Finding Your Weird Fish: Online Dating During A Worldwide Pandemic


Words | Aylish Dowsett

There is no doubt that our world has become a bit topsy-turvy in the last few months.

Social isolation and distancing have become the new normal – in which we are forced to stay inside with our cats and it’s suddenly normal if I veer off the footpath onto the road to get away from a stranger.

But whilst we’ve all been staring longingly out our windows, eating nothing but junk food and having Zoom meetings in our pyjamas, a digital platform continues to thrive: online dating. 

Dating apps are the way to go if you want to meet your new love bug. With an estimated 91 million people across the globe using apps like OkCupid, Tinder, and Hinge. My own experience has ranged from “you’re lovely but not for me” to “no, I did not want to see a shirtless selfie of you, thanks.” While I am yet to delve back into the mysterious depths of online dating, I must admit I’m tempted by its convenience. 

Instead of a potentially awkward dinner date, now you can have a virtual date without having to move your sleeping cat. “There’s so many awesome things about having a first date by video chat,” Carissa Bennett tells the ABC. “For starters, you can wear your pyjama pants and do it from the comfort of your own couch.”

Apps have taken advantage of this new surge by adding in additional features for users to enjoy. Some suggest ideas for your quarantine date, how to video date and my personal favourite from Hinge: dating backgrounds. Now you can have a lovely Zoom date by a picturesque beach, a cosy forest get-away, or with a handsome bartender at your every beck and call. Hinge knows how to please its users. 

While the prospect of online dating may sound like a breeze, there can be some downsides. Clinical psychologist Dr Maria Scoda, warns that your online relationship may not work in real life. “Once they meet in person, everything they’ve created may fall flat,” she tells the ABC. “I know people don’t want to hear that, but it’s a possible reality.” 

This is a fear almost everyone has with online dating, including Jessica Lee Cookland, a Macquarie University alumnus. “We went to watch a movie at an outdoor cinema,” she says. “He seemed so sweet, he even brought a bottle of wine and popcorn… until the movie started.” Jessica knew that things were getting weird when he started asking her fifty questions. “Turned out the fifty questions lasted much longer than I thought they would, and we missed the entire movie.” Jessica quickly left as soon as she was able to, “let’s just say we never went on a second date!”

Now, I’ve had my fair share of bad first dates, but initially getting the date can sometimes prove to be the challenge. Profiles on apps can be a minefield to navigate. If you’re looking for a guy, you should expect to see countless shirtless selfies, a cute dog/cat/baby, travel pics with the boys and a record of their “exact” height.

So you’ve swiped through all those profiles and have a potential match. Now what? Well, just start talking! Dr Scoda says that virtual dating can allow people to ease into a conversation resulting in a deeper connection. “Even just talking about the mundane things together, describing your day or week, that’s part of a normal relationship,” she says. 

Whilst I have been unlucky in the online dating world, there are some out there who have found real love. Years after her awkward movie date, Jessica found her husband-to-be on Tinder. “My first date with Ian was at the beach. We had a drink together whilst watching the sunset and talked about cats.” Jessica had never met someone who liked cats more than her. “I knew from that moment he was special,” she says. 

Finding love online may seem like a miracle, but just like Jessica, more and more people are using dating apps to land a serious relationship. A study conducted by the University of Sydney followed the dating behaviours of 365 app users. Out of the participants, 87 percent believed that apps gave them “more opportunities to find prospective partners.” Dr Michell Hobbs, who led the study, agreed that courtship on apps was changing. “Most people are not using the technology merely for increased sexual promiscuity but are in fact seeking to find a potential long-term partner,” he says. 

So, should you try online dating? The short answer, yes. Though my search continues, online dating is a fun and exciting way to learn more about yourself and what you’re looking for. You also meet some pretty cool people along the way too. “For me, online dating turned out to be a great way to meet a bunch of new, weird and fun people,” says Thomas Noss, a current student at Macquarie University. “It’s become the new standard for sorting through a sea of weird fish until you find the fish you like. I just kept searching until I found the type of weird that was compatible with my own.”

Online dating can be a weird, fun and crazy experience. I met some lovely people there and made some real, genuine connections. Want to meet someone new? I say go for it! I know I’ll be giving it another shot; those Hinge backgrounds are far too tempting. But please stay safe, know your boundaries and remember to date from home!