Being in lockdown sucks for single people who want to date. There is simply no way to do any of the old things as they used to be done; no going to bars to meet people, restaurants for dates or singles events to maximise your chances of finding love. If you match with someone online you could be left messaging back and forth for months as you have no possibility of ever seeing them in the flesh.
But singletons are resourceful people. Individuals and companies have responded quickly and introduced the world of virtual connections to the dating world. Increasing numbers of companies are offering virtual speed dating events, virtual wine tasting and more besides, and people are getting used to the new way of meeting someone from the other side of a screen.
Many are pretty rubbish at it, however. Already stories are emerging of people turning up to dates in their pyjamas, looking like they’re barely out of bed and have simply spent the day slobbing around their house. Backgrounds are filled with dirty dishes, phones are held at angles to show only the best side of their nostrils and they are interrupted by housemates asking them if they are finished in the kitchen yet.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to make you stand out from the virtual crowd.
Clothes maketh the date
For starters, this is a date. It’s not a random chat with someone you don’t need to impress – whether you are in the room with them or not, it is still a date and should be treated as such. If you wouldn’t turn up to a date wearing a faded football shirt, baggy shorts and without a thought to how your hair looks then don’t do it remotely. And if you would, well, there’s just no helping you.
Schedule some time in beforehand to have a shower, wear something nice and get yourself physically ready for meeting the person who may turn out to be amazing. And get fully dressed – none of this waist-up-only crap. Make yourself feel sharp and you will come across as more sharp. And don’t forget to add a bit of aftershave or perfume too. They may not be able to smell it but you will, and it’s all part of the ritual which helps you put your best foot forward.
Sort out the background. Yes, you may perhaps move around if it’s a long date, but most of the time you will be sat in the same place with the same things behind you, so make sure there is something to see. If all you’re sitting in front of is a white wall then it’ll look like you are a blank canvas on the inside too – our homes reflect ourselves, so this is a perfect opportunity to show a little of that off.
Make sure it’s clean and tidy (especially clear up dirty laundry and empty bottles of wine) and see if there are any things which reflect you which can be included in the background. Without making it look staged if at all possible, sit in front of a picture on the wall, or a piece of art you love, or out on a balcony. Anything you can do to show that you have your shit together will help.
Making light work of angles
Don’t forget about lighting as it will play a big role in how you are perceived. Lighting which is too harsh and white will wash you out and make you look pasty faced, as well as highlighting any blemishes which you may want to hide. Lighting that is dim will make it difficult for them to see you clearly; the point of this being a video date rather than a phone call is so they can see your face and your actions, so don’t try and hide these away.
If you are using a phone or iPad, consider investing in a stand for it so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. Not only will this allow you to gesticulate like an Italian describing their favourite Del Pierro goal, it will make it far better for the person on the other end and avoid them getting motion sickness. If you are using a laptop then have it on a stand or side so it’s not jiggling around every time you top your glass up. And if you are on a PC, well, try to make it look a little less work-like. Don’t forget your angles, too; avoid the camera being too low or too high otherwise you’ll look like your Auntie Marjory trying to text you something while being on Zoom. Keep it at about eye level.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Think through how the date will go and plan accordingly. If it’s going to be more than a half hour chat then there’s a decent chance you’ll need to top up your drink, so either have an extra one or two to hand or make sure you can get to them easily enough. You may even want to incorporate this into the date – if you know how to make a great cocktail then keep the ingredients convenient and show off your skills when the time is right.
Don’t forget the point of this whole thing, though. It’s not simply an excuse to drink and get pissed, nor is it a tutorial on how to make the perfect Old Fashioned; you are there to meet someone and start getting to know them. They are the focus of the time online, so don’t get too distracted with side activities and showing off.
So many times people walk away from dates and realise they didn’t ask them the things they really wanted to know. It might have been something specific in their profile, or perhaps a killer question which guaranteed to show an aspect of their personality or mindset up early and accurately. However, in the heat of the moment and the flow of conversation it is all too easy for these to be forgotten about and the opportunity lost.
One of the advantages of virtual dating is that they cannot see what’s going on outside the viewpoint of the camera, so make the most of this by having some notes to hand. If you’re not a confident dater then you can note down a few things you want to make sure you bring up, or a handful of suggested questions as conversation prompts. If they had an interesting profile then a post it note with a couple of reminders of things on there would make the conversation flow easier and enable you to more easily fill in those gaps. And in the name of daters everywhere, have a note of their name so you don’t forget it nor need to ask.
Like any date, some will go better than others and some will leave you wanting to speak for hours and hours. Like any other date, have a simple escape route planned out to politely end the date. Whilst you don’t need to go the face-to-face route and storm out in a huff if things are going badly, you also don’t need to sit around for ages bored out of your skull if things just aren’t clicking.
Use conversations beforehand to do a little qualification of the date and judge for yourself how long you are likely to take before knowing whether or not they are a good fit and someone you want to talk to more. Half an hour is usually more than enough to have given it a chance, though some people prefer a more traditional hour. When you start the date simply let them know that you have another call – a virtual quiz, a chat with your mum, a work thing, anything at all in fact – which starts at x.xxpm and so you’ve only got until then before you have to say goodbye. This gives you a number of advantages.
Firstly, if things are going badly you don’t have to make an excuse before leaving as one is already made. At the allotted time simply make your apologies and leave. Secondly, if things are going well you can leave knowing that they will be left wanting more. Arranging a follow-up date is much easier in that case. And thirdly, if things are going very well then you can simply tell them you’re cancelling or rescheduling the other thing, showing them that you are definitely interested and that you are willing to prioritise them to a degree over (admittedly fictional) other commitments.
Virtual dating has quickly become the norm for meeting people, and it’s unlikely to disappear even when the world is opened up once more. There is no return to normal – there is a new normal, and virtual is a big part of it. Spend a little time upping your virtual game now and by the time things are better you’ll be streets ahead of the game.