“I just feel like this was the year I could’ve met someone,” 31-year-old Morgan confided during a Zoom catch-up with friends scattered across the country. “So, what has your pandemic dating experience actually been like?” another friend asked. To my surprise, Morgan’s dating life, though certainly interrupted by COVID-19, wasn’t entirely lost. In fact, what she described—longer periods of texting, virtual hangs and the occasional (very rare) in-person outdoor coffee meet-up—sounded kinda, dare I say, healthy opposed to pre-coronavirus IRL first meetings infused with awkward pauses (disaster), ghosting and/or quickfire decisions based on very little information. And there’s actually a name for this: Bumble’s 2021 dating report calls it “slow dating.” So, while single millennials like my friend might be anxious over lost love opportunities due to the pandemic, experts are seeing the silver lining in the slow down. Here’s why.
What is ‘slow dating’?
Per Bumble, slow dating is the trend of “people taking the time to get to know each other and build a connection before deciding if they want to pursue the relationship or meet in person.” And to no great surprise, the phenomenon emerged from safety precautions due to COVID-19, which has to led to more in-depth stretches of getting to know each other, and each other’s boundaries, to make sure a match is worth the potential health risk of meeting up.
The result? Fifty-five percent of people on Bumble are taking longer to move a match offline. Jemma Ahmed, head of insights at Bumble, believes this is related to having the time and circumstances—a pandemic will change your outlook—to think more critically about what they want in a relationship. “People are starting to get to know themselves a lot more,” says Ahmed. “And as a result, they’re taking the time to figure out who is and isn’t right for them.”
So why could this be a good thing?
In addition to taking time to evaluate your own priorities, Jordan Green, a licensed clinical therapist who works with both individuals and couples (follow @the.love.therapist for lots of inspo and educational tips), has seen that for some, dating virtually has allowed them time to really get to know the other person before jumping in too seriously. “People are spending more time getting to know each other and spending more time in the ‘courtship’ stage before having sex.” Why is this necessarily a good thing? Well, according to Green, many people many find it easier to open up about preferences, priorities, fears, hopes and feelings while dating virtually in contrast to in-person. “This makes it easier to weed out people who don’t have the same values and goals. It also makes it easier to get to know someone more quickly,” Green explains.
Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking also see the positive in the pandemic dating shift. “People tended to swipe too much on dating apps, trying to find their ‘perfect type,’ which doesn't exist,” she says. At a more relaxed, conscientious pace, someone’s once self-fulfilling “non-existent” dating pool has now expanded. And the data doesn’t lie: 38 percent of people on Bumble say lockdown made them want something more serious. In Trombetti’s matchmaking experience, singles haven’t lost anything. Instead, “[They’ve] gained a big dating pool of people that take relationships more seriously, and that has been a wonderful tradeoff for any opportunities you feel you lost. When you do connect with someone, they aren't as superficial about dating and your chances of building a real relationship have increased dramatically.”
Does that mean you should tell all your single friends who are frustrated to calm down (or any of these other common faux pas)? No. Every individual will and has experienced this dating shift (and all of 2020 for that matter) differently. For folks who have no interest in relationships but desire casual meet ups, this time could be incredibly lonely. There’s no one-size-fits-all. But if you, like my friend Morgan, are struggling with the idea of lost time, try to take a step back and see what changes have popped up in your dating life that are worthy of bringing into the future for you. You might, slowly, but surely, see where this will take you.