When Boris Johnson announced the UK’s third lockdown this January, any New Year optimism I had depleted. After months following the government’s misguided rules in dealing with the virus with the PM initially promising “we’ll soon be rid of it”, we were back at square one.
Currently, we must stay at home and only leave for essential reasons, with no social interactions between households allowed indoors or outdoors. Nearly a year into practising social distancing paired with the strictest guidelines yet, I’ve seen much reported on how parents at home with children and separated couples are coping, while the effects of these restrictions on single people have been significantly left out of discussion.
I saw out my twenties at the beginning of 2020 in a flurry of parties and fun hangouts. I’d found a new zest for life entering a new decade, making more effort to take every social opportunity on which included dating and possibly beginning a new romantic chapter which excited me. Then the first lockdown hit. Initially, I took it in my stride concentrating on work, exercising at home and even starting my own print business on the side.
Despite missing my socially active self from the pre-pandemic days, I was willing to follow regulations if it meant heading out of this situation a soon as possible. It felt like we were by August, as restrictions eased somewhat, and dating became an active conversation again amongst singles meeting outside. Fast forward to now though, after weeks of the British government u-turning on its own Covid orders with yet another lockdown, the enthusiasm I have for any future romantic prospects has waned considerably.
“Being single wasn’t initially a concern for me,” says Emma Brown , 31 from Manchester, after exiting a long-term relationship in January 2020. “I was originally excited about living by myself after living with my ex for about a year. The more recent lockdown has been a big struggle though, as it’s been relatively lonely.” According to a 2017 survey, the highest proportion of UK residents living alone were aged 25–34 with 94% counted as single. Whereas then you could meet up with people whenever you were sick of your own company, that option has currently been taken away for those living alone in the pandemic, leaving devastating effects on people’s mental health. In June 2020, single households were reported most likely to feel chronic loneliness compared to multi-person households considering Covid restrictions.
Dating apps have prevalently become the most accessible way to meet people in these socially-distanced times. “I had a range of somewhat successful dates,” Emma says. “I always found it relatively awkward given the fact that we were still figuring out the new normal, and it made a lot of dates feel forced.” Sabrina Beaumont, 28 from London, feels the same way, “it was hard to do many of the things that I tend to like and dating just didn’t seem quite as fun.” I’ve dipped in and out of dating apps myself recently, not exactly thrilled to potentially meet up with a stranger outside in the cold. I stopped altogether when it was announced no one could meet up outside during the third lockdown – but maybe this isn’t a bad thing when it comes to the new age of dating.
Last year it was recorded that, compared to other age groups, those aged 25-34 used dating apps the most at 44%, matching the age bracket of residents most commonly living alone and single in the UK. With dating app use projected to rise exponentially in 2021 after growing loneliness recorded amongst singles, these social platforms are encouraging virtual ways to date as Match’s dating expert Hayley Quinn explains. “Our research shows that even post pandemic 18% of people intend to keep up the ‘zoomancing’ and go on a video date. It can be a great way to take your time to get to know people and filter out who you invest that time in.”
Stepping back from dating is another great option I’ve come to realise, refocusing time on myself figuring out what I want and enjoying the simple pleasures (which currently involves a lot of The Real Housewives binging…) “Taking time out can be the smartest thing you can do,” Hayley adds. “This lockdown imposed a reset button on life and so is a great time to recharge your batteries.” Content creator Steff Hanson, 25, followed this approach herself after her relationship ended before the pandemic. “In this lockdown in particular, I am feeling like my heart has healed and I feel the most positive now.” Androgynous model Somriddho Dasgupta from London also spent time on himself in lockdown, “The pandemic gave me an opportunity to take a break from dates and create a healthy relationship with myself. I definitely found love, but for myself, which in my opinion is the most important.”
In not measuring myself against others, I’ve also found happiness within myself these past few months which I think is a great message for single people finding life difficult right now. Although I’ve still found this lockdown emotionally challenging, reminding myself of this has helped. An open and honest discussion about life in lockdown for those unattached will also continue to help and allow people to realise that being single doesn’t mean you have to be alone.