Valentine’s Day can be a tough time for single people. Scrolling through photos of happy couples sometimes triggers that voice in your head that reminds you – you’re alone.
Add a global pandemic, isolation, and government-imposed celibacy to the mix, and it’s not a far reach to assume this year’s going to be a lot harder than usual.
In-person socialising has been put on hold and life is happening online. It is no surprise that the sense of loneliness this brings can have a massive impact on someone’s mental health.
Speaking to TheCity, Roe McDermott, Sex and Relationships Expert at The Irish Times, said she believes people are really underestimating the importance of physical contact and dating throughout the pandemic.
“Dating is, at its core, about hope and it’s about connecting with somebody. Even a mediocre or bad date, it’s the hope that you’ll get an entertaining story to tell your friend. Losing that sense of hope and connection when we are so isolated is seriously psychologically damaging,” she says.
Many people have turned to online dating as a means of coping with this. Match Group – who own popular dating platforms like Tinder and match.com – have reported a significant increase in users since the pandemic hit.
Enda Collins, a 22-year-old musician from Dublin, has been taking part in online dating for the past year.
“I think it can be good, but I miss physical contact. You get to that point after a few days of chatting online where you want to meet up but it’s like… you just can’t,” he says.
While he feels these conversations can be helpful to combat loneliness, some users only have one thing on their mind – and it’s not the R number.
“You get people messaging you like ‘what do I have to do to get you to come out now?’
“One guy, we were chatting for over an hour and really hitting it off. Next minute, he sends me, let’s just say a very explicit picture with the caption ‘Can you handle this?’ I was like oh my god. You’ve ruined it!”
However, Frances Kelleher, a Killarney based dating coach, believes online dating can be a beneficial tool in helping you find the right person.
“I believe online dating is great if you know how to use it correctly and know how to sell yourself,” she says.
“You have to be strategic in the way you use it. I advise my clients to be online as you can throw your net so much wider in the pool of potential partners. The more you put yourself out there, the better chance you have of meeting the right person.”
McDermott also believes online dating can be a great experience, but its potential benefits are relative to how you present yourself. Being clear about what you’re looking for is essential and can help you navigate the online world more easily, as well as counteract any time wasting or negative experiences.
“The basic act of filling out your profile – which a lot of people don’t do – is about saying what you’re looking for and telling people what you have to offer. It takes [dating] to a different level of thoughtfulness and seriousness,” she explains.
Your profile is in your hands, so why not put your best self out there, you might not meet the right person, but you might get a funny story or two and find a welcome respite to lockdown boredom.
Online dating presents its own set of challenges, it is far from perfect, but it can be what you make of it, and for singles everywhere, now is the perfect time to give it a try.
For those out there who are reluctant to dive into the world of online dating, Frances thinks it’s worth a shot.
“For people who are reluctant, I would say just give it a try. There are different apps so try a few to see which one you prefer. You can always come off if you hate it.”