‘The internet kept crashing’ - Daters reveal how looking for love has changed during coronavirus
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For thousands of Norfolk singles, 2020 has been a year like no other. Reporter ABIGAIL NICHOLSON examines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the dating scene.
When the UK went into lockdown at the end of March, dating as we knew it came to a screeching halt.
But despite singles being forced to stay at home and keep to social distancing regulations, the dating app Tinder reported the busiest day in its history on Sunday, March 29, with more than three billion people “swiping” globally.
The app also reported a 12pc increase in daily conversations between Brits, with the majority of people kicking off chats with a simple “are you okay?” or a wave.
Young Brits were particularly chatty by mid-April as members between the ages of 18 and 25 sent an average of 73pc more messages compared to those over 26.
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But dating apps weren’t the only places where people could connect throughout the covid crisis, as shown by Colleen Stone, 44 and Darren Alexander, 46 from Norwich.
The pair reconnected on Facebook during lockdown, almost 30 years after they first met.
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The couple have now been in a relationship for six months, with Miss Stone saying it’s going “really well”.
Mr Alexander remembers the day the pair first met when they were teenagers, he said: “At a company weekend break, I walked over to my boss’s daughter (Colleen) and asked her if she would like to dance.
“To my complete shock she said “yes”, so being the gentleman I was I led her to the dance floor and displayed my best waltz steps whilst keeping an eye on her Dad.
“I never saw her again but continued to work with her dad for many years. The years and time just flew past and my hair receded and my belly grew.”
In March 2020, Mrs Stone came up as a suggested friend on the 46-year-old’s Facebook page and they began talking.
Miss Stone said: “We messaged constantly and couldn’t wait to meet up but couldn’t straight away as this was when we were told to stay at home.
“We had to see each other virtually on messenger instead, we would listen to music together and do Alexa requests.
“We eventually met up in May and had some lovely unconventional dates as all pubs and restaurants were closed.”
The couple’s first date after restrictions were lifted was a picnic by the river at Salhouse Broad.
“He had made an amazing hamper and we tried to keep two metres apart but failed miserably,” Miss Stone said.
“For our second date we met in Roy’s of Wroxham car park, had a walk by the river, got chips from Ken’s and ended up in Roy’s supermarket as nothing else was open!”
However for Amy, who is in her second year of studying at the University of East Anglia, the virus completely changed her outlook on who she engages with.
She said: “Inviting somebody over to your house feels much more serious now, the pandemic has made me really think about who I am interacting with and if it’s worth it.
“I tried one virtual date and hated it, the internet kept crashing and I couldn’t really get a handle on if they were enjoying our date.
“Now restrictions have lifted I have liked meeting people outdoors and in restaurants, it feels much more normal now.”
Although dating has changed massively, Norwich matchmaker Brigid Hayward said the virus has had a positive impact on the dating scene.
The founder of Catalyst Matchmaking, which launched at the start of this year, said she thinks the coronavirus has made people connect on a more emotional level.
The 58-year-old said: “I do feel very sorry for people trying to date during the coronavirus pandemic, but I think it’s making people realise what really matters to them.
“Coronavirus is making us slow down, talk to each other and get to know what we really like, but I think it is a good thing.
“I think people have gotten into the habit of getting into things too quickly, now people are connecting on a more emotional level before even walking into the same room together.”