When stay-at-home measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 went into effect earlier this spring, something weird happened to our sense of geography. For many people who were confined to their homes, physical location suddenly flattened into a binary of “here” and “not here.” Any person who didn’t live in your home was essentially accessible only via phone or videochat, whether 5,000 miles were between you or just a few city blocks.
This had particularly brutal consequences for people who had been enjoying the giddy, touchy-feely early stages of a romance. In the beginning of March, Christine O’Donovan-Zavada, 26, had gone on two great dates with a guy she met on Tinder; they’d cooked dinner together at her home on the second, and she was planning to meet up with him again for a third. Luis Barcelo, 25, had spent a full week hanging out every day with a woman he’d recently met on Bumble. Jessica Magallanez, 23, had just gone on a surprisingly great frozen-yogurt date with a friend of a friend; afterward, he’d ended up accompanying her to the restaurant where she works as a waitress and getting a table in her section so he could talk to her more.
But over the following weeks, as social-distancing protocols set in, the texting communication between Barcelo and his Bumble friend went from a steady stream of check-ins to a slow trickle of memes and occasional jokes. (“We just send each other things that the other might find funny,” he told me. “Nothing of substance.”) Magallanez and her date FaceTimed occasionally late at night, she told me, but they were both tired, and “it wasn’t really the same.” O’Donovan-Zavada and her Tinder guy texted for a while, but before long, “we were saying the same things over and over again. Like, ‘Oh, I wish we could be hanging out,’” she told me. Eventually, “it just fizzled.”