Love in the Time of Coronavirus
- By Matt Jones
- February 12, 2021
Dating, whether casual or serious, is a fundamental part of the college experience. The rotating social circles between classes, extracurriculars, dorm life, campus hangout spots, and bars make it almost too easy to constantly meet new people by sheer virtue of proximity. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced potential young lovers to find new ways to meet and get to know one another while respecting public health and social distancing guidelines.
Even before the pandemic, more and more students have been turning to online dating options like Tinder or Instagram. Now, though, that virtual aspect is extending into at least the first date or two. In March 2020, two Yale University students created a dating service called OKZoomer, which connects students from more than 200 universities nationwide for virtual Zoom dates. And even students who meet through more traditional means are still opting for “Zoom dates” in lieu of going out to dinner and a movie.
The idea of the “Zoom crush” has also entered the public lexicon—developing a crush on the girl in the top-right corner square in a weekly online discussion class. More than a couple of students have confessed to looking up their crush’s name on the class register and finding them on another social media platform, like Instagram. “I mean, it sounds pretty psychotic when you say it out loud, because it is a little,” said Temple University junior Nicky Romano. “But I feel like that’s something we’re all guilty of.”
Students opting for in-person first dates are still taking the necessary precautions. Kathy Martinez, a Los Angeles Mission College sophomore, described her first “first date” of the pandemic. She and her date self-quarantined before meeting in person. She politely declined his offer to pick her up. They drove separately to a nearby park, parked their cars next to each other, and he passed her a cup of milk-tea with boba through her driver’s side window. They talked for a while from their separate cars with the windows rolled down, and then they moved to a park bench, where they sat six feet apart and wore masks. They agreed in advance that physical touch—anything from holding hands to kissing and beyond—was off the table.
As the relationship progresses, dates still have to be scaled down. Virginia Tech senior Renata Peña confessed that for her and her boyfriend, “The most common date we do nowadays, honestly, [is] just cooking food together. We pick a recipe that we want to make, we go to the store, we have our little shopping spree and then we come back and make the dinner. It takes a little bit of time, which is nice because nowadays you want to spend as much time outside of your house as you can.”
Peña and her boyfriend have also indulged in the old standby, movie marathons. She said that at the beginning of quarantine, they watched all eight ‘Harry Potter’ movies over eight consecutive nights. “That was really fun and cute,” she said.
There’s still no denying, though, that the pandemic is having a negative effect on college students’ social lives. University of Florida senior Edysmar Diaz-Cruz mourned the lack of casual socialization during the last year. “Co-workers have been removed; acquaintances aren’t a part of my life anymore. Friends of friends, all those little social interactions that make up your day, it’s not really part of your day.”
University of California at Berkley senior Scout Turkel echoed the same sentiment: “[I]n order to have intense relationships in your life, you also need to have casual people.”