online dating art

I’m writing this from what seems like five years in a nuclear bunker with nothing but a cat and canned goods to keep me company. In reality, it’s been about three weeks in precautionary quarantine, and I haven’t had to tap into the canned food stash because delivery is still available during the COVID-19 crisis. 

While I do have a cat to keep me company, I also have a slew of fresh-faced 20-somethings to tell me I’m pretty from the warped screen of my Tinder profile. 

With the dissolution of every routine we’ve ever known and the heavy federal suggestions to avoid all social contact, horny college kids everywhere are forced to reckon with the crushing inability to get attention from whatever gender they’re attracted to. The solution to this pandemic-induced dry spell seems to be the download of virtual dating apps. 

This is the foundation of the new concept coined by Barstool Sports podcaster Ellie Schnitt — the “quarantine boyfriend.” It’s important to note that the concept is not solely reliant on mine and Schnitt’s cis-straight, female lens — the concept exists across the gender-identity and sexual-orientation spectrums.

A quarantine boyfriend is essentially a person who you either meet from a dating app or have stored up in your contacts as a fallback person to talk to when times get lonely. There tends not to be an expectation to meet up after the apocalypse comes to a close, and the stand-in boyfriend or girlfriend is usually not someone you are actually interested in dating. They say “good morning” and send flirty messages, and you soak up the attention because there really isn’t anything else to do while practicing social distancing. 

But what are the greater implications of essentially using someone to fulfill the primal drive for companionship? I question this as I receive half-baked texts from my own quarantine boyfriend with whom I went on a singular coffee date then ignored for two weeks. I ended up answering his message after one-too-many lonely nights of social distancing. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about using some expendable muse, but all this time alone with my cat has made me think. 

Humans are social creatures; we crumble when forced into isolation. Prolonged loneliness can wreak havoc not just on our mental health but our physical health as well. While this is an extreme case, and many of us still maintain contact with family and close friends, this strange time forces us to maintain a sense of connection through unconventional methods. 

We, as a generation, are being forced to reckon with a historical crisis while navigating the already uncharted waters of dating in the digital age. 

For those of us keeping a quarantine boyfriend, perhaps we need to reexamine how transparent we are with this individual. Do they know this is a casual interaction? Are they expecting anything more out of this when social practices return to normal? 

Aside from dealing with the communication and expectations between couples, I implore you to think about why you may be keeping this person as a tether during this time. It’s OK to utilize the interaction as a coping mechanism, but if you’re sitting at home feeling a need to get attention as a form of validation, perhaps think about what that could mean about your self-esteem. 

If you constantly need an outside source to prove to yourself that you’re worth something, you probably don’t believe it. We all have insecurities, and most of us in college struggle in the self-esteem department. Yet, the old cliche rings true — you can’t truly love someone until you love yourself. It can be hard to get to that point of self-acceptance, but these hours alone could be the opportunity to start the process. 

Whether you have a quarantine boyfriend or not, this social pause can give us a moment of silence to reevaluate where we stand when it comes to dating and relationships. Used wisely, the time could help us understand what we want in a relationship when this whole thing blows over. 

Normalcy will once more be regained, and the bars will swarm with Tinder dates. Perhaps your relationship with that guy who you’ve been talking to via Snapchat and FaceTime can one day graduate to an in-person date. Or, you can both go your separate ways and never talk again.