COVID-19 has reshaped our lives and the many ways in which we navigate and experience human relationships. While alternate means of communications, such as FaceTime and Zoom, are not as authentic as face-to-face interaction, Virginia Tech expert Heidi Williams says virtual platforms can provide space to develop meaningful relationships during a pandemic.

“Many people find their romantic or sexual interests online. Finding partners through social networks, such as family or church, is overwhelmingly a bygone practice. Instead, people often turn to dating sites or apps—a contemporary process that has become ritualized,” says Williams.

“People carry thousands of prospective mates along with them wherever they go, sifting through sites and apps on their phones as they wait in line for coffee or during any spare moment,” says Williams. “What does this tell us? Love is a commodity. Something we browse for, as if sorting through a stack of sweaters. But it also means that love is a pervasive, incessant need—something that we search for in hopes of finding the one that fits just right.”

Williams says that regardless of how you approach Valentine’s Day, take this extraordinary time to get to know your romantic interest. Push texting aside and rekindle the art of talking.

Plan your ideal date and conduct it virtually.

  • Use Grubhub or DoorDash to order food for you and your date(s).
  • Pick a TV show or movie that you both might enjoy and chat with each other via Zoom or FaceTime during the viewing. If you know in advance what you will watch together, send something related to the show or movie to your love interest.
  • Send your love interest your favorite t-shirt…you know the one that smells like you and is worn from wear! A piece of you will be with them during your date.
  • A day or two before Valentine’s Day send a playlist of your top 10 favorite songs. Plan to discuss why you like the songs and ask them which they enjoyed.
  • Take a free online origami class together. The next time you see each other you can give them your creation as a souvenir from your date.
  • Journal about why you are attracted to the other person, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and share your thoughts with them.
  • Play a video or virtual game together.
  • Capitalize on your intelligence and read passages of your favorite books aloud to each other.

The advantages of a virtual date:

  • You will get to see their entire face, mask-free!
  • You will have an opportunity to get to know a prospective partner, as you will be focused on talking.
  • If this is a first date and things don’t go well, you likely saved some money, whether that means you didn’t buy new shoes or you didn’t have to pay for drinks or dinner.

If being face-to-face is vital, the following are suggestions:

  • Get tested. If all parties test negative for COVID-19, then plan an in-person rendezvous.
  • If going out, be sure to adhere to the CDC’s mandates: wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others you encounter.
  • Go for a hike on a local trail.
  • Rent a bike and explore your community.
  • Grab food, go to your favorite outdoor spot, and have a picnic. If it’s snowing, revert to hot chocolate or coffee and stroll through town.

About Williams
Heidi Williams is an assistant professor in College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. Her research longitudinally investigates how non-marital childbearing influences parental bonds, extended kin involvement, and child wellbeing. More here.

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