Safety tips for online dating went from “don’t hand out your credit card details” to “were a mask and stay two meters apart” during the pandemic. At the same time, dating apps became increasingly popular as it was the only safe way to meet someone—you could no longer attend social events during lockdown.
So how do you stay safe doing online dating during COVID?
How to Attract Someone Online
It all starts with the profile pics. Have fun profile shots that show different aspects of your life that you enjoy. Include photos where you’re social so potential dates can see you have friends. Also, be sure to include a few close ups of your face and some full body images so that they get a feel for what you truly look like. Blurry photos won’t make you popular. Photos of your car (without you in the shot), or ten pics of your dog, your house, sunsets, etc. won’t make you popular either. People want to get to know you—see you. Also, avoid too many selfies and certainly avoid bathroom selfies. It makes you seem vain and, what’s more, it appears as you have no friends who can take photos of you! Maximum use two selfies.
How to Write an Online Dating Bio
Make sure to add a bio. People are much more likely to get in touch if you say something nice about yourself. Keep it short and simple, but avoid being trite. I.e. “I love going out for dinner or drinks, but also love staying at home and watching Netflix.” That applies to the entire population using online dating, pretty much. Share some fun facts: “Terrible with a hammer, but can cook. Totally awesome mechanic, but don’t count on me if you want your laundry to come out the same color it went in to the laundry machine.” Or why not: “Love traveling to new places without a plan. Adventure is my thing. Big on hiking. Would like to learn to surf. Love my job. Hate doing the dishes. That’s why I have a dishwasher 😉 Don’t worry, I’m not gonna force you to do my dirty dishes! ;)”
Once you’ve matched with someone, it’s all about messages. Try to ask people about things you see in their profile. Come up with questions that move the conversation forward. “How are you?” and “How was your day?” are both boring questions. Ask about peoples’ interests, the places they’ve been, and what puts a smile on their faces.
Avoid asking people why they are using dating sites and apps, why they aren’t in a relationship already, and anything else that has negative connotations.
Make Sure They’re Worth Meeting
If you don’t have to meet someone, don’t. That’s to say—while in normal times you’d likely want to meet someone as soon as possible to find out if you have offline chemistry, during COVID you might want to wait a while to find out if it’s worth it.
Rather than having a coffee in real life right away, have an online coffee, or tea. Schedule a ten minute Skype/WhatsApp/Zoom call—whatever you are the most comfortable with. Some apps offer in-app calling and video chatting as well, if you don’t want to hand out your contact details outside the app.
Keep the meeting short and sweet, so that you don’t feel awkward trying to end the call if the person isn’t your cup of tea.
If you prefer, do a phone call first, then progress to a video chat. Bear in mind that your impression of them on the phone may not be the same impression you get when seeing them on video, so do get the video call in there if you’re both comfortable with it.
On the flip side of the coin, some people hate video calls and if it makes them, or you, super awkward you may just want to wait till you can see them in person!
Preparing for an Online Coffee
When preparing for an online coffee, apart from getting out of your PJs, consider what questions to ask the other person? What are their interests? If they love music, ask them about their favorite songs, then ask follow up questions—why do they enjoy those songs? Is it the lyrics? The melody? The voice of the singer? The overall feeling the song brings them?
Follow up questions are great as they help you get someone digging deeper into a topic and makes the conversation more engaging. Likewise, open ended questions are great. Consider “Did you have a good weekend?” and “What did you do this weekend?” The first is a closed question—the answer they will give is either yes, or no. The second is an open ended question that allows them to elaborate.
Lastly, try to keep the conversation positive. Ask about what they enjoy instead of what they don’t enjoy. Consider “What do you think makes for a great date?” as opposed to “What do you think makes for a bad date?”
Likewise, if they probe you for negative stuff, put a positive spin on it. “Yes, I lost a lot of money during COVID, but I learned to appreciate my family so much more. I have to work harder now and I’m not going to say it’s easy, or that I don’t have bad days, but I’m alive and can enjoy another cup of coffee and sunbeams on my face. During a pandemic, that’s the most important thing. In fact, it’s always the most important thing.”
Meet in the Open
Do try to keep the “getting to know you” phase as short as possible. Unless there’s a lockdown, meet up with the person as soon as you have established they’re worth meeting. Online chemistry is never the same as offline chemistry—people are never exactly as you imagined them to be. Hence, meeting in real life as soon as possible is important as it prevents you from falling for an imaginary person. Sometimes that imaginary person is not as great as the real one, but because you fell for an imaginary person, you may feel disappointed at first—try to give it two dates to adjust.
Before you meet, discuss what you’re comfortable with during the pandemic. Do you want to meet without masks, going for a stroll in a park, two meters apart? Or do you want to be closer, wearing masks, but still outdoors? Or maybe you want to be two meters apart with your masks on? If you’re both vaccinated, you may even want to meet indoors. The important thing is that you’re on the same page with what you feel comfortable with.
Always keep first dates short. Frame it up beforehand—tell them you can meet for a coffee before another appointment, or before a class at the gym. That way, if conversation is hard, you don’t have to fake an excuse to leave early. Plus, keeping it short will leave them wanting more if it goes well!
If you aren’t comfortable just sitting talking to someone, meet them for a stroll at the local farmer’s market, for an ice cream on the beach, or some activity that you both enjoy. Ensure it’s in a public space and a friend knows where you’ve gone and with whom. And of course, until you know someone never give out your credit card details, your address, where you work, or your full name.
Set the Rules for Dating
If you want to keep dating someone, you have to set the ground rules.
As with the first date, discuss what you’re comfortable with when dating during a pandemic. Are you happy to get close to someone without a mask? Are they happy to do the same? How do you both practice safety? If you both follow the same safety practices, you’re probably more likely to be comfortable meeting without masks.
The most important thing? Deciding what’s important to you. What makes you feel comfortable?