Until recently, the art of virtual dating using video was a rather “niche” activity, as people tended to go from online straight to meeting in person. Now everybody is asking and talking about video. So here is a quick guide, but remember to look at our other resources on the blog and social media, which are still very valuable.
Why virtual dating?
Our usual advice is to meet within 2 weeks of making contact. That way you don't over-invest in the relationship online without knowing how you'll click face to face. But, if you can’t meet in person, then a virtual date using video chat is the next best thing.
It provides a Face-to-Face experience
When you can see each other face to face, you can make eye contact, smile at each other, and get a feel for each other’s personality.
According to the 7-38-55 rule, created by psychologist Albert Mehrabian, an expert in nonverbal communication:
- Words account for just 7% of human communication related to feelings and attitudes,
- Tone of voice accounts for 38%,
- The remaining 55% comes from nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions.
Lots of people are understandably uncomfortable with appearing on video, but video dating will tell you far more about a person than a phone call on its own.
It is worth remembering that video quality has improved a lot in recent years.
Don't be afraid to get dressed up for your online date. If it makes you feel good to put in a special effort then this can be a great way to make the occasion feel special. On the other hand, if you're happiest keeping things casual that's fine too. Whatever you'd usually do for a date still applies.
The right lighting can also help. Don't sit in the dark! And try and keep the light source behind the camera (phone or laptop), so your face is illuminated, rather than the back of your head.
Free alternative to a “real” first date
We all know first dates can be tricky. You have to pick the right meeting spot, and invest time and money in travel, drinks, and maybe dinner or an event, and after all that, your nerves might get in the way of connection. Virtual dating is low stress, low cost and lets you get to know someone better so you won't be nervous when you make the leap to a 'real' meeting.
The tech options for virtual dating
Video communication has arrived and most of us can now do it with our phones, tablets or laptops. Most of it is currently free, especially, during this lockdown period, between two people.
You can do virtual dating via Facetime, Whatsapp, and Skype to name but a few. But small screens have their limitations.
Laptop and Tablet
Many of us are now using Video Conferencing tools like Zoom and there are other systems such as Microsoft Teams, Whereby and Talky. They work on all platforms but are probably best on laptops or tablets where you can manage the controls.
Many online platforms offer options for how to present yourself - for example by choosing to obscure your background, or hiding your phone number or full name.
If you want to look and sound your best, it's a good idea to pick a platform you're comfortable with, and practice using all the controls. There are lots of excellent online tutorials for most platforms, offering step by step guides. You'll be a pro in no time.
You may prefer to chat on your phone, or via a laptop or tablet where you won't need to poke at the screen with your finger or become distracted by other messages.
Remember to check your internet connection! A strong connection and equipment can be key to having a good experience. You don't want a good date wrecked by the tech!
Virtual Dating and Safety
In Real Life
When you meet someone for the first time in 'real-life' there are important safety precautions to consider, such as always meeting in a public place.
Meeting online is very secure. You can choose what personal details to give out, and the other person never needs to know your exact location.
Risks and how to keep safe
Remember that any video call can be recorded by the other person, so never say or do anything that if recorded could give rise to embarrassment, blackmail or threats.
Unscrupulous and very professional “scammers” have been known to ask people to get “intimate” on camera only to use that as a source of extortion and power. Never feel pressured into doing anything you don't want to. You may not be aware of when someone is screenshotting or recording the screen.
Make sure there's nothing in the background which reveals your identity, personal details or location.
Don’t give too much away too early
Be careful about giving your name or phone number out. Some platforms like Zoom or Skype will allow you to create a username (with Zoom you can change it for every meeting). Why not use your Christian Connection Screen name to maintain your privacy? Always check whether the platform you are using shows your full name, phone number or email, and familiarise yourself with how to block someone, should you need to.
If you are sent any inappropriate messages or photos, you can screenshot these and report them to our help desk.
It’s best to create a password if you are communicating through a platform like Zoom – so you can’t be interrupted by or watched by a third party.
Some programmes like Zoom or Teams ensure that once the meeting is over, the meeting ID can’t be used again – so you can’t be called back – unlike Facetime or Whatsapp where your date may retain your contact details.
Planning a good Virtual Date
The enemy of a good video date is boredom, running out of good things to say or going on too long. It can also be very difficult to sign off! Agreeing a set time limit in advance, such as thirty minutes, can ease the pressure and leave you looking forward to a second date.
Communicating on a screen can be quite intense. In the outside world, we have the diversions of ordering a meal or a drink, seeing a film, sitting together in the sunshine or a lively area, walking to and from the date, talking about a range of events other than CV19 or your daily exercise and the lockdown.
Make sure there are topics which you might both find interesting.
Plan some questions and conversation starters. You could even discuss these in advance?
One simple idea is to bring a picture, some photos or an object with you that you like and talk about that and why you like them.
View a play or a film together or listen to some music. You can share screens and watch the same movie.
Please look at some of our blogs and resources about how to make a date fun and interesting and genuinely helpful.
Finally, as with all dates, make sure you listen as much as you speak! Please let us know some of your best hints and experiences. We would love to know more so we can encourage others.
We would love to hear your stories about virtual dating, successes, failures, hints and suggestions!
Next - Take a look at our quick guide on how to set up an online group meetup.