Love in the Time of the Coronavirus
By Madyson Fitzgerald
The social scene on college campuses has flipped on its head as a result of COVID-19, where social distancing, isolation, and countless more restrictions have forced us to separate ourselves from those closest to us and those we have yet to meet. Finding love in college presents new challenges from six feet away.
This fall semester, millions of college students decided to attend school in person or online. This decision alone has caused many to encounter loneliness. Those at home are interacting with other students solely through platforms like Zoom. For those on campus, it isn’t much easier; new restrictions have changed every single aspect of campus life, making it hard to get a traditional college experience.
With cases in the U.S. approaching 6.3 million, and deaths slowly reaching 190,000, it makes sense that college students should be cautious when meeting new people. In-person, virtual, and hybrid classes all present a new reality.
Don Forsyth, a leadership studies professor at the University of Richmond, said in a news release for the school that this kind of isolation may have negative impacts on one’s existing relationships.
“Unlike emotional loneliness, social loneliness occurs when people feel cut off from their network of friends, acquaintances, and associates. If social loneliness mounts, people may look to their closest intimates for solace, but this burden may put too much pressure on these alliances; even a single enduring and intimate relationship can rarely satisfy all one’s need for social contact,” Forsyth explained.
“But social loneliness can be countered by reaching out to other people through any (safe) means possible: even writing a letter or email to an old friend will undo some of the negative effects of prolonged isolation,” said Forsyth.
While the landscape may be completely different in terms of meeting new people, many schools are creating activities and events on campus to engage students who are on campus. In addition to classes, clubs, organizations, and conferences have all taken place virtually. Despite having over 30,000 students, Virginia Commonwealth University’s calendar of events has featured virtual events almost every day, including religious services, a multimedia workshop, a fair for the School of Business, and more all hosted this week.
Events like these make it safe for people to reach out to others, but other schools in Virginia have seen what happens when students take matters into their own hands. By this week, James Madison University had reported over 1,000 cases of the virus. In an article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, students reported seeing students dressed for parties and packing into Ubers, crowded dining halls, and students hanging out without masks. Across the country, schools are reaching outrageous amounts of cases. Forbes reported on “The 20 Universities With The Most Coronavirus Cases,” including Auburn University with the most at 1,074 and the University of Missouri taking the 20th spot with 633 cases.
If there is anything we have learned in this trying season, it’s that there is a time to be social and a time to quarantine. However, meeting new people and finding love is still possible. In addition to the activities happening around college campuses, there are new places where people hoping to social distance and mingle can meet. One of those places is the neighborhood park.
During the first phase of reopening in Virginia, those in quarantine flocked to state parks for a chance to get out of the house. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde E. Cristman told NBC 12 that the parks were prepared to provide a safe experience for all its visitors.
“We’re honored that people are choosing Virginia State Parks for the outdoor experiences they need now,” said Cristman. “Access to green space and fresh air is important for physical and mental health. Virginia State Parks staff is working diligently to ensure safe access for everyone.”
It’s places like these — parks or outdoor events, where social distancing rules can actually be followed — that it would be safe to meet new people.
Some, on the other hand, have taken a completely different approach to finding a partner. Online dating platforms have become a common method of meeting potential friends and lovers.
Now more than ever, people are taking advantage of apps like Tinder and Match to reach out to someone new. In an interview with experts for Business Insider, opinion writer Manny Fidel discussed the increase in messaging traffic on dating apps. For instance, on Bumble, there’s been a 20 percent increase in messages in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. Hinge saw a 30 percent increase in messages, and Tinder had its biggest day ever on March 29, where users swiped over 3 billion times.
People have proven that finding love amid a global pandemic is still possible. For college students, it’s all about meeting new people in the safest ways possible that could turn a stranger into a life-long partner.