Pandemic dating, a rom-com that's no longer much fun
A 30-year-old woman went on a blind date for the first time in three months last Friday. She used to go on these once or twice every month, but the number went down dramatically after the pandemic began. Because of the 9 p.m curfew for restaurants, she only has two hours after work to meet people.
“For first dates, weekdays are less burdensome than weekends, but it is hard to get to know the other person since we need to part before grabbing coffee after the meal,” she said.
Because outside activity is limited during the pandemic, relationships after blind dates are less sustainable than before.
“We had positive feelings for each other during our first meeting, “ said a 26-year-old male graduate student. “But as the virus pandemic worsened, it was difficult to set up a second meeting.”
“We kept in touch for a month via KakaoTalk, but that went nowhere eventually. There are many acquaintances around me who almost gave up on dating. There are barely any opportunities now, since we don’t meet people through school activities or projects.”
The coronavirus pandemic has been affecting the dating scene for young people, whose only feasible options to find a better half are dating apps, now that social gatherings are restricted.
The online dating scene is picking up so much traction that skits by comedians on YouTube satirizing the new dating scene have gone viral: Four comedians each act out a ridiculous character in a video blind date, introducing themselves and occasionally delivering pickup lines.
College students mostly switched to online learning last year, and new student orientations were canceled all throughout the year, which dramatically reduced opportunities for meetups.
“Before, I used to meet so many people at school, and there were a lot of group activities, so people dated on campus,” said a 23-year-old female college student in Seoul. “Now, it has been a while since I’ve heard news about new couples.”
Mobile dating applications are capitalizing on this time period as opportunities for offline meetings are rare, while people are still searching for ways to meet their significant other. The apps connect people based on their age, gender, occupation and residence as well as photographs and a brief introduction.
As of Feb. 8, 600 dating apps are registered on Google Play. Some of the most popular ones in Korea are Sky People, Amanda, Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder and Glam.
Some of the apps have specific barriers to entry, such as looks, profession, income and residence. Some apps use the GPS function to recommend people based on proximity. There are features that help users avoid running into friends and coworkers on the app.
“An advantage of the app is that I can meet people easily and fast,” said a 28-year-old user of dating apps.
The dating apps have aspects of gaming. In order to unlock more features on the apps, some apps require users to buy coupons, which are sometimes in the forms of hearts and cards.
“It costs 5,000 won [$4.5] to buy 25 hearts. In order to see more of people’s profiles and get their phone numbers, I spend more than 10,000 won a month,” said a 29-year-old male user. “I used up my free coupons for each of the 10 apps I downloaded and started to question what I was doing.”
Some people use open chat rooms, which are often group chats, on KakaoTalk to meet their potential partners. People can use open chat rooms without disclosing personal information, such as phone numbers. After having some conversations back and forth, users can set up separate chat rooms with people they click with.
Yet, there have been reported cases where people have been scammed with membership fees and strangers barging into the open chat rooms.
There are quite a few people who have just chosen to pause their love lives completely.
“I used to earn money by working part-time jobs at bars and cafes, but most cafes cut down on their workforce or reduced work times,” said a 24-year-old college student surnamed Kim. “Now, I neither have the emotional nor material resources.”
“I used to go on blind dates without thinking too deeply,” said a 35-year-old female office worker. “But now I have to disclose where I’ve been if there is a chance I may have been infected with the coronavirus, so it is a hassle.
“I don’t want to carry the burden of dating during this period of time.”
“The 'untact' activities due to the coronavirus pandemic have permeated people’s love lives as well,” said Oh Jong-eun, a professor at Hanyang University's Graduate School of Counseling Psychology. “The trend of social gatherings centered around younger people is likely to continue.”
“I advise people not to rely on apps and messages, but to think about who they really are, so that they can find partners who match their values,” Oh said.
BY LEE SO-A [firstname.lastname@example.org]