Standing six feet apart, wearing a protective mask, and keeping hand sanitizer on standby will never be the most romantic way to meet a new potential partner. For college students, this scenario has become reality.
COVID-19 has taken a massive hit on the dating scene and now students are struggling to socialize face-to-face.
“I actually experienced my first breakup during COVID,” said Melissa Meikle, Salt Lake Community College psychology major. “It was super lonely because I was alone in my room all day. Online dating helped because I could talk to new people without the pressure to jump into anything.”
Statistics from Business of Apps show that roughly 270 million people had a dating app downloaded on their devices in 2020. Although social venues such as bars and restaurants have begun to reopen, people are still hesitant about putting themselves out there again. According to The New York Times, 40% of Generation Z (those born between 1997-2012) Tinder users say they will continue to use video chats for dates.
To encourage hesitant singles, many app designers have creative incentives to reassure pandemic-safety measures for their users. Match, for example, now allows users to add a vaccinated badge to their profiles, giving them a free “boost”, which makes their profiles to appear higher up in search results. Tinder has a similar feature, also including a “vaccine center” to help users find nearby vaccination sites.
Many people see not being vaccinated as a dealbreaker. According to a recent survey conducted by Dating.com, 86% of those who responded would not date an unvaccinated person.
SLCC Film Production Technician major Rylee Mckay said she believes being vaccinated is not only important for everyone’s safety but also for speeding up the process of returning to the activities she’s been unable to do during the pandemic.
“The sooner we are all vaccinated the sooner we can go back to having more memorable experiences,” she said. “A lot of my time has been wasted because people got too scared to meet in person.”
Before the pandemic hit, students were able to connect with potential partners at parties, sporting events, and other social activities that allowed a more intimate space for people to get to know one another. In March 2020, COVID-19 started to spread in the U.S., triggering the need for safety precautions such as masks and social distancing.
Now, as many colleges are back to holding in-person classes, students are in the midst of readjusting to the on-campus college experience.
Oliva Paine, a nursing major at the University of Utah, feels intimidated to jump back into the in-person dating world at the same time.
“I don’t even know how to approach someone I’m interested in anymore,” she said. “My social anxiety is at an all-time high after the past year.”
Months of isolation have left people with feelings of awkwardness and uncertainty for the future, but dating is not impossible. COVID-19 just altered the way relationships are navigated.
Visit #SLCCSafe for information on free COVID-19 testing on campus.