Being quarantined has been the most unfun experience of my life — not counting the time I watched an episode of “Friends.” I’ve had to do things for survival that I hope to never have to do again: Ordering my groceries online, looking at photos of dogs in tights, and pretending baking is fun. The silver lining to all of this is that I’ve learned the art of virtual dating, and if you think this is a soon-to-be obsolete skill, think again. Video chatting — the cornerstone of virtual dating — is something you should be doing with your dates in normal times, too. 

Courtney Clemen, co-founder of The V-club, a site focused on building better intimate relationships through coaching, tells me that there are three reasons video chatting is worth it: to verify the identity of the person; to get a read on their personality; and to gauge chemistry. She estimates that only about 15 to 20% of her clients would video chat before an IRL date before the outbreak of COVID-19. “Since the pandemic began, video chatting has picked up significantly and I would say it’s now the norm rather than the exception,” Clemen says. 

It didn’t take a stay-at-home order for Katherine, 27, who lives in Los Angeles to start always doing video-chat screens — she committed to this after several unpleasant dates that led to disappointment. “I video chat before a first date mostly because I can’t fully tell if I’m attracted to someone with just pictures and texting. I need to see the way they talk and move,” she says. 

“When you video chat, you can eliminate 90+% of bad dates.”

And it’s not only women who are looking to vet their match before an IRL date. Tinder employee, Maurice, 31, who lives in Los Angeles, says he wouldn’t be comfortable meeting up with someone without a video chat first. “So much gets lost in text translation. A video chat shows you someone’s nuances, tone, voice inflection; it just makes more sense and feels more human.” 

Saving time is another clear benefit to video chatting before a first date. Remember what it was like to be busy? Well, eventually all of our schedules will become fully active again, and setting aside time to spend with a stranger may be difficult. More importantly, as Clemen tells me, video chatting helps you to not burn out. “Bad dates can be very discouraging,” she says. “When you video chat, you can eliminate 90+% of bad dates. If you go on dates blindly without doing a video call it can cause a lot of fatigue.” And dating fatigue is something that we all want to avoid. 

So whether it’s for your safety, to save time, or to save money, there are plenty of reasons to screen your date via video chat before meeting up with them. But are there any reasons not to?

“A lot of people feel too shy or awkward to video chat! When I work with someone who is resistant to it, I explore where their apprehension comes from,” Clemen says. With video chatting, there are fewer distractions and physical cues than on IRL dates. “Video chat is more intimate, because what you say becomes even more important.” 

Plus, the camera doesn’t always capture your good side: Plenty of people simply don’t like how they look on video. Fortunately, there’s a solution for both camps. Clemen says there are plenty of hacks for adjusting the lighting and getting yourself camera ready. And for those afraid of getting too personal too quick, getting to know the “why” behind that fear will help you overcome the intimacy hurdle. 

If I’ve taken away anything from dating during quarantine it’s this: If you aren’t video chatting before your dates, you’re doing everything wrong. 

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