Dating in the time of coronavirus

The pandemic poses serious challenges for young singletons looking to find a match.

The pandemic has posed a great challenge to singles looking for love. (photo credit: ING IMAGE)
The pandemic has posed a great challenge to singles looking for love.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE)
The coronavirus crisis, with its social distancing requirements and the closure of restaurants, cafés, movie theaters and pubs, has posed a serious challenge for single people interested in going on dates. To answer the need for alternative methods of meeting and getting to know each other, a number of private initiatives have been making an appearance online.
For example, fitness trainer Dana Haneen recently created FitDate, which combines dating with physical fitness training on Zoom (there is a participation fee).
“I’ve always loved trying to fix people up with each other, and since I’m a fitness trainer, I decided to combine the two,” Hanin explains. “People are so incredibly bored at home now, so I decided to propose this idea on social media and see what kind of response I get.”
To Haneen’s surprise, there was a much greater demand than she had expected.
“It caught on super quick and lots of people reached out to me expressing interest. I can happily report that after just a few months, a number of new couples have formed as a result of my Zoom fitness classes.”
How does it work?
“Well, you sign up for each session individually. Each class has room for 15 men and 15 women. We spend the first 15 minutes doing get-to-know-you exercises during which everyone has a chance to introduce themselves. Next, I lead a 25- or 30-minute workout. Then we end with another socializing session, and afterwards, if anyone wants the phone number of a participant, they can message me privately and I’ll make the connection between the two participants.
“It’s awfully fun and also quite fulfilling for me.”
Therapist Adi Terem created MatchU with Amit Ozer (Courtesy Adi Terem)Therapist Adi Terem created MatchU with Amit Ozer (Courtesy Adi Terem)
ANOTHER INITIATIVE that has recently taken off is Zooming for Love, which was created by Keren Or Levy-Kazum and Stav Biton (there is a participation fee).
“One day as Keren was watching a Netflix dating series called Love Is Blind, she came up with an idea for a cute gimmick that would help singles meet,” recalls Biton. “She called me and right away we began working on a similar idea in which people can talk and get to know one another, without being allowed to see what the other person looks like. It feels a little like a reality TV show, but you do it all from home.”
What makes your program different from other dating platforms?
“Well, I’ve been single for a while, and all the other apps available are pretty superficial in my mind, since on every one of them you decide whether you want to meet a specific person according to their profile picture. Our goal was to create something revolutionary that would lead to societal change. We wanted to create a social networking platform that would ignore the physical aspect of a person, and focus completely on people getting to know one another, opening up to each other and really listening to a potential partner before ever meeting them face to face.”
Wow, that sounds amazing. How does it work?
“Our professional staff who advise the participants create groups of four women and four men who are around the same age and live in the same region in Israel. For the first two days, the participants hang out on Zoom and talk with each other with the cameras off. Then, on the third and fourth days, we turn the cameras on, and they get to see each other while they continue to get acquainted. If they decide they like each other, they can continue developing their relationship after our program ends. In addition to this project, we also hold lectures on Facebook given by relationship experts.”
AMIT OZER and Adi Terem, who are therapists and lead psychodrama groups, put together a Zoom initiative called MatchU, aimed at a large range of ages (there is a fee involved).
“During the first lockdown, Adi uploaded a post online asking who would be interested in meeting someone on Zoom. Lots of people responded affirmatively, so he reached out and together we began brainstorming how to promote and develop this idea,” Ozer recounts. “We pieced together a plan that combines our background in therapy together with matchmaking. We wanted it to be really fun and engaging, with lots of games and exercises that would help people relax and open themselves up.”
“We put together groups of 10 women and 10 men, trying to keep the range in age as small as possible,” Terem adds. “Amit and I appear in the main screen, with pictures of the participants in miniature below, so everyone gets to see all the other participants. We give everyone a number to make our games and exercises easier. We ask questions like, ‘What are you like when you wake up in the morning?’ Or ‘What’s your favorite food?’ Then, depending on responses, we split everyone into smaller groups of four people. After a few minutes, everyone ends up one-on-one so conversations can become more engaging and personal.”
And does this work?
“You bet it does!” enthuses Terem. “Some of my closest friends who’ve participated are now dating the person they met through our Zoom games.”
“Some participants have asked for phone numbers of other people in the group and have gone out on actual dates,” adds Ozer. “We’ve already received requests from students at Tel Aviv University and Ariel University to carry out sessions with students there. It’s really catching on.”
ZOOM IS wonderful, but some people still prefer Facebook as their platform of choice for meeting people. Back in the first lockdown, Ortal Nachmias, a single woman who lives in northern Israel, created the Facebook group Being Single During the Coronavirus.
“Before the epidemic I never engaged actively in the matchmaking scene, but I got so depressed from this new reality we’re all living in thatI desperately needed to find a way to lift my spirits,” says Nachmias. “So one night I just created this Facebook group, not imagining that anyone would actually join, but slowly our numbers have grown and we currently have more than 11,000 followers.”
How does the Facebook group work?
“People post information about themselves – I encourage posters to write as many details as possible. If a guy posts a picture of himself showing off his muscles, without writing much of a description, I just delete the post. I’m only interested in having quality people in this group. And I’m always posting interviews with professionals, such as the makers of Married at First Sight or relationship therapists. I’m proud to say that many couples have formed as a result of this group.”
Nachmias recently opened an Instagram account called ‘singles.covid19’ where she posts updates and dating tips. “I spend all of my free time – after I finish my day job – updating my Facebook and Instagram accounts.”
FACEBOOK PROIVDES a platform for other approaches for singles mingling. Love in Likud was created by the political party to facilitate its young activists meeting each other (#Ahava B’Likud in Hebrew).
Using Facebook stories, author and media professional Assaf Elkayam created StoryDating, where singles can upload to story relevant information about themselves in creative ways.
“I came up with the idea for this while I was on a trip to the Dead Sea,” Elkayam explains. “I met lots of other young people there and while we were hanging out, I began asking everyone what the worst aspect of COVID was for them. Every single person said they were extremely lonely, and that it was practically impossible for singles in their early 20s to meet people now that all the bars and cafés are closed. I asked why they didn’t use online dating websites, and they said they were for older people and not really geared toward their needs. So I decided to pick up the gauntlet.”
What are the requirements for joining your group?
“All you have to do to sign up is send in a picture and list your name, age and write a few words about yourself. If someone writes, ‘I love life’ or ‘I’m searching for love,’ I tell them this isn’t enough, and they’ll have to expand their description of themselves if they want to participate. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone needs to be 18 or older.”
Do you stay in the picture after two people are matched up on your platform?
“I end up having to explain this regularly: I don’t consider myself a matchmaker. I don’t deal with people’s details and then match them up with people I think they’d get along with. I just publish what people send me and provide the platform where people can become visible to one another. The rest is up to them.”
Do you know if any couples have formed after meeting each other on StoryDating?
“Shockingly, there’ve been quite a few. I don’t publish any information about couples who’ve formed from my site, but I’m still hoping that I’ll be invited to a wedding or two… or even three.”
THE TEL AVIV-JAFFA Municipality has also joined the matchmaker’s club and has announced it will be allocating spaces run by the city, such as Gordon Pool or lifeguard tents on beaches, for people who are looking for special locations for dates (pre-registration required).
Mika Gurovich, an internationally acclaimed photographer, also decided to take advantage of social media to enter the world of online dating.
“During the recent lockdown, as I was browsing various online dating platforms, I noticed that around 80% of the men had uploaded atrocious pictures that were dark, blurry or just plain unflattering,” recalls Gurovich.
“I immediately called a few single male friends of mine and what I discovered is that there was a huge gap between what they looked like in real life and how they appeared in their profile pictures. In the previous generation, a guy could be charming and gentlemanly on the first date to impress a woman, but nowadays, great guys can be passed over since people only spend a fraction of a second looking at pictures before swiping left or right. If they’ve taken the picture by themselves, they won’t have much chance of ever getting to that first date.
“So I started advertising my services on the most popular dating sites. I showed a picture of myself taking photographs, and then a bunch of profile pics of men from around the world I’ve photographed – writing that it’s more important now than ever before to have a professional digital profile picture.”
And did it work? Did you get new clients?
“You bet I did. I started getting calls left and right from men, and as soon as lockdown ended, they came to have their picture taken. I also created Instagram pages for single men and women who want to have their picture taken: @Uniquemen_by_Mika & @Uniqueladies_by_Mika. I then upload the images and tag them so they can contact each other.”
Gurovich charges a fee for the photo shoot, but the rest of her matchmaking enterprise is free.
So have you made any matches yet?
“One guy received more than 250 messages from his picture on my Instagram page, so he asked me to take it down,” notes Gurovich.
“Some of the couples that met through my page have been dating for more than five months already. One guy I took a picture of canceled his Tinder account because he was getting so many messages as a result of the pictures of him that I’d uploaded. I do not use Photoshop either; I just take high-quality head shots that make people look really good, using professional lighting and poses. I make a really big effort to get my clients to show some emotion, which makes their pictures much more real.
“In today’s world, everyone needs a great profile picture they can post online.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.