Now Or Never·PERSONAL ESSAY

What it's like dating online during a pandemic

"Cuffing season" is upon us, and that means Raquel Russel is swiping left and right in hopes of getting paired up before being locked down for winter.

'I haven't found my person yet, but I have enough optimism to believe they're out there'

'My 2020 online dating saga unfolds in the following four acts: optimism, disillusionment, apathy and more optimism.' (Submitted by Raquel Russell)

Contributed by Raquel A. Russell

Attempting to date online in 2020, has been nothing short of revealing. 

Between mentally dealing with a global pandemic, conversations about racial injustice, and coming to terms with a year unlike any other – there is a lot to sift through. And one of those things, yeah, is undoubtedly trying to find romantic love. 

My 2020 online dating saga unfolds in the following four acts: optimism, disillusionment, apathy and more optimism.

I, like everyone and their auntie, entered 2020 thinking this was going to be 'my year.' Health, career and relationship goals were going to be met. Period. 

In January, I carefully cut out the words 'love' and 'social life' for my vision board to remind myself to 1) Give my dating apps a break and 2) Go out and meet people in the great outdoors. 

'It's been seven months in pandemic mode, and I've yet to connect with 'my person.' (Submitted by Raquel Russell)

COVID-19 changed the outdoors bit of the plan. We stayed inside to flatten the curve and got on video calls. Limited our trips to the outside world. Weekly existential crises became the norm.

And with the hope that maybe an old-school courtship vibe - lengthy discussions, online letters - would be predominant, I signed back up for online dating apps

Most conversations start with our pandemic status, the state of the world and then regular getting-to-know-you questions. Each conversation is a reminder that none of us is alone in this journey to connect.

Connection became a relief when I matched with a guy who got the heaviness of what was going on, specifically when it came to racial injustice. We checked in on each other, acknowledging shared experiences and stresses. But we also laughed, relishing in being alive and being here. That connection didn't pan out, but I was grateful for it all the same. 

Still searching for the elusive "one" 

It's been seven months in pandemic mode, and I've yet to connect with 'my person.' My vision board looks accusingly at me every morning. And if that's not enough, social media is there to remind me that I haven't gotten as far in my dating life as I hoped. (Honestly, congratulations "how it started, how it's going" Twitter couples.) 

And now that winter is coming, there are a couple of reasons why finding 'the one' feels more pressing then normal: 1) Trying to avoid travelling in the snow to meet someone even if physically distanced and 2) It's a reminder that another year is coming to an end.

Online dating during a pandemic is revealing. There's so much that's tied into seeking romantic love and how you see yourself.

'I haven't found my person yet, but I do appreciate the journey so far.' (Submitted by Raquel Russell)

As much as I've been out in these dating app streets to find the elusive "one," I see a fear of the unknown in the ultra-focus on swipes, Q&A games, and creative GIF selections.  

Will I ever have what my parents have?

I wonder how long this new dating norm will exist. I worry about not making enough progress in this area of my life. I wonder if we'll return to Stage 1 COVID-19 levels. I wonder when there will be a vaccine. I worry about what our planet even looks like in 10 years. I worry about elections around the world and how that will affect my loved ones. And then I return to the most vulnerable question…will I ever have what my parents have?

It's a lot of questions. 

But then I remember to give myself a break. And to my fellow people out there trying to navigate dating in a pandemic, you should also give yourself a break. Your feelings are valid.

As someone wise once told me, "you can be paying attention to all the ways things are messed up right now, and still desire for someone to hold you through it."

I haven't found my person yet, and I have enough optimism to believe they're out there (maybe just a couple more swipes away), but I do appreciate the journey so far. 

Raquel A. Russell is a writer and digital content creator. When not chatting about communications in higher education, find her online talking about her favourite stories. Follow Raquel on Twitter.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

 

(CBC)

 

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