Millennium Post

Love in the times of Corona

COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of life including love, dating, and relationships

The COVID-19 outbreak has cast a shining light on all things that are truly meaningful. As India embarks on Unlock 1.0, when we look back at the days of complete lockdown, the greatest test in the last 70 days was for the human spirit. In those days of staying completely cooped up, one felt grateful for the company of family and loved ones. Romantic relationships too faced a test by fire. Sure, there must have been days when you'd be near close to tearing your partner or spouse's hair out, but on most other days, one was filled with gratitude for having a fellow companion through this tumultuous phase of life.

But for those who are single and ready to mingle, Coronavirus came as a real disrupter. No more pubs or nightclubs to meet and greet. Events that encourage socialising also came to a crashing halt. Even shopping at the super-mart hoping to chance upon a potential love interest would have been reduced to hasty dashes behind masks. Working from home means lesser chances of striking up a chord with a colleague.

Companionship is the balm to souls and love makes life's struggles, big or small, worth it. A conversation with some single friends made me think about the future of dating at least in the short-term period. 'How do you even meet someone now?' asked one of my friends. In any case, the opportunities of deep relationships seem to have evaporated in today's world, and now with COVID-19, the chances of finding one seem even bleaker. Like everything else, love and relationships too are witnessing a paradigm shift in the new normal. A world where one must co-exist with a deadly virus is a wet blanket for all those still looking for Mr or Ms Right. And there are many still looking. According to a Nielsen report of 2018, there are about 13 million single Indians in urban areas within the 28-45 age group.

Obviously, here too technology has risen up to the occasion. Dating apps excelled when physical meetings stopped. News reports suggest that millions around the world, including in India, have been hooked onto dating apps during the lockdown. Some have logged on to pass time, others to dispel the loneliness of solitary confinement. Bumble, Tinder, TrulyMadly and others have all witnessed a vigorous increase in users. Tinder said that conversations on their platform increased by 38 per cent, while average conversations were now longer by 28 per cent. Bumble reported a 25 per cent increase in chats. New features such as video chats were added on to the dating platforms, guiding towards a shift in consumer habits in the space.

Offline matchmaking and dating platforms such as Floh, Aisle, and FilterOff started virtual poetry, cooking, Zoom sessions for its members. While the rest of us have been occupied by webinars, singles flocked to dating platforms for group activities. As per news reports, even these platforms recorded an increase in new users to the tune of 20 per cent. Virtual dating is the new rage (for lack of a better option of course). Dinners shared across computer screens or playing online games, the action (and that's all the action they are getting for now) has shifted to phone and laptop screens.

The world will eventually get back to normal and so will dating too, but till then just like consumer behaviour, many singles too have been forced to adapt. From looking for hookups and one-night stands, 'slow dating' or getting to know each other have become more important. Late-night meaningful conversations have, at least for the time being, replaced late-night booty calls. And like everything else, COVID-19 is teaching us the value of depth versus superficiality. Dating companies suggest that users have been more prone to discuss mental anxiety, depression, fear of professional uncertainty during the flux caused by COVID-19. Seeking emotional stability through virtual relationships may well transfer to the real world, armed with perhaps a 'COVID-free' certificate where in-person meetings do take place.

2020 has been a pause in our plans for life, but it has at the same time, also rejigged that integral aspect of life that was fast losing its sheen — love. By being forced to 'go slow', there is a real opportunity now for singles to get to know people without the alcohol and partying, without the frills of a great ambience, and delicious food. It is a chance to discover the other person as much as one's own self. A naked approach to love and relationships unencumbered by the veils of suaveness or makeup. Sounds like an alien concept but that's how love was always meant to be — honest and raw.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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