Why Are People Searching for Love Now More Than Ever?
It's a social myth is that singles always feel lonely outside relationships.
Posted Nov 29, 2020
Since the pandemic breakout, dating apps have seen an increase in downloads. A Plenty of Fish survey found that 51% of online daters said COVID-19 made them want to take dating more seriously. Business Insider forecasts that the number of smartphone dating app users in the US will reach 26.6 million in 2020. That's an 18.4% increase from 2019.
It appears that many singles have thrown themselves more into dating than ever before. If individuals in their 20s and 30s felt pressure to date before the pandemic, lockdown isolation may bring further external and internal pressure to date and find a mate.
But why are people searching for love now more than ever? Is lockdown forcing people to confront their comfort levels with feeling isolated?
Dating coach Clara Artschwager suggests that people are being forced into a “collective vulnerability” right now. She says: "For the first time ever, we're being faced with our own mortality in a way we never have before." She continues: "The frailty of our lives was always there, but we're waking up to it in a new way that calls into question: What in my life am I doing that really matters? What do I want to keep, focus on, or change?"
So, What Does Really Matter?
With that being said, the answer to fulfillment does not necessarily lie in couplehood. There is a social myth that singles must always feel lonely and unfulfilled outside the bounds of a relationship. Especially now, during a pandemic, it would make sense that our change of pace can highlight feelings of loneliness. All of the things we jampack our days and distract ourselves with — our commute, concerts, bars, restaurants — are now gone.
Still, there are many ways to confront loneliness. Of course, if someone wants to date and have a relationship — great. But, there are other ways we can approach social isolation and loneliness.
For months, people have been cut off from their families, their friends, their jobs, their social lives: all the things that can help bring fulfillment and joy into one’s life. We are surrounded by fewer people than ever before.
Yet this situation does not mean we now need to find "the one" in order to avoid loneliness during and after COVID-19. The subjective nature of loneliness and, thus, the fact that it depends on self-perceptions, rather than on any objective situation such as being married or unmarried, is important here.
Let's delve into some definitions to understand this. Social isolation is defined as the objective state of having minimal contact with other people. In contrast, loneliness is defined as a discrepancy between one’s desired and achieved levels of social relations. In other words, social isolation is an objective state, and loneliness is a subjective state.
It is clearer now how the perception of loneliness can vary significantly, independent of marital status. Married people can be socially isolated from their friends and relatives and even emotionally alienated from their spouses, while unmarried individuals can be extensively connected and receive support and love from a wide net of friends and family.
Since loneliness depends on self-perceptions, our experience during COVID-19 can be drastically altered by the social networks we have in place. Humans crave connection, so it is only natural that in a time of extreme disconnect and isolation, people turn to the most readily available solution: dating sites and apps. However, these are short-term solutions for a long-term problem that many people struggle with outside of COVID-19.
Therefore, the real question we need to ask is: How does one become a resilient person who is able to survive extreme periods of social isolation?
Not Surviving the Pandemic, Thriving During the Pandemic
In both Happy Singlehood and many psychological studies, it is clear that the best solution to confronting loneliness both in general and during the pandemic is making an effort to create a high-quality social network.
This can translate into many things: socially-distant hangouts, Zoom parties, a FaceTime call, really anything that ensures that we receive the connection that we deserve. Moreover, taking time to understand ourselves better, whether by developing a hobby, engaging in daily movement, and performing self-care will ensure that we all have the energy and emotional capacity needed to maintain the high-quality social networks needed to survive isolation.
But, most importantly, we need to be easy on ourselves, especially considering a global pandemic continues to rage on. With tools at our disposal and through mutual support, we will get through this.
This post was written with Abigail Winokur of Yeshiva University and Hebrew University's Rothberg School.