The music is loud and the room is dark, lit up only by banal string lights dangling on the side of the wall.
There are guys playing beer pong in a brighter part of the house, showing off and making drunken noises. In the tiny kitchen where the counter is filled with red cups and variations of alcohol, sorority girls throw up in the sink as their sisters kindly hold up their hair behind them.
You are surrounded by a room full of people, kissing and grinding against each other. Your friends are already drunk and dancing on the platform with some frat boy you have never met before. Even though you want to head home, you are not sure if walking the streets alone at 12 a. Another pair of anxious yet curious eyes across the dance floor catch your gaze, longing for comfort in a crowd of strangers. You reach a tacit agreement and unconsciously move toward the door together.
After a quick self-introduction, he offers to walk you back to your house, indulging in the get-to-know-you questions and even a little banter. Before you part, you exchange phone s and a kiss. Of course, this has not happened to me, or anyone that I know for that matter — though young women have plenty of awkward experiences with men who suddenly start grooving next to them at a party, only to ask for their. Nevertheless, the media has always placed emphasis on the initial encounters of intimate relationships.
Two complete strangers are expected to be magically brought together by serendipitous incidents: bonding over The Smiths in an elevator ride to work, meeting in a local travel bookshop in a foreign country, kissing a stranger to prevent an embarrassing confrontation with a past crush. While these scripted scenes inevitably dictate our expectations of romance, I couldn't help but wonder how realistic they are in our ordinary lives.
The most recent data shows that even in a pandemic, young people are not giving up on their chance at romance. College students have also become more creative with the ways they build intimate relationships, with people going as far as deing a Zoom dating site or a matching survey algorithm to battle social isolation. While the creations of these technologies were well-intentioned, many users complained of a lack of success due to the short nature of online conversation.
I could easily see why.
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As someone who suffers from extreme Zoom fatigue and online social anxiety, I have always had my doubts about building meaningful relationships through technology. However, my inner romantic offered a shimmer of hope, peeking through a crack in my skeptical heart and prompting me to properly investigate my questions. In turn, I spoke to five people regarding their experience with dating apps, long-distance relationships and chasing love during a pandemic. On the Sunday morning of our interview, I rolled out of bed and rushed to Zoom.
Emma arrived at our meeting a few minutes later in a gray zip-up hoodie, much more awake and refreshed than I was. I started off with the basics, asking about why she got the application and what she wanted from it. Emma explained that she first downloaded Hinge when studying abroad for a semester in Barcelona. While the two apps belong to the same parent company, Match Group, Tinder and Hinge serve entirely different purposes. Nevertheless, the two share a similar demographicwith their core users being millennials ranging from the age of 18 to people in their 20s.
On Hinge when there are these preliminary questions, it is easier to generate more organic conversations about something real. However, the forced absence of physical contact and need for social distancing has also hindered people from forming serious relationships.
When asked about how she makes efforts to maintain her relationship in this pandemic while protecting those around her, Emma shared her own experience. Annie and I are working together really well to minimize any risks of doing that.
Emma told me that despite having found a serious partner through a dating app, she remains skeptical about the effectiveness of these technologies. She is convinced that if she and Annie met in person instead of through Hinge, they still would have been together. However, unlike Emma, her experience with Hinge was not at all successful.
Kate felt a sense of a fear of missing out and loneliness while quarantining with her siblings, who are both in serious relationships. With the constant romance in front of her face and the future of socializing appearing uncertain, Kate decided to finally give dating apps a shot. Unfortunately, dishonest and socially irresponsible dates are not the only risks that women face from online dating.
Kate admitted that though she has received some creepy comments on the app, she has fortunately never experienced any form of harassment in person. Kate told me that after using Hinge for a month in quarantine and another month back in Ann Arbor, she was completely sick of the app.
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She eventually deleted it. However, Kate did not give up on romantic relationships and became more open to possibilities with people who are already in her social circle. For Kate and Emma, technology has introduced more people into their lives, both good and bad, in a time of persisting isolation and hauled social interactions.
On the other hand, for some individuals, technology has become an essential part of sustaining their connection.
She met Sam when he was an exchange student at U-M for one semester. Though they broke up for a while in the immediate aftermath of him returning to Australia, the couple reunited and will be celebrating their two-year anniversary on Halloween. When the pandemic first broke out, Grace was an exchange student at the University of Melbourne, the city where Sam lives. The last time she and Sam saw each other was when he dropped her off at the airport, and little did she know they would not be reunited for at least another six months.
On top of the U. Grace told me that prior to the pandemic, the longest they went without seeing each other was three months, so they have become more creative in the ways they use technology to surprise each other while taking into the time difference. The couple uses the Chrome extension Scener to video chat while watching videos together and occasionally s in virtual yoga sessions. In addition, they send each other handwritten letters.
However, there are non-verbal cues that cannot be picked up via mere words or videos, which adds fuel to a lot of problems. Grace confessed that though technologies are indeed effective in bringing Sam and her closer together, it can be frustrating at times.
LSA junior Natalie Pacht, a LSA junior, and University of Maryland junior, Noah Seiden, had been in a long-distance relationship for less than one year before they began quarantining together in their hometown in March. When I spoke to the couple, they were sitting side by side with each other on the bed as Noah had just driven up from Maryland as a surprise. Having spent six months in quarantine together, the couple has learned to acknowledge the benefits of spending time apart from each other to focus on their own lives. They consider technology a good supplement to their long-distance relationship, but definitely not its foundation.
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Loneliness is a common human condition. We all share a desire to be understood, among other things. In an age where most of our in-person interactions have already been replaced and enhanced by modern technologies, quarantine has only furthered the drought of human contact. Being trapped in our childhood homes or our personal apartments has allowed us to develop a new appreciation for the small things in life and the people who care about us.
Though technology is able to mimic an environment for conversations to happen, it cannot imitate the people who we love and call home. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here. Save my name,and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
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