Corona has challenged many critical parts of our lives but for the large singles population of NYC, the pandemic has put a hold on dating and courtship. For an organization and community (which I am privileged to direct) dedicated to bringing young people together – one which boasts 364 marriages in the last 20 years- this is quite distressing. In the last two months I’ve had conversations with dozens of my students who have basically given up on dating – for now. While I certainly understand why some have chosen to push off dating until they can date in person, I am disappointed so many people’s marriage prospects are now on hold for so long.
But must it be that way? Dating app usage has actually increased since the pandemic began and dating sites are reporting longer conversations on the sites than ever before. So why can’t we figure out a way to convert more of those dating app meet ups into actual on-line “dates”? The Bible’s famous comment on Adam’s life before Eve’s creation, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) applies more now than ever before. It’s just unhealthy to be alone for this long and so why put off meeting that special person?
Whether two people can actually fall in love on-line remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: zoom and other such platforms enable two people to get to know each other and even develop a relationship. One of my students said to me that his zoom dates have helped create what he feels is a deep connection with someone he now calls his girlfriend.
Consider some of the advantages of a zoom date: First, it is free! Compare that to how expensive dinner or even drinks used to be, an important factor for young people who may now be unemployed.
Second, zoom dating, while allowing the couple to determine whether they are physically attracted to one another, removes the pressure and distraction that comes with physical or sexual intimacy. The fact that physical contact is not an option can actually help the couple focus on the deeper aspects of their personalities and assist in maintaining clarity on their true feelings for one another. In Jewish tradition, physical attraction is an important ingredient for marriage, but physical intimacy is reserved for after the marriage as a way of deepening the bond after a commitment has been made. Corona and Zoom are just putting into action what Jewish tradition has been teaching for years.
Finally, even if the zoom date does not materialize, spending that hour or so getting to know another person is definitely a productive and healthy way of spending time. It takes us out of ourselves for a brief moment to open our hearts and become more sensitive empathic beings.
One important suggestion for your next zoom date: Take the date seriously by preparing for the encounter: set a time, shower, comb your hair and put on something nice. As Jewish tradition teaches, the more one prepares and invests for something in advance, the more the experience will mean to us. Another one of my students, a young woman was sent take out dinner in advance of their zoom date so the couple could enjoy dinner as they met on zoom (there goes advantage #1). Another planned a Netflix film and yet another sent an interesting article to discuss. Both took the time to arrange it in advance – that’s the key.
After 9-11, there was record number of engagements in New York City. Crisis have a way of reminding us of what is truly important in life – giving to another to create something beyond ourselves which in turn leads to personal happiness and making the world a better place. I pray that the silver lining of these months of quarantine and isolation will bring us the same realization.