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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, much of the country has been asked to shelter in place, isolated from peers and potential lovers. Locally, Mayor LaToya Cantrell closed all movie theaters, bars and restaurant dining areas on March 16 for public health reasons, essentially eliminating nearly all traditional first-date options. It's certainly making romance more difficult, as are the realities of the highly contagious coronavirus itself.

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Bars and restaurants closed, authorities issued health warnings against getting intimate with strangers and some cities even introduced penalties for leaving home.

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Yet amid lockdowns, single people remained surprisingly open to finding new partners. By their third digital meeting, Manns says she felt some chemistry developing.

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Stephanie Manns was one of many to try out video dating during the long weeks of lockdown. But their virtual experiences reflect a huge boom in singles trying out video dating for the first time. Bumblethe first major player to launch an in-app video tool last year, has seen a major increase in usage of its feature, which is marketed as a safer way to video chat compared to swapping phone s or social media details early in the dating process.

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These include video speed-dating events and blind-dating games for users who want to focus on personality rather than looks. Some offline singles events pivoted to online spaces too, with companies such as The Inner Circle giving would-be daters the chance to video chat through activities like virtual pub quizzes.

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The obvious reason the video-dating trend took off alongside Covid, says Dominic Whitlock, editor of the Global Dating Insights website, is the fact that we quickly got used to using video in other areas of our lives. Nyana Ficot had a good experience with video dating, even though it didn't result in a serious relationship after lockdown. It really felt like a good, proper date Lockdowns also facilitated an uptick in video dating simply because they left many singles with time on their hands.

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Others found their stripped-back lives made them feel more lonely or aware of their relationship status. Meanwhile, there was also a slow global realisation that social distancing was here to stay. Therefore, they needed to make a decision: take a complete break for an unknown period of time or embrace the new world of virtual dating.

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Do we hold hands? Do I invite them over to my apartment?

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Jai Andrews, 28, a mentor and coach from London, and Karen Mendoza, 25, who lives in Texas, are one couple who experienced this kind of slow-dating experience during the pandemic. They started out as Facebook connections and began chatting on Messenger in January.

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But their relationship accelerated due to video calls during their respective lockdowns and they decided to formally become a couple in March, before ever meeting in real life. Credit: Jai Andrews and Karen Mendoza. Several dating apps, including Tinder, capitalised on the possibility of long-distance love by allowing users to match with users locked down in other locations without an additional subscription fee.

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British relationships writer and psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says she also observed an increasing willingness among her clients to video date outside their home cities or even countries during lockdowns. With countries now easing lockdowns, most dating experts think people will quickly return to developing romantic relationships offline, rather than focusing on video-based dating. Post-lockdown video dating could serve as screening, a money-saving way to meet or a quick catch up for busy people, experts say.

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Lester believes that the financial impact of the pandemic will also encourage screen-based first dates. Tinder is betting on the trend, testing its long-awaited in-app video feature in four US states in July, as well as in 12 other countries. Last month, Bumble introduced a new feature to enable daters to al whether they wanted a first date to be virtual, or socially distanced with or without a mask, a further al that video dating is likely to remain part of the vetting process for many.

At Global Dating Insights, Dominic Whitlock believes the option to meet digitally will also become a handy tool for time-poor young professionals. But after months of spending so much time online during lockdown, some daters say the experience has actually put them off spending too much of their personal lives in the digital world.

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Before the pandemic there was a lot of scepticism about video dating — Dominic Whitlock. Why singles warmed up to video The obvious reason the video-dating trend took off alongside Covid, says Dominic Whitlock, editor of the Global Dating Insights website, is the fact that we quickly got used to using video in other areas of our lives.

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A chance to date across continents Jai Andrews, 28, a mentor and coach from London, and Karen Mendoza, 25, who lives in Texas, are one couple who experienced this kind of slow-dating experience during the pandemic. It's a lot easier to have a Zoom call with someone to work out that you really do fancy them than it is to go and waste two hours of your time in a bar - Charly Lester.

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