If you’re back in college, you don’t need us to tell you that things this year are a little…uh, different. This semester you might be attending classes from your childhood bedroom. And even if you are back on campus, your in-person curriculum is probably looking a little lighter than usual. Couple that with the fact that big events are being canceled and campuses are cracking down on huge frat parties and mixers, the college experience as we knew it has taken a massive hit.
TBH this whole situation is probably putting a major cramp in your extracurricular activities too. No—not French club. We’re talking about dating. Now that the odds of bumping into a cutie in the stacks are close to zero, dating RN is all about who’s on your feed (and, yes, your DMs).
And while you might be thinking “This totally sucks,” it doesn’t have to mean that your social life has to disappear completely. You just need to get a little creative with how you’re handling your back-to-campus dating life. Luckily, we’re here to help. Ahead, find your guide to ace dating on and off campus.
Should We Even Deal With Dating Apps Anymore?
The short answer? Absolutely. Some dating platforms have seen a 15% increase in new subscribers during the pandemic, meaning there are tons of new fish in the app sea (and no, they’re not all f*ckboys). If you’ve written off dating platforms in the past, now is definitely a good time to reconsider.
Apps provide the perfect way to vet potential partners before you even meet up with them — virtually or IRL. So not only can an app be an amazing way to socialize while still keeping your distance, but it also puts control in your hands. Instead of figuring out how to dodge a dude you don’t want to talk to at the bar, you can just swipe left and send him on his way.
And the best part? Whether you’re looking to get serious during #cuffingseason or are more into flirting and keeping your options open, there is an app for you. “Research and select apps that are made for what you’re looking for,” says Tino Dietrich, CEO of the pleasure-positive e-tailer Ella Paradis. If you’re interested in taking the lead, download an app that lets women chat first. If you’re interested in LGBTQ-exclusive apps you’re in luck—there are a ton out there.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you are swiping, too. “Remember to take your time when exploring a new person that you are meeting through an app,” says Megwyn White, director of education at adult toy creator, Satisfyer. “It can be easy to disguise your intentions online and lose sight of what you’re really interested in. It is perfectly okay to insist on getting to know your potential partner before meeting them in person for the first time!”
WTF To Do About Virtual Dating
If the idea of virtual dating makes you feel totally awkward, the truth is it really isn’t all that different than dating IRL. First date jitters happen whether or not you’re meeting in front of the screen, but in some ways, virtual dates can take the pressure off. If you two aren’t clicking, it’s easier to bail than if you were out at a restaurant, and there are no expectations about where the night is going to lead.
Try to make your video chat as date-like as possible. Don’t let the fact that you’re in front of a screen — instead of your potential boo — stop you. Get ready as if you were meeting in-person. Do your makeup the way you usually would and put on an outfit that makes you feel confident. Be your best date-self, and remember: video dating is way more low-stakes than meeting someone IRL, so enjoy the ride.
Your first date is more about getting to know someone, so it doesn’t have to be all that long. Just keep in mind what you’re showing on video chat. Remove any personal items from the frame, like password sheets, class schedules, or anything you wouldn’t want a stranger seeing. Remember, you’re still getting to know the person on the other side of the screen!
Socially-Distanced Dates That Don’t Suck
Virtual dating can’t replace an in-person connection, so if you’re ready to take things to the next level, awesome! Don’t be afraid to ask your potential partner about their recent social history or if they’ve been tested for COVID-19. It’s a good idea to get tested yourself so that you’re respecting their health, too. And grab a cute mask — it’s the perfect way to take your look to the next level.
No matter where you are, socially-distanced first dates are always a good idea. You might have to stay six feet apart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Try one of these classic date ideas to see if the spark is there offline:
- Have a distanced picnic on the Quad. If you have access to a kitchen, you can pack sandwiches before — or just pick up food on your way.
- Go for a bike ride around campus, especially if you’re in a place where the leaves change. Pretty!
- Stargaze. Wait for nighttime and spread out under the stars. V romantic, if you ask us.
- If you’re near nature, go for a hike. The best way to work up a sweat with your SO without actually being that close.
How To Make Sex Extra Safe — Beyond Protection
You’ve already got your normal safe sex bases covered. You’re not afraid to pick up condoms or Plan B for yourself, and you get tested regularly. But there are extra steps to take if you’re hoping to have sex in a post-COVID world.
“If you both rigorously socially distance, wear masks, wash your hands, and otherwise follow the CDC’s guidelines for staying safe during the pandemic, then you can consider becoming part of each other’s ‘bubble’ and being intimate with each other,” says Dr. Laura Berman, a sex and relationship therapist in LA. According to Dr. Berman, COVID-19 can be spread during sex, but not through seminal or vaginal fluids. “We know that COVID is spread via particles that we can spread even from merely talking, as well as via saliva and mucus,” she says. So, kissing? Big-time spreader.
But that doesn’t mean sex has to be off the table completely. You just need to be smart. “Look for someone who shares your values around the virus,” Dr. Berman says.” If you date someone who’s really lax about the virus and not too invested in all the safety protocols, no matter how cute they are, it’s really going to increase your risks AND the risks of everyone in your bubble. Remember, your dating choices will impact more than just you, but also everyone you love who you share living space with.” You may be cool with opening up your social life, but your roommate could be a little more cautious. Make sure you’re being respectful and protecting everyone’s safety.
And when in doubt, find another way to be intimate. Or in Dr. Berman’s words, “masturbate, masturbate, masturbate!” That can be on your own or virtually with your partner. Either way, remember — your health, both sexual and not, is in your hands.