At the beginning of the pandemic, I hopped on Tinder for about...five minutes (well, it was probably closer to a week and a half). I hadn’t been on any dating apps for a couple of years at that point, but Tinder had just opened up their Passport feature.
Related: Falling in Love Through Tinder Taught Me How to Date
I thought that it would be a cool way to get to know people while I couldn’t get out and meet anyone. As mentioned, I wasn’t on the app for very long. I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready to date anyone. Swiping left and right, and having conversations where the replies received were mostly one-word-long felt like a mindless pandemic distraction.
As my state began to reopen recently, I re-downloaded Tinder, along with Hinge and CoffeeMeetsBagel. I have friends that have had success with both Hinge and CoffeeMeetsBagel; I redownloaded Tinder partially for the familiarity of it. I was surprised to find how much and how little has changed in the online dating arena.
Related: How Coronavirus Is Affecting Dating Apps
One major change as the result of the pandemic is the inclusion of vaccination stickers or statuses. Several apps have offered perks as an incentive to encourage people to get vaccinated. Some people have added a sticker to their profile, letting you know that they’re vaccinated right off the bat.
I found myself scanning others’ profiles for the words ‘vaxxed’, ‘vaccinated’, or, in some cases, ‘hot vaxxed summer’. Others had no mention of whether or not they were vaccinated; some flat-out stated that they had no plans to be vaccinated whatsoever.
I’ve had few interactions on Hinge. One message sent to me said, ‘Nice smile and sexy in a dress...I would want to be on a plane with you one day! When the air is better’.
Now...I had no idea what that meant. I wasn’t wearing a dress in any of my pictures; I hadn’t mentioned anything about travel on my profile and his profile didn’t say that he was a pilot of any sort. I sent it to a friend of mine, and it turned out that she had received the exact same message from the same guy—and she wasn’t wearing a dress in any of her pictures, either.
The copy-and-paste messages that I’d received before COVID definitely haven’t changed (though it is funnier when they’re personalized and have the wrong name).
The day I redownloaded Tinder, I received a message asking me about the fireworks in my neighborhood. I checked his profile—we were within a mile of one another (my neighborhood is known for ridiculous fireworks displays). We had a nice conversation for about half an hour before he invited me over. I politely declined. I wasn’t looking for a hook-up—especially not an impromptu one at 10pm on the Fourth.
He never messaged me again. I wasn’t too surprised—I know that the app is still frequently used for hook-ups, but I wasn’t looking for one. I’ve had a few more interactions on Tinder that have gone down that path, and I’ve found myself doing something that I would never have done before the pandemic: explicitly stating when I'm not interested in, rather than simply ghosting.
See, in the best of situations, I am not the most assertive person. This is something that I've been trying to work on. But during the pandemic, a few friends of mine mentioned how discouraged they felt about relationships, and that it seemed like they were losing time to day. They were hardly alone in this feeling—COVID-19 changed the way that we viewed, dealt with, and formed romantic relationships.
Knowing that other people also feel like they’ve lost a year of their lives to this virus, I wasn’t interested in dancing around my discomfort. I was concerned about how the people that I was speaking to would react, but they thanked me for my candor. I felt silly for being so nervous of telling them that I wanted before—it bolstered my confidence.
I made a lot of changes during the pandemic: I began to live a healthier lifestyle; I applied and was accepted into grad school; I have made an effort to be a happier version of myself. A lot of us have, because we’ve all had to adjust to the way COVID upended our lives. I’m still very much myself, but I’m more confident in who I am, and what I do and do not want out of my life.
Whether or not I will have a ‘hot vaxxed summer’ remains to be seen. But I do know that I’ve become less afraid to be honest about what I like, what I want, and what I’m looking for.
(Though I still have no idea what ‘I would want to be on a plane with you one day’ means and honestly, I’m not sure I want to know.)
Featured photo: Alexander Sinn / Unsplash