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Dating trends that had already started could be accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, says a UAH sociologist.

The popularity of online dating will likely be boosted by the coronavirus pandemic, said an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

“Given the need for social distancing created by the coronavirus, it is likely that in the future this method of meeting and learning from someone will increase even more,” says Dr Jennifer Sims, who examines encounters as a social activity in a section of his sociology of sexuality courses.

“The percentage of people dating someone they meet through traditional channels like friends or church was already declining before the pandemic,” she says. “Over the past decades, online meetings have grown steadily. Given the need for social distancing created by the coronavirus, it is likely that in the future this method of meeting and getting to know someone will increase even more.

A post-pandemic shift towards an increase in online dating will likely be disproportionately driven by people who have already met other people in a traditional setting like the church, or in contemporary in-person contexts like the dating scene. academics, says Dr. Sims. But for many, online dating is already preferred.

“When we think about the likely future changes in dating trends – more online dating than in person, more in-home or virtual dating versus going out, being very aware of your surroundings when going out – everything this is life as usual for many people from marginalized groups such as LGBTQ Americans, racial minorities and people with disabilities, ”says Dr. Sims.

Dr Jennifer Sims

Dr Jennifer Sims says a post-pandemic shift to an increase in online dating is likely to be disproportionately driven by people who have already met other people in a traditional setting.

Michel Mercier | UAH

“While the pandemic is indicative of many other aspects of social life, the previous style of dating that seems to have been lost or that appears to be altered by the coronavirus has never been appreciated by everyone. “

What it means to go out on a date could also change as society responds to COVID-19.

“As stay-at-home orders are lifted, those who can afford it can venture cautiously into the newly reopened places,” says Dr. Sims. “But with so many Americans currently unemployed and so many others still worried about the coronavirus, it’s more likely that couples and singles will opt for home parties or virtual dates for a while.”

Overall, the only type of dating that has been curtailed by the pandemic is the college dating scene, she says.

“With the dorms closed and fellowship parties canceled, this form of dating has actually ceased,” Dr. Sims said. “Sociological research on predominantly white higher education institutions has revealed that short-term sexual connections with friends or acquaintances have become the defining feature of heterosexual relationships on these college campuses.”

Other types of dating, however, have likely continued and the changes in dating patterns that were already happening before the pandemic are likely to continue to evolve.

“As for couples, for example, here in Alabama, Governor Ivey’s Safer at Home order allowed people to visit ‘relatives’,” Dr. Sims said.

“So for couples who live close enough to each other, shutting down entertainment and other public places means dating during the coronavirus pandemic can feel like ordering take out and watching Netflix at home rather than going out for the iconic dinner and a movie at the theater. “

Dr Louise O'Keefe, Ph.D.

Dr Louise O’Keefe, PhD, director of faculty and staff at UAH, said daters should definitely disclose their COVID status.

Michel Mercier | UAH

But not everyone can afford – or want – to go out, so dating conventions like “Netflix and Chill” were already gaining popularity, says Dr. Sims.

“The pandemic probably just increased the prevalence of trends that were already happening. “

Couples who live far from each other were already using video platforms like FaceTime and Zoom to stay connected.

“The trend of virtual dating using this technology, like the trend of teleconferencing and online classes, is likely to continue and increase,” she said.

Dr Louise O’Keefe, PhD, director of the UAH Faculty and Staff Clinic, offers these public health recommendations for daters:

  • COVID Status absolutely must be disclosed. Precautions should be taken such as social distancing, good hand washing (washing for at least 20 seconds) and protective clothing such as gloves and masks at least until one gets to know better the other person.
  • Trust is important in any relationship. Explain why it is important for you to comply with the recommended safety measures. If the other person’s attitude or philosophy isn’t something you agree with, and you’re hesitant to stick to what you know to be safe, you might want to rethink the relationship.
  • If you met online, consider waiting 15 days before meeting in person. When you meet, always think about safety measures such as masks and gloves. Either of you might be asymptomatic but contagious and not know it. Any of you could have been tested yesterday and tested positive today without realizing it.



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