Navigating Online Relationships During the Pandemic

Navigating Online Relationships During the Pandemic

Guest Post by Intern: Carolyn Coyle

Blonde woman sitting on her bed in the dark with an apple computer on her lapOnline dating sites have been booming for years, but even more so since the start of the pandemic. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation have caused many people to look online for safer social and emotional fulfillment. COVID-19 makes it harder to meet new people and safely progress in new relationships. We’re all craving real human connection and intimacy, though, and it’s essential to have some basic things in mind going into online dating.

First, it’s important to have a good idea of your goals when meeting someone new online. Are you looking for a serious relationship, someone to hang out with, or a casual fling? Be honest about what you want and ask for honesty from them. Because many people aren’t open, though, here are some tips to get the most out of a profile before you even match or start a conversation.

View a profile in the context that this person created this online persona to showcase themselves in what they feel is their best light. Whether that means they’ve used flattering pictures or a bio that catches your attention, everyone’s fundamental goal in online dating is to be noticed favorably. People can only tell you so much about themselves on their profile, so think about the “why?” aspect of what they’re showing you. My thought is always, “What did this person think when they decided to include something in their profile? What can it tell me about this person?”

For example, one of my red flags in dating profiles that admittedly may seem silly is car pictures. Hear me out. I am not a car girl; I don’t know much about cars, so expensive or souped-up cars do not impress me. To each his own, I have no problem with someone being proud of the things they own, but to me, it is materialistic to include your car in a profile about you. The same goes for pictures of just a watch or shopping bags from designer stores. You only get a handful of images to portray yourself, so including material possessions as a selling point to potential partners is not what I find attractive. I prefer hobbies that involve the arts or nature rather than showcasing riches, so I look for these in their profiles.

It’s important to know what you like in a partner and read profiles to look out for those things. Whether it’s cars, fishing, pictures with women, their photography, or whatever else you may find, you are getting a glimpse of what that person is proud of, passionate about, or finds desirable. Dating profiles show you a lot about a person if you learn to read between the lines of what they include in their profile. Obviously, we can only infer so much before speaking to the person directly but learning how to read a profile beyond the basics can help you filter out the people who may not align with what you’re looking for.

You can, and should, look at more than just the content of the photos, though. Just because car photos turn me off doesn’t mean that’s all I look at. Pay attention to the quality of the pictures, the variety, who’s included, body language, the bio and how they write, etc. You can focus on countless details. Does this person make the same face in every photo? Maybe they are insecure about how they photograph, which is the only expression that looks okay every time. Does this person use filters on their pictures? Are they edited well? Notice how you feel when you’re looking over their profile. Do you like edited photos, or would you rather they show themselves precisely as they are? Does their smile seem warm and authentic? Do they show pictures with friends or family? How do they seem to engage with those people? Are their photos all serious, or are they more comfortable showing lighthearted photos? Does their bio make you laugh, feel uncomfortable, or want to know more? Do they even have a bio? These are all things you could use to analyze a person just by how they portray themselves in their profile. The more patterns you begin to see on your dating app, the more you’ll form opinions on how you feel about those patterns, and it’ll be easier to decide if you like that person’s profile compared to other things you’ve seen.

If analyzing and sleuthing your way through profiles is not your thing, get comfortable asking the questions you really want to know! The only way to really get a sense of a person, especially when you can only send messages back and forth, is to ask the questions that will allow you to know that person. If you need to be adventurous and like to try new things, ask your matches if they explore new foods, hobbies, and experiences, or ask them to do something adventurous on a date. Ask about their family, goals, beliefs, and expectations a bit later on, but these are also important talking points. Figure out what you want in your partner and start asking questions about those traits to find someone who aligns with you.

For any relationship to be successful, you need to be familiar with your own needs and expectations. We often hope that giving someone what they show us they want will give us what we want – their attention and interest. But it’s essential not to sacrifice your own needs when you’re starting a relationship. Sit with yourself and take the time to learn what patterns and behaviors are necessary to make you feel loved, appreciated, and heard by others. If you need someone who makes a plan and is organized and reliable, don’t settle for someone disorganized or impulsive. If you see characteristics that you don’t like, speak up or walk away, but do not settle for something you know is not good for you. Even if you’re looking for a casual fling, be sure that you are getting the respect and decency that you deserve.

It can be hard to prioritize and stay committed to your needs in such a difficult time. Be calculated in your search but remember to enjoy the process too. I tend to air on the side of caution with potential partners, but it’s essential to have fun and let loose simultaneously. Online dating is an exciting, low-risk way to meet new people amid very isolating times. Use the information people present to you online to your advantage and get comfortable asking questions to connect you with the right people. There is an entire world out there, and while we may not be socializing much outside of our small circles nowadays, we can still form fulfilling relationships online if we know where to start.