106°F
weather icon Clear

Why you may never leave the house for a first date again

Updated July 2, 2020 - 1:29 pm

For those of you fortunate enough to have been able to work from home these past few months, do you remember that initial burst of freedom?

No commutes. Less time wasted. Even if you were subjected to endless Zoom meetings, you didn’t even have to wear pants, if you were so inclined.

Now apply those same conveniences to dating — with the initial stages happening online thanks to video platforms or virtual features within dating apps that keep users’ contact information private — and you can get a sense of the potential long-term effects our quarantine culture may have on romance.

“Video is not going to go anywhere,” says Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert for Match, “because we’re realizing how much time and effort we can save by jumping on video with someone versus spending an entire night with someone that we’re not attracted to.”

‘The new condom’

Much of the world may have stopped during our COVID-19 lockdowns, but the search for love never did, Amie Leadingham says.

The Las Vegas dating coach reports that clients have been reaching out more than ever since the coronavirus upended daily life.

“I think people are waking up to the idea of, with this pandemic going on, how much they want love and companionship in their life,” she says.

Leadingham’s clients range in age from 23 to 68, but the majority are 30 to 50. Around 30 percent of them are men.

“The past decade, we’ve been doing the hookup culture,” she says. “It’s really moving into more of a serious, relationship-minded attitude. People who were saying, ‘I’m fine being by myself,’ they’re finally admitting, ‘Actually, I really do want a partner. I do really want to fall in love.’ Spending more time alone, they’re recognizing these are things that are really important to them.”

A virtual date is a good place to start, Leadingham says, to see if there’s enough of a connection to warrant meeting in person.

“Social distancing is like the new condom for everyone. We just have to assume that you might have (coronavirus). We don’t know,” she says. “And so we have to make sure that it’s worth investing and really taking a risk. ‘You’ve got to be the right person to make this worthwhile for me.’ ”

Asked if she thinks our response to the pandemic will have long-term effects, Leadingham lets out an emphatic, “Oh, yeah!”

“I just don’t think people are going to be like, ‘Hey, let’s make out and kiss like we used to on the first date’ or ‘Let’s hook up.’ That is definitely going to change. Even if they have the vaccine, people don’t want to get sick. … I really think, for the most part, that people are really going to be taking things slow.”

Feeling closer, faster

Getting to know each other before meeting may be a slow process, but it can accelerate feelings of intimacy, Las Vegas relationship therapist Katherine Hertlein cautions.

“As we have these conversations, over technology and over media, we are becoming very quickly bonded to that individual in ways that might even surprise us,” she says. “Just sort of be aware that you get really connected, really fast.”

Without the typical distractions of an in-person date — people-watching, eating and drinking and the like — conversations tend to get deeper quicker.

“I don’t think the relationship goes too fast, but I think you get closer to somebody faster than you realize,” advises Hertlein, a couple and family therapy professor at UNLV. “What happens in that case is then people say things like, ‘Oh, because this happened so fast, this person must be my soulmate,’ and then they get really kind of disillusioned when the relationship moves along.”

“The fact that you got close to them in 30 days is not evidence that they’re your soulmate,” she adds. “It’s evidence that the two of you did a lot of self-disclosure and grew together really quickly.”

Video chats on the rise

TAIMI, the Las Vegas-based dating site for LGBTQ users, was at the forefront of in-app video calls when it was founded in 2017. On May 19, Hily, its locally chartered companion site, introduced similar technology.

“People see how easy and comfortable it is to have video calls with a potential match, and there’s no need to go outside and spend your time and spend your money,” says Jake Vygnan, the Ukrainian-born co-founder of both companies. “It’s much faster and safer to do this whole experience of the mutual date on the app.”

Hily has 17.4 million users in 17 countries. The site has seen 23 percent more matches since the start of quarantines. TAIMI, which is available in 45 countries, has more than 6 million users — up from 4.6 million at the start of the outbreak. Its daily activity has risen by 25 percent.

“You can have pretty much the same experience with this mutual date as you could at a restaurant with the person,” Vygnan says of virtual dates. “During this lockdown, we see that usage of our video calls has doubled. … It’s not going away. It’s never going to be the same.”

Comfort at home

Speed dating — those meet-ups that can feel like a mix of timeshare sales pitches and choosing teams for kickball — has moved online, as well. That can help level the playing field, says Amanda Ortiz, director of global events for MyCheekyDate, which operates speed dating events in Las Vegas.

In person, dates can be distracted while checking out each other’s watch, shoes or other status symbols. “You also don’t see their height like you do in person,” Ortiz says, laughing, “so I think that is a major one.”

The company was planning a July launch of its virtual speed-dating sessions but ramped them up in March once stay-at-home measures began. Unlike the stress of regular speed dating, with all the participants crammed into an unfamiliar room, virtual speed dating tends to put clients at ease, she says.

“People feel more comfortable in their homes, and I’m noticing more matches because of it.”

Then there’s the fact that singles can get a better sense of their potential partner with a glimpse of their daily lives right away. Something interesting in the background could spark a conversation or reveal a shared passion.

“I think people are just being more open in general,” Ortiz says, “and choosing more potential matches.”

A decline in hooking up

Quarantines forced many singles to pause and take a long, hard look at how they’ve been dating, says DeAlto, the Match expert who’s been featured on Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight.”

“I 100 percent believe that this is a reset, in so many ways, for our lives, but especially for dating. There was such a culture … where people were just thinking, ‘OK, What’s next? What’s next? What’s next? There’s so many people at my disposal, why am I going to focus any attention on someone when I can just dismiss them because their eye color is not what I’m looking for?’ That shifted. That shifted a lot in terms of people giving people chances.”

With so few available options for in-person dates, singles had been forced to pump the brakes on some of their previous habits. Among Match users, DeAlto has noticed daters spending more time talking to each other.

“It’s really a decline in the hookup culture and an increase in meaningful connections,” she says. “I honestly believe this kind of slow burn that they’ve been forced to have is going to require more effort but also build stronger foundations for relationships post-COVID.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
'America's Got Talent' judge Simon Cowell has back surgery after electric bike accident - Video
Simon Cowell underwent surgery on Saturday to repair a broken back and was recovering at a hospital. He will miss the opening shows of "America's Got Talent," which begin this week. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
RV of Las Vegas entertainers missing from their home - Video
RJ entertainment columnist John Katsilometes talks to longtime Las Vegas entertainers Joe and Jessica Trammel, who discovered Wednesday afternoon that their RV, trailer and belongings had been stolen. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Television shows could fuel Las Vegas tourism rebound - VIDEO
CBS reality dating competition series “Love Island" and ABC’s “Shark Tank” are set to film upcoming seasons in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks reschedules concert at Allegiant Stadium - Video
The country superstar made the announcement Wednesday morning that he has moved his Aug. 22 date at the stadium back to Feb. 27.
Bart Torres of ‘Highway Vibe’ memoriam
Vegas broadcaster Bart Torres of ‘Highway Vibe’ dies at 54. He was inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September 2018. (Greg “Gonzo” Spillane/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Naya Rivera confirmed dead after body is found - Video
Naya Rivera, the "Glee" star, went missing during a boating trip with her 4-year-old son at Lake Piru in California last week. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Actress Kelly Preston dies at 57 - Video
Kelly Preston, actress and wife of John Travolta, had been privately battling breast cancer for two years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas bar workers frustrated, angry as restrictions return - VIDEO
In Southern Highlands, the Italian restaurant Spaghetty Western, while remaining open, had to shut down its bar. Bartender Scarlett Brock, who is still waiting to receive unemployment payments from the initial shutdown, calls the financial impact of being out of work again “a knock in the face.” (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'In the Dark' at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum - Video
Laurie Thomas, controller for the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, discusses the new exhibit, "In the Dark," in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Summertime Dole Whip Cocktails
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian has two new Dole Whip cocktails. The Golden Tiki, which offers a line of Dole Whip cocktails, is reopening Wednesday.
Lin-Manuel Miranda says 'Hamilton' criticism is 'fair game'
Lin-Manuel Miranda has responded to people claiming he presented an idealized version of the Founding Fathers. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Charlie Daniels, 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' singer, dead at 83 - Video
Charlie Daniels, the country music star, was struck by a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee. His death was confirmed on Monday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jennifer Romas takes her 'Sexxy The Show' to Dreamland Drive-In - Video
Jennifer Romas, producer, director, choreographer and star “Sexxy The Show" at Westgate took her show to Dreamland Drive-In at FreshWata Studios in Las Vegas. The show, which is currently dark at the Westgate, is a benefit for charities Golden Rainbow of Southern Nevada, The Actors Fund and Pawtastic Friends. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Wynn Las Vegas’ ‘re-imagined’ buffet - VIDEO
On June 18, The Buffet at Wynn reopened to customers with what the resort called “a re-imagined all-you-can-eat concept that combines the abundance of the traditional buffet with the benefits of a full-service restaurant.” (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jimmy Kimmel issues public apology for past blackface sketches - Video
On Tuesday, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter to apologize for his blackface impression of NBA star Karl Malone. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kurt Cobain's MTV Unplugged guitar sold for record-breaking $6M - Video
The 1959 Martin D-18E, which was often out of tune, was expected to fetch between $1million and $2 million. The iconic guitar was sold during the online 'Music Icons' sale hosted by Julien's Auctions over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joel Schumacher, director of 'Lost Boys' and Batman films, dead at 80 - Video
Schumacher died in New York City after battling cancer for a year. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'We are not a monolith' - Video
Lance Smith, a multidisciplinary artist, talks about how black artists should be acknowledged for their work and not tokenized or only have their work connected to trauma. "Blackness, we are not a monolith, we deserve to live and create in a world that respects us as we are." (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amid protests and pandemic, black artists view works as means to empathy, healing - Video
Erica Vital-Lazare is an artist, writer, sometimes activist and professor at the College of Southern Nevada. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
PodKats! with Ross Mollison
On this edition of PodKats! Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes is joined by the founder of Spiegelworld and producer of Las Vegas Strip shows such as "Absinthe," and "Opium," Ross Mollison.
Paramount pulls 'Cops' series in wake of protests - Video
Paramount Network recently confirmed their decision to cancel the long-running reality show, "Cops." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Restaurants add COVID-19 surcharge - Video
Some Las Vegas Strip restaurants are adding a COVID-19 surcharge to their bills to help offset the additional costs of reopening. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kats hangs at Mayfair Supper Club as Bellagio reopens
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes visits The Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio on the Strip in Las Vegas on the first night after reopening Thursday, June 4, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas performers adapt to pandemic restrictions - Video
The coronavirus pandemic has forced creative people in Las Vegas, a city that thrives on live performance, to adapt to new or changed ways to entertain. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas woman brings Blue Angel to life - Video
When Las Vegas shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria Hogan created the Blue Angel costume and performance, emulating the statue locals know and love in order to connect with others in a time when connection isn’t as possible. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‘Hamilton’ postponed as Smith Center remains dark indefinitely - VIDEO
The hit musical 'Hamilton' was supposed to run from September through October at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Strip with Kats
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife Gilligan Stillwater GIbbons and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Las Vegas Strip with Kats - Video
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife, Gilligan Stillwater Gibbons, and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ex-WWE star Shad Gaspard found dead on beach - Video
Shad Gaspard, 39, the former WWE wrestler, was found dead Wednesday morning on the shoreline of Venice Beach in California. Gaspard went missing over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffets won’t reopen soon, but they may return eventually - VIDEO
In a Tuesday earnings call, Frank Fertitta III, CEO of Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts, said buffets won’t be among the amenities included in the early stages of the resorts’ reopenings. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
US tops 5 million confirmed virus cases, to Europe’s alarm

With confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. hitting 5 million Sunday, by far the highest of any country, the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe.

Pool builders see jump in business

A long-time pool-building veteran says sales are up about 40 percent this year, and it’s largely the result of people being stuck at home and looking to make their backyard more of an entertainment oasis.

4 US deaths linked to methanol-based hand sanitizers

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help stop the coronavirus from spreading, but drinking the products turned out to be deadly for four people in two states.