How the COVID-19 Lockdown Has Changed the Way We Fall in Love

Sixty two days ago, the world stopped moving and everyone was asked to stay at home to save it. Sixty one days ago, I logged back into Tinder and decided to reply to the countless messages I’d collected over my two-year tryst with the app. I’ll be honest – romance was just something I explored every time I needed a quick ego boost (sorry Rahul, that second date was never going to happen).

But the lockdown did what two years of meeting people on demand couldn’t – it made me value human connection.

It started out slow – with me wondering how that match with #wanderlust photos was dealing with the lockdown. A few hellos and strategically sprinkled emojis later, I realised that I couldn’t just flash a smile and try to laugh like a Mills and Boons protagonist every time I didn’t have something interesting to say.

Being the ‘cute girl with the funny bio’ wasn’t enough. A cliched, copy-pasted answer to once lazy questions like ‘how are you?’ wasn’t enough. The people on the other end of the screen, strangely enough, actually wanted to know how I was. In a world that had seemingly hit pause, nobody had time for small-talk anymore. Booty calls made way for awkward conversations, and awkward conversations made way for inside jokes. Suddenly, I was bound to everyone I had ever swiped right on by this single, collective trauma that we had to get through, together.

After two years of embracing the shallowness of 21st-century romance, I found myself flirting with the idea that maybe, despite the apocalypse, love could go beyond a few heart emojis and #couplegoals posts.

In the true spirit of capitalism, dating apps took advantage of the situation by introducing a host of new features to get its users ‘through this trying time’. Hinge lets us ‘date from home’. Bumble lets us swipe on people from different states. OkCupid…exists. And Tinder pulled the ultimate trump card by (temporarily) letting its users swipe in any part of the world with the Tinder Passport.

So, of course, I decided to travel the world one swipe at a time. While my idea of romance and online dating had begun its more hopeful makeover, the transformation was only complete when I swiped right on ‘R’, a hilariously geeky investment banker. In London.

Also read: Two Lockdown Stories: A Way In To And Out of Love

I’m not going to get into the specifics of R’s attractive knowledge and criticism of English colonialism, her curly red hair, or perfectly spaced freckles. But as I stayed up past my self-imposed midnight bedtime just to see what she thought of my favourite movie, it hit me – was I actually developing feelings for someone halfway across the world? Someone, I will, in all likelihood…never meet? Someone real, and tangible, who for now, was also just a person on my phone screen?

Was I allowing myself the privilege of positivity?

I was convinced that my love story with R was unique, a single shining strand of hope in uncertain times. Until I found an article about how people were confessing their feelings to their crushes, just in case things took a turn for the worst. Another article spoke about how new couples were taking the leap of faith and quarantining together. And there’s an entire subreddit for people in quarantine who swear that they always loved the ex they thought they hated.

My new-found attitude wasn’t unique. It wasn’t a side-effect of R’s infectious personality or my deep self-introspection. It was, quite simply, extreme self-correction. A very human reaction to humanity being put to the test. A survival tactic that has us latching on to every strand of hope, even if it’s half-way across the world.

The pandemic will most likely leave behind an unrecognisable world. It’s changed the rules of the workplace. Of hand-shaking. And of love. Maybe ghosting will give way to ‘vanishing’ (aka, disappearing from all social media for your mental health) and ‘bread-crumbing’ will give way to ‘lunch-houring’ (talking to someone only so that they give you company during your lunch break). Maybe the hopelessly unromantic will make plans with someone from a different continent. Or maybe they’ll never talk again once the lockdown ends. Everything about love seems dangerously uncertain. Except for the fact that we need it now, more than ever.

Farishte Irani loves cats, cheap alcohol, and good poetry. She can be found oversharing on her Instagram, @runawaybookworm.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty