The video first date was an answer to social distancing measures and closed local hangouts at the start of the pandemic. After almost a year of cyber interaction, most young singles still prefer the classic bathroom window escape to the abruptly ended Zoom call.
Maggie Smith, a single nurse and student from South Philadelphia, says she’s leaving video dating behind once it’s safe to meet in person.
“If you’re going to put in the effort to see each other, you might as well meet in the real world,” Smith said. “I feel like it takes the same amount of energy to get ready, and there’s not even a chance you’ll go for drinks after.”
Initial romantic encounters are usually an opening to make a solid impression. Sitting next to pile of laundry in a t-shirt on its third day could disqualify you from a second date. Though virtual first dates offer some ease, they still require a bit of labor from both parties.
“When you meet someone at a bar, they can’t figure out the location of your apartment through their laptop,” said North Wales, PA native, Melissa. “I live alone, but I can tell a guy I have roommates or something. It’s really a safety issue for me.”
Although physical safety should be a priority for both people on a date, most women take matters into their own hands. In an “AskWomen” Reddit thread, one user commented, “I always meet in a public place for a first date, never accept a ride to my address, and always drive myself or take an Uber.” Another woman wrote, “I tell my mom where he works and what he looks like, and always meet somewhere busy.”
Unlike millennial daters, most older singles didn’t even attempt love at first Skype. Dating app Luxy Partners found that over 80% of the 50+ age range prefer not to video date and plan to wait to meet in person.
“My mom gets a little confused on Facebook,” said Philadelphia resident, Dan. “We FaceTime so she isn’t as lonely, but she still flips the camera wrong or hangs up on me by accident.”
Zach Schleien is the CEO of Filter Off, a video dating app that arranges blind speed dates for users based on their online personalities. Photos are blurred before the video date begins, and users can only interact with an average of 3 profiles daily.
“You can’t just swipe while you’re sitting on the toilet,” Schleien said. “People don’t want to waste time doing that, and they don’t want to meet up without having a strong connection on video.”
The app promises to help users “avoid awkward first dates” and saw substantial growth at the beginning of the pandemic. It also promotes private speed dating events for people with similar interests, like the keto diet and yoga.
Tyler, a West Chester University student, says virtual connections are insignificant, since being on camera can make people nervous and act differently than they would in person.
“You could actually miss an opportunity if you reject someone based on Zoom,” he said. “You could end up rejecting a great match just because they’re awkward on a short video.”
Young singles may not need to endure the awkwardness, inconvenience, and safety concerns surrounding virtual first dates much longer, as expanded testing and vaccine rollouts move forward nationwide.