social distancing guidelines.

Toilet paper or sex? Clearly both are important, but if you don’t have a regular partner, you might have to put the latter—at least in person—on the back burner for the moment. When it comes to dating in the time of the coronavirus, you have to focus on what’s most important right now—health and safety. But that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to check out prospective post-pandemic partners.

Between February and March, the free online dating site, OkCupid, reported a 900 percent increase in mentions of coronavirus social distancing in online dating profiles. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 94 percent of survey responders said they will continue to date virtually during quarantine.

Just like dating in real life, dating during quarantine can get you down, especially when you’re not getting the responses you’d like. “It’s very easy for daters to feel alone during this time but it doesn’t mean that you are actually alone,” says Julie Krafchick, relationship expert and host of The DATE/ABLE Podcast, which is doing a whole series on social distanced dating. One of her top tips for dating during quarantine: “Don’t be afraid to be the one to reach out and initiate the text or video call.”

But also, don’t forget to call and chat with your loved ones and friends. Non-romantic relationships are just as important as romantic ones right now, Krafchick says. (Here are tips on how to make friends as an adult.)

To understand what it’s really like to date during a pandemic, we interviewed a single woman in New York and a couple in Florida who share what it’s like to go on virtual dates. Plus, Krafchick and Yue Xu, also a relationship expert and Krafchick’s podcast co-host, offer a guide to navigating these new and unusual dating circumstances.

samantha chin dating while in coronavirus quarantineCourtesy Samantha Chin/Clifton Prescod

Single and dating during quarantine

One person embracing digital dating is Sam Chin, a 29-year-old event manager in New York City. “I was going on actual dates right up until the week before things really got crazy with the virus. I’ve been self-quarantining for about three weeks now, only leaving my apartment for groceries and the occasional walk for fresh air and my sanity,” Chin says. “Obviously in-person dates are impossible but I didn’t want to give up dating so all my dates have turned digital.”

In fact, quarantine may be giving her dating life a boost, at least when it comes to connections with possible romantic partners. “With all the free time I have on my hands now, I’ve found myself perusing the apps more frequently and swiping right more often,” she says.

Chin’s not the only one: Matches have increased by 10 percent and conversations went up by over 20 percent, according to the OKCupid survey. What are people talking about exactly? Toilet paper, naturally. The survey found that the hard-to-find bathroom staple went from “not something you discuss on a first date” to being a major dating talking point, with a 238 percent increase in mentions of “TP (toilet paper).” (Here are other date night questions you can ask.)

“I’ve seen a bunch of profiles where it’s listed as a selling point, like ‘Hey, pick me, I’ve got plenty of toilet paper!’,” she says. (Coronavirus can bring on feelings of fear and isolation, here are tips to cope with depression during quarantine.)

Finding her match online

Chin’s online dating has gotten a little more relaxed, but her standard of what she’s looking for hasn’t. After a serious relationship in her early 20s ended badly, she decided to take a break from serious dating and instead focused on her career and growing professionally. She did date a bit casually but it wasn’t until the past year or so that she felt like she was ready to jump back into serious dating. “I now have a much better understanding of myself and a clearer idea of what I want,” Chin says. “Ultimately, I’d love to meet a man that I can eventually build a future with. Something more long term.”

Online dating has a reputation for being less than real. So remember to keep it real. “The uniqueness of the current situation is that we are all in it together and this sort of camaraderie allows us to take down our walls and be more honest with each other,” Yue says. “This is your opportunity to show the real, vulnerable you in your dating profile. I can guarantee you all the little details you agonized over in the past seem so minuscule now. Time to show your true self!”

Dating apps—Chin says she’s had the best luck on Hinge and Bumble—were an easy way to get back into dating and, conveniently, they’ve been the best way to continue dating during quarantine. “I really enjoy online dating in general, dating apps make it incredibly easy to meet people with a quick swipe,” she says. “The only difference is that now we have to meet virtually.” (Dating is tough, here are 7 therapist-approved ways to deal with rejection.)

Get-to-know-you dates online

A serious movie buff, Chin’s virtual date of choice is watching a movie “together” online. “We’ll choose a movie, start it at the exact same time, and then text throughout so it’s like we’re watching together,” she says. “I always have snacks and adult beverages nearby to make it feel like the real deal. Going to the movies is one of my favorite activities in general, so dating while quarantined has actually been fun because a lot of the big studios are releasing films online to rent that would’ve been in theaters right now.”

These virtual movie dates go surprisingly well and she’s able to learn about their personality and goals through their discussions, she says. “It’s nice getting to learn about someone by what makes them laugh, what scares them, what they like or don’t like,” she says.

If movies aren’t your thing, opt for online “races” or museum “tours” or keep it simple with game nights. Krafchick suggests looking into Facebook or your local community site to find online events geared towards your area. Or, you can also consider some online groups or communities in a hobby or area you’re interested in to find like-minded folks. “You never know who you could meet at these events since everyone has their guard down now,” she says.

Krafchick believes that “now’s the perfect time to explore deeper conversations with people you’ve met on dating apps.” “More people are on dating sites and apps than ever,” she explains, “so this may be an opportunity to not just meet more people but to form deeper connections that aren’t as based on the physical side that could lead to something amazing.”

Through virtual dating, Chin is able to see that men are willing to put in extra effort to connect with her in a real way and how good they are at communicating. “I think it’s crucial that the quarantine shouldn’t be an excuse for being lazy, so I’m taking the men that put effort into their communication now more seriously than the ones who seem to be texting out of boredom rather than real interest,” she explains.

The upside of digital dating

Not having to worry about the physical side takes some pressure off, Chin says. It allows her to focus on more important attributes, particularly since she’s looking for a relationship and not just a hook-up. (Not to mention that you can get coronavirus while having sex.) “I think physical chemistry and touch is incredibly important to a relationship, but having a foundation in place matters too and virtual dating allows us to build that first,” she says. “I think not having the ability to date in person (yet) can help you really get to know someone on an intellectual and emotional level first. Since we can’t leave our homes, we have the time to learn about ourselves and one another and dive into real conversations.”

The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of people thinking like Chin. Not only do 85 percent of the OKCupid survey respondents say it’s important to first develop an emotional connection with a partner, but 83 percent of respondents are looking for a long-term relationship right now and 71 percent of respondents say love is more important than sex right now.

It appears to be working; Chin says she’s gone on three virtual dates with the same man and it’s going well, adding that the next step is a video chat. “I feel pretty good about my romantic life right now,” she says. “Quarantine has put us all in a really unique predicament so we’re just figuring it out as we go. Being adaptable is key! I’m definitely eager to go out on an actual date and enjoy a cocktail somewhere that’s not my bedroom or kitchen.”

We’re all going through this together and a chill way to reach others looking for a connection is to set up an online “happy hour,” Krafchick says. Invite a group of friends and other singles to meet online, say over Zoom or Hangouts, and enjoy a drink together and chat.

sonya schwartzCourtesy Sonya Schwartz

Dating for couples in quarantine

While virtual dating works well for singles trying to meet new people, how do people in a long-term relationship still see each other while social distancing? Very carefully, says 48-year-old Sonya Schwartz, who runs the dating site HerNorm, who has been dating Brandon Scott, 53, both of Jacksonville, Florida, for seven years.

“We are observing a complete social distancing as well as a lockdown, so we are not going to any beaches, parties, or get-togethers,” Schwartz says. “Florida, of course, has one of the nation’s largest populations of people over 65, who are especially threatened by the virus, so we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe.”

The couple lives in the same apartment complex but they have different apartments. This means that while they can’t be together like they were pre-quarantine, they can still see each other, which offers some solace, she says. (If you’re in a relationship, here are 10 tiny ways to make your partner feel loved.)

Romantic virtual dates to maintain a relationship

“Dating in quarantine has made us get really creative in the ways we connect,” Schwartz says. The couple has established several daily relationship rituals that give them something to look forward to. It starts first thing in the morning when they have breakfast “together.” “We have balconies opposite to each other so every morning we see each other from our balcony and then have the meal together, cheering the cup of coffee in the air,” she explains.

After the workday is over, they meet on video chat and talk while sharing a cocktail. Video chats also provide an opportunity to share feelings and sometimes more intimate moments, Schwartz adds. Then, every night before going to bed, they play a single match of an online game together such as PUBG or Settlers of Catan.

Other virtual dates include serenading each other through Instagram video “concerts” as they both play guitar and doing a Netflix Party. But perhaps the couple’s favorite way to keep the romance alive is through their pets. “I have a cute golden retriever and Brandon has a beagle, so our pets help in taking things to each other,” she says. “We use the dogs to exchange gifts, drinks, food, flowers, and chocolates. And, it looks super cute as well as romantic.”

If you’re running out of virtual date ideas, Yue says to see this “as a challenge and rev up your creative juices.” For instance, you could surprise your date with food delivery from a place you’ve always wanted to travel to and then change your virtual background when you chat to match that locale. You could share fun facts about that place or take a virtual 360 tour. (Just make sure you know the facts about ordering from a restaurant during quarantine first.)

Keeping the romance going

While Schwartz says she desperately misses being with Brandon, the quarantine has had some upsides for their relationship as well. “Quarantine has made us explore a different side of our relationship,” she says. “It has shown us that a strong relationship does not require daily meetings, hanging out, or parties. We’ve found that our bond is so strong that it doesn’t break even when we are separated physically.” (If you’re both living together in quarantine and arguing, here’s how to stop fighting with your partner.)

Krafchick has some valuable advice for those single and in a relationship. As the saying goes, be the kind of person you’d like to date. Quarantine is the perfect time to improve yourself, she says. “There’s a ton of self-growth that can happen if you use this as an opportunity to dig deeper,” Krafchick says. “As cheesy as it sounds, self-love is most important if you’re single or in a relationship. Take this time to tap into new hobbies, creative pursuits, and skills. Treat your body well through light exercise, home cooking, and proper sleep. We attract the best people when we are at our best selves.”

It’s also just as important to treat yourself in a loving and caring way in quarantine, Yue says. Have you ever thought about what the perfect date would be like for you? “Take yourself on a date and think about ways you would want to treat yourself, how you would talk to yourself, and what activities would you plan,” Yue says. “Getting to understand how you would like to be treated will help you identify better matches for yourself later on.”

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