The Pursuit of Authenticity — How Social Distancing is Affecting the Online Dating Scene

With half a year until I turn thirty, I have spent quite a significant time in the last years of my twenties on soul searching. Some of my thoughts have concerned online dating, and how to find my potential future partner. When the Covid-19 pandemic came to Sweden in February, it inevitably changed the dating scene, and for my part, I have to say for the better. And I am not the only one recognizing the fact that isolation during a global infectious disease has led us to challenge our behaviors.

One main discovery has been the amount of manipulation present on online dating sites that focus on the visual aspect of a person rather than the person behind the surface. Such dating sites, like Tinder and Bumble, present the perfect playground for players and I doubt I only speak for myself when I say that my emotions have been played with on these sites. When the pandemic came along however, people got new perspectives on life, including dating. I discovered it is all about self-esteem. When we get manipulated into physical activities on first or second dates, we actually lose self-esteem. It is a silent process, and in these self-isolating social distancing times, what used to be subtle becomes evident. Let us explicit the implicit. 

When you first learn about techniques used by women and men with no serious intentions on online dating sites, light bulbs go off. People like myself who are not always naturally street smart might find themselves walking in the same traps over and over again, and without knowing each trap chips away at self-esteem. There was the guy who was so friendly at first, and then after you ended up in his bedroom his behavior changed. He wrote to you less and less, had far less time for you than he used to. You found yourself waiting by the phone for a message from him, and you felt uncertain of yourself as he only chose to answer some messages and ignore others. That is the bread-crumber. He breadcrumbed you to be in charge of the relationship and to keep you keen without having to do anything. Then there is the date who blocks you straight after a physical encounter. You thought you had a great time, and then he disappears. He is the ghoster, and you have been ghosted. These people come and go as they please, a more radical form of breadcrumbing. The truth of the matter is, blocking someone on social media is a form of emotional abuse. I can go on with other types of avoidant behaviors like these, but they all serve to prove the same point; many people get manipulated by their online dates and it leads to severe damage of self-esteem. 

They say something good comes with the bad, and the current pandemic has made a lot of people question their choices in life. Much as this global crisis is taking a toll on our mental health, but we can also use it to improve ourselves. I found that my self-esteem is beginning to recover during self-isolation and social distancing as I see more clearly what I was blind to earlier. There is no reason for me to say yes to a man being physical on the first date. If he likes me, he can wait. If he then disappears, he was merely looking for something physical. I also realized following my own path in life is far more important than desperately looking for a man on Tinder because I hate being single and almost thirty. Perspectives change when the world around us changes. One person well aware of this is Jessica Baker, founder of online dating app Aligned Signs. Like me, Jessica has realized that social distancing will bring about change to the online dating scene. Aligned Signs focus on matching people based on personality traits rather than profile pictures, using ancient philosophical and psychological wisdom from Western astrology and the zodiac and from the Myers-Briggs personality test. 

At the core of Aligned Signs is authenticity, and according to Jessica Baker, being true to oneself is essential when finding a partner. It is actually easier said than done to know oneself though, especially when we constantly get fed expectations of a perfect life on social media. I have studied nearly five years at the university level, and yet no one has taught me how to grow self-esteem and self-awareness. How do I know that the person I display on Facebook and Instagram really is me? Now that most of the world’s airplanes still stand on the ground, we can no longer post pictures of our fantastic holidays. Now that many restaurants have closed down, we can not take photos of our eighteen course fine dining experience. The pandemic has caused us to redefine ourselves, and redefine online dating. It is almost a paradox that it took a pandemic for me to realize long-term relationship building is enabled by not physically meeting someone straight away. I have found that social distancing and staying at home has had positive impacts on my self-esteem and self-respect. Chatting to men online now is more about building a solid foundation with the hope of meeting in the future. First, I get to know the person behind the picture. It is very easy to swipe left and right, but it takes hard work to build something solid. While distancing myself from others I came closer to myself. 

Authored by our guest writer – Lisa Timmermand from Malmö, Sweden 

Photographs captured by Lisa Timmermand 

Follow Lisa @lisamargaretatimmermand

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