Less pressure on a virtual date

It was 10 minutes before my video call at 7pm and I was feeling nervous. I stared blankly at my laptop screen as my mouse cursor hovered over the Web link that would take me to my first virtual date.

Video calling has become a norm in these days of working from home. But the stakes seem higher when you realise feelings may be involved.

A Web link to the chat had been arranged by a dating consultant from Lunch Actually, who would meet me and my date in the chatroom and make sure we both were set up before leaving us to it.

With five minutes to go, I mentally ticked off the checklist: Adjust webcam, check lighting, make sure I look presentable (from waist up) in my collared shirt, ensure the Wi-Fi connection is strong and that I am set up at the least noisy spot in my home.

But, of course, I found myself having to scramble as I entered the chat because my camera was off.

My date - let's call her "Jamie" - stared awkwardly into her webcam and at me, as I tried to figure out where my camera button is.

I tried to break the ice by giving her a running commentary of where my cursor was while assuring her this was not an attempt to make this a literal blind date.

Webcam finally switched on, we exchanged pleasantries and I figured I would lead with honesty - that this was my first virtual date and first time being assisted by a dating agency.

Jamie looked calm, which I soon realised was because this wasn't her first try at virtual dating. But I was more than happy to take cues from her on how things go in this new world of digital romance.

Once we got over the small talk, the conversation flowed easily. We commiserated about the state of the world, spoke candidly about our parents and, of course, lamented dating life.

She even shared a virtual-dating horror story where the guy she had been matched with looked everywhere except at the screen.

Before I knew it, we had chatted for almost four hours.

While nothing can replace the excitement of physically meeting a blind date for the first time, there is something to be said about dating virtually. There's much less pressure for both parties to show up with their A game - for instance, looking presentable from the waist up is all you need to focus on and you can save on the cologne or perfume too.

Towards the end, I jokingly told her I was giving myself eight out of 10 for my first virtual date showing. She agreed with me, though it was probably easy for me to look good following her previous encounter.

After I logged off, I felt physically and mentally drained. I realised that being locked in and focused on a screen without any distractions or breaks in conversation was pretty exhausting.

The conversation itself sometimes lagged as we navigated the occasional video delays, but it was nothing that soured the experience.

For those lucky to have a great match, my advice would be to grab a bite before the virtual date. And have a bottle of water next to you because you are going to be talking a lot.

 
 

While nothing can replace the excitement of physically meeting a blind date for the first time, there is something to be said about dating virtually. There's much less pressure for both parties to show up with their A game - for instance, looking presentable from the waist up is all you need to focus on and you can save on the cologne or perfume too.

A virtual date also wouldn't cost as much as a real one and can be used as a prelude to the real thing, not unlike screening a call before you pick it up. While virtual dating will not completely replace real-life dating, there might be a place for it in a post-Covid-19 world.

Jamie and I exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet in real life once the opportunity presented itself. But if that doesn't work out, I'm now better equipped to find love in a virtual world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2020, with the headline 'Less pressure on a virtual date'. Print Edition | Subscribe