Dear Dr. Respler,
I am 21 and have just started to date. When I came home from my year in seminary in Israel, I didn’t really feel ready and that was fine with my parents because my sister who is two years older than me was “in the parsha.” She is now married, and I now wanted to start dating. In January, I made the rounds with my mother to shadchanim and shadchan organizations.
I was set up with one date in February, but that didn’t work out. In March we got another name and my mother looked into it and it sounded good and then the Covid-19 virus hit. The shadchan suggested that we do Zoom dating. That sounds very odd to me. How exactly does that work? We each say hello to each other sitting in our living rooms and then what? And how long should such a date take? How does a person observe all the little things that one is supposed to notice when dating?
I feel so lost. I feel like it’s over for me before it even started. Can you help me?
Covid-19 has changed our world in many ways and it has definitely changed the world of dating. Many couples are Zoom dating and although it may seem weird at first, many singles are reporting that they prefer Zoom dating for a first or second date as it helps them see if the person is somewhat compatible and if they want to continue to date that person. Many singles now are either Zoom dating or backyard dating as there still are not that many places to go. Baruch Hashem, some restaurants are beginning to open, offering outdoor and indoor dining. As noted above, Zoom dating is helpful as a get to know you technique. One can get a rough idea of how people look and talk. However, you are correct that the essence of the person is not captured in Zoom dating completely. Some non-verbal cues, in addition to how the person really looks, smells, and actually is can be hidden in Zoom dating.
To address your question, I see no harm done in starting with Zoom dating to at least get to know the person initially. If you see that you like the person, it is important to progress to dating where you actually see the person in real life. At this point you can meet your date outside or have him pick you up if you’re comfortable with that. There are some dating venues that are beginning to open up and if you find yourself compatible with someone, you can try to progress to in-person dating. If you’re very uncomfortable with Zoom dating, you can tell the shadchan that you prefer backyard dating at this point. Regardless, meeting a person for the first time on Zoom or in person can be somewhat similar as you will just play the “getting you know you” game. Have some questions ready, so you will feel more comfortable. This will help you ease into the date and make conversation.
I certainly would be wary of getting serious or even engaged without meeting the person in real life. This could be via a backyard date, a date in a cafe, a walk outdoors, etc. The importance is that you actually meet the person and get to know them well enough before marrying them. Between Zoom dating and progressing to in-person dating you should hopefully be able to assess the situation and make a healthy choice. Please don’t delay this process because of the current situation. I know it can be uncomfortable, but you will get used to it over time. I wish you hatzlocha in this difficult parsha of finding your true zivug.