Social distancing and isolation are making it difficult for people to get out in the dating world. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Single? Don’t mingle: Okanagan dating scene doomed during pandemic

Mr. or Miss Right, not right now

Dreams of meeting Mr. or Miss Right aren’t happening, right now. At least not in person.

The dating world has essentially come to a halt amid COVID-19 with isolation and social distancing orders in place.

“These are definitely challenging times to be dating,” said Lindsay Belford, certified matchmaker with Human Connections, a relationship service in the Okanagan.

It’s now socially taboo and inappropriate to be partaking in close conversation and physically touching another person, putting a real cramp on people’s love lives.

“Social distancing makes this near impossible when you’re starting a new relationship,” said Belford.

“We did have one new couple scheduled to head out on their first date together last weekend with a plan to grab a coffee to-go and walk through Polson Park, but on the eve before the date there were misgivings. The niggling feeling that setting out on a date with a stranger (whether you are six feet apart or not) is letting down your community, and also may be perceived as a frivolous act in the face of the health crisis we are in, wins out.”

Whether you’re dating or not, it’s becoming a lonely world for many, as people need people.

“That human connection is a fundamental need,” said Belford, adding that while the practice at Human Connections typically involved couples dating first without last names or contact information, some are forgoing that safety factor amid these strange times.

“One client is desperate for conversation and has requested us to find someone willing to share phone conversations.”

Meanwhile the world of online dating has seen an upswing as more people are stuck at home with more time to spare. But even dating apps like Hinge and Bumble are urging users to keep their dates virtual.

“There’s work from home and now there’s date from home,” a Hinge notice reads to members. “Let’s stay safe and keep connected.”

Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd urges members not to meet matches in real life for now.

“We want to help keep you safe,” said Herd, in a notice urging members to connect from home via video chat and voice call features in the app.

READ MORE: Internet safety while social distancing: expert says monitor internet use

But the lack of human connection can have a devastating affect.

“It definitely worries us that people are being socially isolated at this time,” said Belford, urging those who are feeling alone to reach out to family and friends and attempt to create a new social normalcy. “I know of many families who are scheduling chat times or connecting for group voice calls to stay in touch.”

Even those who are healthy and can go out for basic necessities are feeling the isolation.

“Going out into the world feels ominous for even me,” said Belford. “People veer from you and avoid eye contact in the grocery store. I had to stand outside the pet food store until the door was unlocked and then stay within a taped square at the entrance way while my dog food was selected for me and the debit machine was brought to me.”

All the plexi-glass partitions and cold interactions, while necessary at this time, add to a feeling of isolation.

“I am finding myself daydreaming of huge parties and celebrations where we can all once again shake hands and hug and laugh together side by side, without fear, without hesitation,” said Belford.

And for the business that just opened in December 2019, this doom on the dating world is hurting Human Connections.

“Our business is completely predicated on the idea that people need people – that human connection is a fundamental need,” said Belford, adding that the in-person matchmaking and event that Human Connections provides is pretty much impossible.

“We certainly can’t carry on business as usual. All of our events have been postponed and our usual means of meeting with clients face to face to complete personalized profiles is also unrealistic, as well as sending clients out on social engagements.”

Where before, Belford would sit across a table with coffee and take time to get to know clients, she has lost access to public spaces that used to make this possible.

But for some, this is the perfect time to connect, or reconnect.

“For pre-existing couples this is a good time to accelerate a relationship – to build intimacy and solidify those emotional, intellectual, and physical connections.”

READ MORE: Vernon bride-to-be may be forced to postpone as fiance stuck on cruise


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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