Creative people of all stripes — filmmakers, musicians, writers — have had twelve or so months to reflect on life in COVID-19 world and weave their thoughts into their work. Some have offered us diverting parodies; others have helped us mourn. When humanity finally emerges from this pandemic, there will be countless hours of COVID-inspired content to consume, but no single work will ever be able to capture the full experience of quarantine life. Our collective struggle to endure this slow-moving disaster is too big — and, paradoxically, too small — for any narrative framing device. No one wants to watch a Netflix show about watching Netflix and stockpiling toilet paper for two years.
Nevertheless, there will undoubtedly be some decent post-COVID shows and films to watch with your special someone. If you're currently searching for that someone, know this: there will be no hard coronavirus end date, but many experts believe that life on this planet (for humans, at least) will return to something resembling normal in the spring or summer of 2022. That's another twelve plus months of COVID dating — a hard truth, perhaps, for the romantics among us who can't wait to return to crowded music venues with exuberant maskless companions. Many couples who currently live separately will start cohabitating in that time span. But that won't be an option for every couple.
And it's not unreasonable to think that — after the virus is contained — some singles and couples might actually miss certain aspects of dating during COVID times. Messages on dating websites and apps have increased throughout the pandemic, which means people are spending more time getting to know one another. Why? Because there's generally less to do these days. And with the specter of a deadly viral infection looming over every indoor gathering, people want to be sure that those they choose to spend their quiet moments with are actually worth getting to know better. People are talking more, sharing more before determining whether they ought to meet in person. Some call this phenomenon slow dating. But is it truly slow if daters are actually covering more ground — in terms of personality, life experience and expectations — than they were before?
If physical touch is your ultimate goal, then yes, it probably seems a bit slow. But if you're looking for someone to help shine a light on that which makes you love being alive, in and out of the bedroom, then don't write off the socially distanced approach to dating.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced our species to have difficult conversations about efficiency in every sector. Fortunately, the business of romance is more resilient than that of cruise ships, and dating sites and apps have helped people navigate these strange waters. Online dating during the coronavirus pandemic is basically a more intimate version of online dating in the before times. Dates that used to happen, generally speaking, on a single couch in an enclosed space are increasingly happening through the internet. Through webcams and shared screens across various platforms. Daters are crossing the Netflix threshold, binging multiple seasons of beloved series, before meeting in person. They're taking online classes together, gaming together. And they're opening up more in the process.
Those who were single going into the pandemic can probably relate to the protagonist of the film Cast Away more than the rest of us. In that film, Chuck Noland, a globetrotting workaholic played by Tom Hanks, is tossed around by a chaotic, unsympathetic universe and stranded on a remote island. Spoiler alert: he's on the island for a while. During his time there, he learns to do all sorts of cool things. He gets really good with a spear, makes some decent rope and builds a companion using a volleyball and blood. By the end of the film, he's a model of self-sufficiency, but he appreciates the most meaningful connections in his life more than ever. His extended crash course in being alone has made him a more receptive being, a more considerate friend.
Point being, like Chuck Noland on the island, many single people, confined to their bubbles during the pandemic, have developed various superpowers, one of which is the ability to tolerate being alone. People who are okay with being alone tend to form healthier relationships than those who aren't fond of their own company. They tend to have clearer mental pictures of what they want.
So if you're newly single and wondering how to date during COVID times, think about Cast Away. No, you don't have to get good with a spear. You don't have to make rope (though if that's something you think you might enjoy, by all means, go for it). The goal is to adapt to your new situation, not to build an actual raft. The loneliness may often feel extremely heavy, but you can bear it. Give yourself time to adjust to the rhythm of single life, and think about what you really want. Dating in COVID world may seem odd occasionally. It will involve various apps, and you may not always like the way your face looks during Skype dates. You may want to invest in better lighting or a better webcam if you can afford to. Humans aren't accustomed to watching their own faces stare back at them from screens all the time. The things our faces do while we're talking — when captured by our own optic nerves — are often more cringeworthy than the CG aliens in Star Wars films.
Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. You may be on this island for a while yet, and some days will be darkened by monsoon clouds. You'll fare much better if you're a friend to yourself, with or without a volleyball surrogate.
This crisis will end. Eventually. But the world will never look the way it did in 2019. The specter of COVID will haunt us forever. Certain groups and individuals will continue to downplay the disease, but their words will not erase its legacy. And many of those who were forced to work remotely due to COVID will continue to do so well beyond 2022. Which, let's face it, isn't really a bad thing. Having fewer commuters on the roads is better for our air, our water and the roads themselves.
Don't expect online daters to completely revert to their pre-COVID ways either. Many of them have become better versions of themselves while figuring out how to date during the coronavirus pandemic. And they've grown accustomed to life on their digital islands. Sure, they may find themselves gravitating toward their screens more often than they'd like, but they're going to need those screens in order to watch all the excellent post-COVID Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max content coming down the pike.
Rest assured: there will be plenty of shows to watch in post-COVID world (so you'd better start stockpiling tortilla chips now).