Most Single People Say Dating Is Harder Now Than It Was Pre-Pandemic
You're not just imagining it — a new study confirmed it.
Dating, though sometimes tiring, has always held the potential of fun and adventure. Will this next date lead to meeting love of your life? Or just an entertaining story over brunch? Are those butterflies you’re feeling when you stare into their deep brown eyes or do you just have gas? Between ghosting and meeting the parents, dating has always been full of its ups and downs. But has COVID-19 made even dating more difficult? An April 6 study by the Pew Research Center says yes, indeed. According to the study, two-thirds of daters were already unhappy with their love lives pre-pandemic. Throw in a highly contagious virus, vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers, masks, curfews, and shutdowns, and it’s no surprise that 63% of singles have found dating even trickier than before.
While the pandemic has caused some relationships to crumble and others to become closer, for many singles trying to navigate the murky waters of COVID, dating has proven to be more complicated than figuring out the identity of the Masked Singer. Socially-distanced meetups and FaceTime dates became the norm for many, while casual dating and flings caused some to take extra precaution or opt out entirely. Despite that — or maybe because of that — Pew found that singles ages 18-29 are now 22% more likely to want a relationship than they were before. (On average, other age groups reported their desires stayed mostly the same.) For many young folks, relationships now feel like the easier, safer choice.
“I just want to come home to a familiar face,” Kelly, 28, a dermatologist in New York, says. “I don’t want to deal with the drama that comes with dating multiple people. Who knows how safe any of these people are? When I could potentially get sick, it’s not worth the risk. And who wants to go out to a crowded place these days?”
A whopping 71% of daters ages 18-29 say dating is more complicated now, compared to 58% of those 30 and older. Perhaps, as Kelly alluded to, it’s because young people often rely on bars and social events to meet potential partners. With so many venues being closed and events being canceled, many people had to rely solely on dating apps.
The debate over vaccines has impacted dating, too. Fifty-six percent of singles say vaccination status doesn’t matter to them, while 41% said they would only go out with someone vaccinated. On the flip side, only 2% of people said they would only date people who were unvaccinated.
“Casual dating used to be kind of fun,” says Mark, 25, a PR assistant in New York. “Meet a cute guy at a bar, flirt, exchange numbers. Or swipe on Grindr and meet someone later that night. But I’m too exhausted and frazzled to figure out if someone is vaccinated or not. And with all the rules and regulations, bars and restaurants aren’t fun anymore. The sparkle is gone.”
As restrictions continue to loosen, wannabe lovers will have increasing opportunities to meet and mingle in person again. But will it be 2019 all over again? Or will we see a new dating landscape colored by the stress and strain of COVID? Maybe after all the trials and tribulations of the past two years, people will be less likely to take our relationships for granted and more likely to be present and available for others. Less ghosting, more intimacy — I like it, Picasso.