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Six months into the pandemic life is starting to feel almost normal—restaurants are serving guests, gyms are back in action, etc.—yet, for many, there is one aspect that still feels stagnant: Dating. If you're engaged or recently married, congrats!—we're so happy you have a partner to navigate this wild time with. But if you live alone or have been single for the past six months and counting, you might be a victim of the loneliness epidemic.
While the loneliness epidemic has been a growing phenomenon in recent years, especially among the elderly, feelings of isolation and seclusion have become even more common due to COVID-19. Not to mention how difficult it is to meet a potential partner when the world is on lockdown!
What Is the Loneliness Epidemic?
The loneliness epidemic describes the increasing amount of people who live alone and the subsequent health effects that come from social isolation. In 2020, the loneliness epidemic has become more widespread due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet, we're here to tell you it is possible to find love during the social distancing era and we even have three real-life love stories to prove it. First up, meet Ashley Burton and Clayton Keller (pictured above). Not only did they defy the odds and fall in love while in quarantine (they first met in February of 2020), but they did it all long-distance (Burton lived in Arizona while Clayton was in Nebraska). Now, Burton and Keller are engaged (!!!) and they have one thing to thank for staying connected during such an isolating time: an app. To make things more interesting, their app of choice isn't necessarily labeled a "dating app."
Discovering a New Way to Communicate
"Our mutual friends (a married couple) encouraged Clayton to reach out to me after he had been through a recent breakup," recalls Burton of their early romance. "The wife asked me how he should contact me, and I don't know why, but Marco Polo was what popped into my mind. A few days later, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a Polo from Clayton."
For those who aren't familiar, Marco Polo is a video messaging mobile app that puts texting, video chats and social media all in place, making it easy to connect with friends and meet someone new. As for that "Polo" Burton refers to? That's simply the term for the content users send back and forth. There's no pressure to respond right away either—Polos are meant to be sent on your own time, eliminating the need to schedule face-to-face conversations.
The main challenge was not getting to see each other in person as often as we wanted. Using Marco Polo to chat throughout the day became a lifeline for us.
"One thing we both love about Marco Polo is that you don't feel pressure to respond right away. With texting, sometimes you feel like you have to keep the conversation going all day long, but with Marco, you just respond when you can," she shares, adding, "The main challenge was not getting to see each other in person as often as we wanted. Using Marco Polo to chat throughout the day became a lifeline for us."
Surviving Long-Distance Relationships
But Marco Polo proved to be the silver lining when it came to long-distance dating for Burton and Keller. She explains, "Developing a relationship long-distance with Marco Polo and video calls allowed us to grow close emotionally rather than only focusing on the physical aspect of the relationship. Strong relationships need a good balance of emotional and physical connection, so that was one pro of dating long-distance."
Next up are Preston and Sydnee, who were also introduced by a mutual friend while living in separate states. "It was kinda comical when my friend, Abby, claimed to have met my future wife. She’s in Utah. I’m in Reno. Even logistically it sounded beyond unlikely," remembers Preston of meeting fiancée Sydnee. Sure enough, Abby was right and the sparks between the pair after their initial Polos were instant. "We hit it off. We were talking every day and leaving super-long Polos at night. I just kept thinking, 'Wow, this girl is amazing.'"
We will always smile knowing our love happened over an app.
Over the course of their three-month long-distance romance, they sent over 830 Polos and logged 50 hours of video messages. "We will always smile knowing our love happened over an app."
Creating a Connection Online
And in a year where days are defined by Zoom calls and little in-person interaction, it's apps like Marco Polo that are combating the loneliness epidemic and making yet another case for digital dating.
"It was an intimate enough setting to deepen a friendship without some of the awkwardness that can come in the early stages of getting to know someone," admits Carol Tran Reynolds, who communicated with her now-husband, Estian, on the app after originally meeting each other at work. "Having the chance to think about how you would respond also took away from potential awkward silences and such too. Looking back, it was just what our friendship needed in that moment for us to grow closer in a relatively casual and little pressure way."
We could just be ourselves and not feel pressure to be the perfect first date.
Burton reiterates, "We learned things about each other much more quickly than we would have if this had been a typical dating situation, like how silly we both are and how much Clayton burps and yawns. We could just be ourselves and not feel pressure to be the perfect first date."
Keys to Finding Love in Lockdown
So whether you've been hit by the loneliness epidemic or hoping to meet someone new, let Marco Polo and it's love stories convince you finding love in lockdown is achievable. Below, advice from three couples on finding love in quarantine and beyond!
Let your friends set you up.
Even if you don't feel comfortable going on a date because of COVID-19, your friends can still set you up. "Tell them to have the person Marco Polo you," offers Burton as an alternative. "Marco Polo's purpose wasn't to make us fall in love—just a way to get to know each other—so it took the pressure off of us."
Be open to something new.
Keller admits he initially found it "odd" to meet a potential partner on Marco Polo, but if he wasn't accepting of the opportunity, Burton never would have come into his life. Plus, they're already planning a November wedding!
Share daily moments together—even from a distance.
Even when Reynolds couldn't physically be with her now-husband early in the relationship she found a unique way to bridge the distance. She recalls, "I remember preparing for a camping trip one weekend and Polo'd him while I was shopping for a hammock. So in a moment that would have otherwise just happened on my own, it was special that I got to involve him in that purchase, and it created a moment for us to bond over."
Stay connected with friends.
Whether it is via Marco Polo or not, both Reynolds and Burton agree communication with friends is more important now than ever. "Whether it's with a close friend or someone you're just starting a friendship with that could possibly lead to something more—I've thoroughly enjoyed having Marco Polo as a means for communicating and staying in touch," shares Renolds.
Burton echoes, "Reach out and connect with others, even if you can't do it in person. Become the best person you can by focusing on what you can do, not what you can't, during the pandemic."
Perhaps the most important sentiment of all (in both romance and life), Burton and Keller stress: "Don't give up hope. We would never have expected when we first met back in February that we'd be engaged by now. But this pandemic taught us more about what truly matters—people and relationships and family."