I was messaging with a guy from Match.com. I asked him if he wanted to do a video chat later that afternoon or the next day. Crickets. Should I suggest a phone call instead?
Ugh. No. No phone calls. Phone calls are The Worst. Most people suck at making small talk. Plus, taking on the phone nowadays is usually reserved for family, close friends and work obligations, That's it. People don't even use voice mail anymore.
A lot of people feel uneasy doing video chats from their home. They might feel embarrassed that they live in a small place or feel their home is disorganized and not clean enough. Others fear they will be rejected in person, an understandable concern.
Mostly, though, the people that pass on video chatting are ones you probably were never going to meet anyway. The connection was always going to fizzle fast because your match is an ambivalent time-waster or avoidant.
It's my opinion that video dates are here to stay, even when the pandemic is no longer a threat. Singles must become accustomed to the popular video chat platforms and learn the ins and outs of conducting a successful video date.
ONLINE DATING DURING COVID
Believe it or not, some online dating apps have seen a surge of downloads and swiping since March. Contrary to what you might think, people are looking to connect. Don't assume dating is on hold because of Corona. As such, you should probably make some adjustments to your dating app profile.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE OBVIOUS...BUT DON'T GO OVERBOARD
I recommend to my online dating coaching clients to include something in their dating profile that implies they're aware that the current dating climate has changed. There's no need to dwell on the obvious - that we're dealing with a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people - but you should mention you're willing to adjust to the new normal. It could be as simple as closing your Tinder or Bumble bio with "Let's video-chat!'" Updating your profile to reflect the current state of things will also let people know you've been active recently.
AVOID PICTURES WHERE YOU'RE WEARING A MASK
Dating profiles are about transparency. That means we want to see what people look like. To be blunt: it's not nearly as funny as you think it is. It's great that you're adhering to social distancing rules, but you're not going to catch the virus by swiping. Take it off.
SETTING UP YOUR VIDEO DATE
POP THE QUESTION EARLY
You're going to want to move things to video-chat fairly quickly. The goal is to get them off the app in some capacity. Give it 4-5 messages between each of you, then ask if they want to take things to video some time in the near future, say later that day or the next day. You can suggest a direct hop from app to video, but don't hold it against someone for not being ready to move to that step immediately. Allow people some time to prepare,.
AVOID THE FLAKES
It their enthusiasm for the initial conversation seems low or doesn't mirror yours, don't be surprised if they reject your invitation to meetup via Zoom. If there's long lags between responses or they don't ask you much about yourself, take the hint and disengage. If they're interested but just awful at small talk, they'll follow up with you.
DON'T GET SCAMMED
If someone agrees to a video chat but claims their video isn't working, beware! Scammers will try and fool you into believing they're real by agreeing to a video chat knowing they're going to say their video is broken. Only do a video chat if someone allows you to see them live.
STAY BREEZY! I would advise you to keep that first video date as laid back as possible. You want to look like you made an effort, but not too much, you know? If you don't want to chat from home, take a walk in your neighborhood or sit on a park bench. Maybe chat while you're walking your dog if you're both dog owners. Being a dog parent makes for great conversation! Whatever you do, be sure YOU are comfortable in your surroundings.
COVID-19 DATING IDEAS
Let's say you've done the video chat step and you both feel a spark. Now what?
Create your own virtual personal coffee house or wine bar - Got a second or third date on the books? Download a Virtual Background of a cozy lounge or Central Perk, open Spotify and play some cool Jazz, then share your screen. Make sure to check the option on the lower left corner of the share screen that asks if you wish to share the computer's sound. Pour yourself a drink and get comfy. Nobody is expecting you get dressed up! Most people understand that we're all doing the best we can and that salons and stories aren't open. Look presentable and make an effort, but don't feel pressured to go all out.
Do an online game together - Want to see who your date really is? Do a puzzle! There are all kinds of online escape room and murder mystery games you can play with just two people. Save stuff like Cards Against Humanity for when you know each other better. Keep the game light but use it to get a glimpse into your match's personality and disposition. Friendly competition can reveal a lot!
Go to the park - Buy a coffee or tea (or sneak a bottle of wine in your bag) and sit six feet apart under a tree somewhere and talk. (Bring masks, of course.)
Find a restaurant or bar that has outdoor seating and make a reservation for two - Many places are instituting half-capacity policies and seating customers several feet apart. Call ahead and make sure you have a place to sit. IMPORTANT: If you don't end up going to a certain location, make sure to call the venue and cancel so they can fill that space and make money. IMPORTANT: TIP YOUR SERVER WELL! 30% OR MORE IF YOU CAN.
Do a virtual ghost tour - If you're an American Horror Story fan like I am, you know the first season was inspired by The Winchester Mystery House.
Not only are these tours cheap, you don't need to be part of a bigger group to participate. However, if you and your date take the tour, buy two spots. Don't cheap out and buy one ticket and share your screen. Businesses are struggling to stay alive right now. Don't screw them out of money, even if it's only $10-$20.
THE BIG BENEFIT OF DATING IN THE TIME OF CORONA
As I always say in our dating workshops, I believe COVID-19 and video chatting will return humanity to dating. Seeing someone on your screen and talking to them face-to-face will remind singles they are interacting with real people with feelings. I doubt it will solve the ghosting and flaking problem completely, but I do believe people will experience less of both.
Wear a mask, wash your hands AND HAVE FUN!