From virtual dates to socially distanced experiences, from Tinder to traditional matchmaking, the landscape of dating has changed over the years with the advent of new technologies.
However, many Simcoe County singles are struggling to continue to date during the pandemic, despite the need for human connection being more important than ever. With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, how have local singles found love over the past 11 months, while trying to stay apart?
“I joined last year. Pre-COVID, it was easier to meet and greet,” he said. “It’s difficult in a pandemic. I believe people should follow the (public health) rules and regulations very seriously. It’s for our own good and our loved ones.”
Nik says he’s looking for a partner who is down to earth and honest.
“I am old school. I look for the personality of an old individual. Other people decide on the basis of looks,” he said.
Linda Miller, chief executive officer of Misty River Introductions, is a professional matchmaker. She matches people all over Ontario and into Quebec, estimating she has about 3,000 clients across Simcoe County mostly concentrated in Barrie, but also in areas such as Stayner, Alliston and Orillia.
While online matchmaking apps like Tinder or Bumble have made dating as easy as swiping left or right, Miller says those types of connections tend to be less long-lasting. She says she did see a dip in her business about five years ago she attributes to the mainstreaming of online platforms, however there has been a resurgence in people seeking her services since.
“People are tired of the internet,” said Miller. “I think they’re sick of the manipulation, and people dating multiple people at the same time, or are looking for money. We’re a different market. Our people are predominantly 25-plus, homeowners, they have good jobs or are successfully retired. It’s a different demographic.”
Miller says her matchmaking success rate sits at about 75 per cent for people aged 25 to 70, and 80 per cent for people over 70 years old. Her success rate is measured as people finding relationships that last longer than the amount of time they have been with the matchmaking service.
Miller says her business was slow from March until May. After that things picked up again at an exponential rate.
“We’re three times as busy as we were. I think people thought they didn’t want to be alone. Now, (people) are thinking, how are they ever going to meet anybody? They can’t go to the gym, out with friends to a club, or to socialize. Sports are shut down. It’s pretty harsh,” she said.
“If you’re a single person, you’re alone a lot,” she added.
Melissa, 42, lives in Barrie. She enjoys astrology, swimming, dancing, and music.
She’s newly single since November 2020, and has had some luck on local dating apps.
“I'm on a few apps: Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Badoo,” she said. “Dates are now just coffee ones or takeout, maybe a walk.”
Melissa says it hasn’t been difficult for her to find dates, but it has been difficult to figure out what to do on dates.
“(It’s) difficult to be in a public setting,” she said.
Bumble is one of many location-based social apps that facilitate communication between interested users. The company reports having more than 55 million users in 150 countries.
“We’ve seen a significant shift in the way that people are dating since the outbreak of the pandemic,” a Bumble spokesperson told BarrieToday. “One of the biggest changes we’ve noticed was that people on Bumble all over the world – and in Canada, specifically – are leaning heavily into virtual dating tools... to connect with each other.
“During the first few months of social distancing we saw over a 70 per cent increase in video calls in Canada and the average call time exceeded 30 minutes,” she added.
If you’re looking for creative date ideas, Bumble has partnered with AirBnb to offer Bumble-approved online experiences starting Feb. 1, which range from an interactive game night at the Louvre Museum in Paris to a hidden jazz club with live performances from Spanish musicians.
These experiences will be accessible for anyone to book by visiting airbnb.com/love.
Miller says the daters she works with are very imaginative. She lists examples of daters preparing meals together over Zoom, participating in socially distanced activities such as snowshoeing, hiking or cross-country skiing, or even grabbing coffees separately and meeting in parking lots to chat in their cars with their windows down.
“As human beings, we need connections,” she said. “There are a million ways to do it. Once you get to know someone you can figure out how to deal with exposure if you want to proceed.”
Hoping to find love
Steve, 28, lives in Wasaga Beach. He’s a single dad who has been separated for about a year, at which time he tried jumping back in to the local dating scene.
“I've been on and off Tinder a bunch of times. I’m just looking for the one, I guess, but I keep ending up with one-nighters,” he said. “It would be nice to go on an actual date. I've tried other sites, but you can't use most features until you put money in and even once you do, there are barely any local people on them. Tinder seems to have the most local people.
“I haven’t met anyone new in a long time, so I'm assuming, for most people, (the pandemic) has affected them,” Steve added.
Despite being unlucky in love since his separation, Steve maintains his optimism about the concept.
“When the time is right, she will arrive for me. I'm hoping,” he said.
Joe, 37, lives in Angus. He enjoys gardening, the outdoors, cooking, and movies.
He said he’s had no dates since December and not many people are willing to meet up in person now.
“Since COVID, I haven't had many options. I’ve only met two people since March 2020: one for coffee and one came over for dinner,” said Joe. “It was fun, but I didn't find chemistry with her.”
Joe says it’s difficult for him to meet women outside dating apps.
“I work a lot and (with) the type of work I do, (I meet) few women,” he said. “I'm looking for a girlfriend, partner in crime and soulmate.”
Miller says she sees trends changing when it comes to dating, where people are being much more selective about with whom they choose to spend their time.
“I think, for too long, we’re been dealing with this disposability of relationships. We’re been sliding toward quick hook-ups with no effort being put in whatsoever,” said Miller. “I think, what (COVID) has done, is we’re going back to more courting, and people having to put a greater effort in.
“We’re going back to people valuing relationships more than hook ups with no emotional connection. I think it’s a really great thing."