“Nudes are all we have right now, right?” That’s the question Cazzie David put to John Mayer and the thousands others tuned into a recent quarantine episode of “Current Mood,” the musician’s series of Instagram Lives. The discussion had arisen when Mayer asked David, whom he introduced as a “dating expert,” what she thought about dating while isolating. He wondered if she would be more open to sending nudes now, to which she responded by turning the question on him. Good news for John Mayer fans: He is one hundred percent more open to sending some risque photos.
Then, when David raised the issue of potential consequences, Mayer made it clear that he thinks nude photos should have quarantine amnesty. If they leak at any point but are time stamped from spring of 2020, it’s all good. Pandemic rules apply.
For most of us, normal social activity has been suspended since early March, when the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic started to set in. That includes the actual physical act of going on dates. Dating in regular times was something that single people turned to when they were bored or lonely or in need of support. It was an opportunity to collect funny stories, flex flirt muscles, or find a new source of entertainment. It quickly became clear that people in social isolation, like Mayer, were craving that interpersonal connection more than ever, making it all the more necessary to get creative about dating.
Centuries shaped dating culture to what it was just a couple months ago, where gender roles were widely accepted and games were played to appear more attractive and less attainable. That feels silly, now. “Nobody is too cool or too proud to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m available right now,'” Emma Vernon, comedian and host of a formerly live dating show that has been adapted for Instagram Live, told me. Everyone is both out of reach tangibly and more reachable than ever in schedule. First dates are strictly via phone or one of the many video platforms (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, House Party, even Animal Crossing). In this post-Love Is Blind world, many dating apps and services almost immediately facilitated phone calls and video chats to replace actual meet-ups. It’s possible that some people may just be seeking a reason not to dwell on the news, rather than building anything long term. But for those looking to establish something more substantial and monogamous, these new pathways through a virtual, dating-while-distancing landscape could actually be beneficial.
“We kind of haphazardly date, especially in the culture of apps, where it’s like, okay, what’s next, what’s next. We always think that there’s something else,” said Rachel DeAlto, relationship expert and Match’s chief dating expert. “But I think if we took a second and looked at things intentionally, we could make sure that we’re really getting quality potential people, even if it’s behind a screen.”
Fellow relationship expert Dr. Logan Levkoff agreed that it could actually be more meaningful to meet through screens. “It makes us really focus on getting to know someone,” she said. “It takes some of the immediacy of physicality out of it and really forces you to figure out who someone is, which could be a real positive.”
Without the ability to pursue a purely sexual attraction, our current reality could also encourage people to try dating outside of their usual “type.” According to Levkoff, the stress and unease that many are facing could also push us to reevaluate our deal breakers and instead consider the important questions: “What kind of person do I need in my life to feel fulfilled? What kind of person would I want to share this experience with, with all of the anxiety it comes with? What are those qualities?” Of course, you still want to be attracted to someone. But since you can’t act on a physical connection in the same way (solicited nudes aren’t really the same), there may be more of an opportunity to get to know this human and build that attraction based on other qualities. As Levkoff put it, “Physicality is fleeting.”
Increasing our emotional investment and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones can have positive takeaways, but it also raises the stakes. Every connection feels precious, and we know that nobody has much going on, so it’s hard not to take it more personally if someone loses interest in us. This approach to dating can definitely be more intense, heightened by the fact that most of us are not at peak emotional stability. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is coping with the same uncertainty, and our moods or anxieties may come in waves. We’re all just doing our best to deal with the world being turned upside down, so it’s likely not on you if something doesn’t pan out.
Based on Vernon’s experience interviewing singles for In A World: The Dating Show, people do seem to be making time for people in a way that she’d love to see continue once this ends. “People are prioritizing their own happiness and realizing that at the end of the day, that’s all they have,” she said. DeAlto thinks that video will also become a natural progression from messaging on apps before meeting in real life, which could make in-person dates all the more successful.
The one pandemic dating trend that both Levkoff and DeAlto urged everyone to avoid is getting back with an ex, as tempting as it may be. The appeal of comfort and convenience make sense right now, but this way of life won’t last forever. Remember how horrible they made you feel? And how draining the breakup was? It probably isn’t worth revisiting all of that for a few weeks of nostalgia.
“Chop your finger off before you text them,” advised DeAlto. “It’s an ex for a reason.”