COVID Gave Us the FaceTime First Date, and I'm Never Going Back

Prior to the pandemic, it never would have crossed my mind to date someone over FaceTime. Even the thought of awkwardly navigating pleasantries behind a screen — with no opportunity for the subtle touches, the smells, and the tension you can only get from being physically present with someone — seemed horrible. But when the world shut down (and with it the opportunity for physical intimacy), virtual dating suddenly became the norm, and it challenged the way I communicate with my dates, as well as my priorities in a romantic partner.

I remember my first FaceTime date vividly. We had matched on Tinder and had been texting each other religiously for a month. Each waking second of my life was spent waiting for the buzz of my phone and the joy each new message brought with it. I knew it was time to level up the relationship, but I didn't know how to go about it with a pandemic raging on. Luckily, they made the first move and asked me to watch a movie together while we FaceTimed.

I'm not going to lie: I'm not a movie guy, and I'm definitely not a watch-a-movie-across-two-states-over-the-phone kind of guy. But what other option did we have at the time? So I said yes, of course, and when the day came, I hit the call button and steadied my nervous hands.

The movie was great — it was Studio Ghibli, so duh — but what blew me away was how amazing the date went. It felt like we were talking with each other instead of at each other. That sounds stupid, but there have been so many times when a date felt like an interview. You run through a rolodex of questions you've answered a thousand times, a taxing ritual that's occasionally interrupted by a spaghetti bolognese or a kiss.

This time felt different. We couldn't do the 50-questions routine because the date would simply be miserable. Instead, we studied each other through the screen, waiting for the right time to tell a joke, to share a formative memory, to flirt, to laugh and cry together about the frenzy and loneliness of the pandemic.

Perhaps the virtual nature of it required us to put more of ourselves out there in order to replicate the intensity of an in-person experience. That good nervousness was still there, but because we couldn't distract ourselves with physical touch or with our surroundings, we had to be extra attentive, inquisitive, and funny.

Stripping away the physical allowed me to discern whether I actually enjoyed that person, without lust and emotions clouding my judgment.

That relationship didn't work out in the end, but I continue to have these FaceTime dates long after. Stripping away the physical allowed me to discern whether I actually enjoyed that person, without lust and emotions clouding my judgment. On FaceTime, you have to bring more than good looks to the table to secure that second date. There's little opportunity to ignore the red flags.

Now, when I'm interested in someone romantically, I ask to do a FaceTime call and vet them before agreeing to meet in person. Are they funny? Do they seem intelligent? Do they have a weird voice? I have no intention of being with someone who bores me or gives me the ick over the phone, because why should I expect anything else in person? Connecting over FaceTime first has saved me so much time, money, and stress. If you can pass that first round, you'll get a ticket to the next — it's really as simple as that.