Call me a hopeless romantic, but I'm a firm believer that two strangers can fall for each other before ever meeting — blame it on my fervent marathon-watching of Love Is Blind. I mean, if those contestants can form deep connections without even seeing each other, then there's got to be hope for virtual daters who can actually talk face to face rather than through the pod walls, right? With all of that considered, the question becomes how to fall in love over FaceTime. It's not as straightforward as it might seem.
While there are definite perks to virtual dating (like skipping the expensive Uber ride and awkward reach for the bill), there are some drawbacks as well — and not just WiFi hiccups, either. Since you're not meeting up in person, you may find yourself missing the rush that comes from your knees touching unexpectedly at the bar or wondering whether or not you'll lean in for a goodnight kiss after the walk home. Even the atmosphere of your chosen date spot and the experience of sharing an appetizer can elevate the intimacy of the sitch.
Fortunately, experts say that there are ways to not only assess your chemistry on a video date but also bring back those beloved butterflies — and that's very good news for daters who aren't ready to meet up IRL, either because that's not logistically possible or because they don't feel safe doing so quite yet due to the pandemic. So, ready to fall in love over FaceTime? Here's what you need to know about making the most of virtual dating.
Is it possible to fall in love over FaceTime?
It should come as no surprise that video calls have been on the rise during quarantine. Bumble reported an 84% increase in video calls between March 13 and March 27, and The League saw a 41% jump in usage for its video-call feature between March 1 and March 22. In May, Hinge found that 44% of its users had already been on a video date, and of those users, 52% said they're likely to continue using video chat even when they're able to meet up safely IRL. Most promisingly, 63% of Hinge users claim they've felt a growing connection with someone they met over video chat.
According to Erika Ettin, an online dating coach and founder of the coaching service A Little Nudge, FaceTime dates are a great way to build the foundation of a connection with someone and start to suss out whether or not you're a good match.
"You can get to know each other without that complicated physical chemistry coming into play," she explains. "In person, you're three-dimensional. Should my arm graze hers? Should we kiss? Do we hug? In a two-dimensional space, none of those questions are relevant, so you can truly focus on what the other person is saying without any underlying physical tension."
Julie Spira, an online dating expert and creator of the advice site Dating in the Age of COVID-19, adds that it's definitely possible to fall in "serious like" over FaceTime, and "develop a strong bond with someone that could lead to romantic love."
Dating coach and dating app expert Meredith Golden also believes that it's possible to develop a major crush on someone over FaceTime.
"FaceTime does help in predicting the likelihood of chemistry," she explains. "If you like the way the person looks on FaceTime, you’ll probably find them attractive if you meet. If someone makes you laugh on FaceTime, it’s a good sign you’ll laugh in person, too. If the conversation is easy on FaceTime — again — this should tip the scale in favor of meeting."
All that said, experts agree that if you're truly starting to fall for someone, meeting up IRL is the ultimate test to find out whether the fantasy you're building lines up with the reality. That's why Golden recommends limiting how much time you invest in the virtual dating process — so you don't get your hopes up about someone only to realize that chemistry doesn't translate in person.
"If they pass the FaceTime test but you don’t feel safe meeting during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s fine to put the process on hold. You can say something like, 'I’m going to take a dating break. How about we touch base when it’s safe to meet and then we can come up with a plan?' If you do feel comfortable meeting during COVID-19 and someone has passed the FaceTime screen, it’s time to meet in person."
How can I deepen my connection over FaceTime?
In a way, there's something innately freeing about a FaceTime date. Without the pressure of figuring out who's supposed to handle the check or how to break the touch barrier, you can eliminate some of the unsettling jitters. Sure, you may miss the sensory pleasures of sharing a bottle of wine or a steamy makeout, but that also means you're stripped down to the bare basics of getting to know each other. And isn't that the most important thing of all?
Ettin says setting the scene is a key component of getting the most out of your FaceTime dates. By cleaning up your surroundings, making sure you're well lit from the front, keeping your phone planted in one place, and ensuring the angle allows you to look straight into the camera or screen, you're putting your best foot forward. These measures may seem simple, but they ensure that your date can focus on your convo with no distractions.
"Sharing intimate details about yourself during a FaceTime call allows your relationship to grow," adds Spira. "Going down memory lane from your childhood to dreaming about the journeys you might go on together when it's safe to meet up in person, or sharing your life's dreams and goals by asking meaningful questions, can indeed lead to falling in love."
In fact, there's research to back this up. According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Social Issues, people who better express their true self over the internet are more likely than others to have formed close online connections, as well as moved those relationships to a face-to-face basis. So, why not take advantage of the sense of comfort and safety that a virtual date provides and go deeper with your conversations? Rather than limiting yourselves to small talk, consider asking your date some thought-provoking questions, like what they're currently grateful for or looking forward to, or what the biggest challenge is that they're facing right now.
Seeing where someone lives can feel super intimate — and the beauty of FaceTime dates is that you're privy to this experience sans the safety concerns that come with going back to their place IRL. Also, whether you know it or not, your home actually says a lot about you. That's why Ettin suggests showing your date something you love about your digs. You could even offer to give them a little tour, and invite them to do the same. Not only will you like learn a lot about each other by exploring each other's living spaces, but you'll also have endless conversation starters right at your fingertips — from that Shawn Mendes concert poster on your bedroom wall to that rug you bought on a volunteer trip to South America.
What are some ways to re-introduce some magic into my virtual dates?
The first step to infusing some excitement back into FaceTime dating is leaning into the preparation process, according to Spira. Cranking some pump-up tunes, spending a little extra time thoughtfully choosing an outfit, checking your lighting, and even brainstorming some questions to ask can increase your anticipation of the date.
"Just like you need to be your best for an exciting job interview, you should be equally prepared for your FaceTime calls, as you have a split second to make a good impression," Spira explains.
According to Spira, flattery sets a winning tone. As such, she recommends saying something nice about your date to boost their confidence and generate some flirty vibes. Another component to consider is your communication leading up to — and following — the date.
"The essential part of having a FaceTime date filled with chemistry starts before you open your iPhone or computer," Spira tells Elite Daily. "It's those flirty and upbeat texts and chats sent in advance — which I call digital foreplay — that escalate your relationship to the point where you need to 'see' the other person in a video chat to deepen the connection."
Spira also suggests creating some rituals around your FaceTime dates, such as scheduling your virtual date night on the same day and at the same time each week, and sending a text before your dates — say, a couple hours beforehand, or the morning of — to build the excitement.
Rather than just eating your respective meals on the video date, Spira advises that you and your date send each other a food delivery order (provided you're comfortable giving out your address). This makes the virtual dining experience feel a little more special because you each got to pick out lunch or dinner for each other, which can be a talking point on your date and open up a new avenue for bonding.
At the end of each virtual date, Spira notes that it's worth following up with another text to keep the momentum going.
"If it's at nighttime, a simple 'sweet dreams' will help your date fall asleep with you in mind, and that's how the magic works on FaceTime," she adds.
The truth is, falling in love sight unseen has been happening for literal centuries — the only difference now is that you can ignite a connection with a simple touch of a keystroke, rather than having to wait by your mailbox for a letter from the object of your affection. Before, all you had to assess your attraction was your crush's penmanship, or use of vocabulary. Now, with the power of video technology on your side, you're privy to their body language, voice, and facial expressions, among other important cues. What a time to be alive, right?
Experts are optimistic that you can get the sparks flying over FaceTime — and now, you know just how to set the scene for virtual romance. Indulge in the process of getting ready, go deep with your conversations, virtually invite your date into your home, and pay them a genuine compliment. These are the kinds of things that can pave the way for falling head over heels, whether that goes down on a screen, or sitting across from each other months down the line.
Erika Ettin, online dating coach
Julie Spira, online dating expert
Meredith Golden, dating coach and dating app expert
Mckenna, K. Y., Green, A. S., & Gleason, M. E. (2002). Relationship Formation on the Internet: What's the Big Attraction? Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 9-31. doi:10.1111/1540-4560.00246