Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Julie Spira.
A few topics Julie Spira addresses in this interview are:
- (02:32) The Inspiration behind “Dating in the Age of COVID-19”
- (04:50) How COVID-19 has Affected Singles’ Desire to Date
- (07:04) Dating Tips for Single Men
- (10:10) Dating Tips for Single Women
- (11:13) An Interesting Shift in What Singles Want
- (13:46) Singles are Getting Creative during COVID-19
- (16:21) The Positive Side of Dating during COVID-19
- (28:34) How Dating during COVID-19 Will Affect Relationships in the Future
- (35:06) There’s Virtual Dating on Facebook Now
Julie Spira is one of the country’s most recognized online dating experts. Julie’s appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, ABC’s Nightline, CBS, CNN, E!, Cosmopolitan, New York times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and USA Today. You may have seen her dating advice at eHarmony, Match, JDate, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Yahoo, YourTango, or Zoosk.
(01:02) We’re continuing our most hyped industry series with another episode on Love in the Time of COVID. With no further ado, I’m very excited to welcome to today’s show, fellow relationship expert, Julie Spira. It’s a pleasure to have you on.
From my perspective as a matchmaker and relationship expert, I’m happy to report that our clients are fully embracing video technology to connect with prospective partners. Not letting COVID-19 get in the way of proactively pursuing their personal goals during this unprecedented time of social distancing.
That said, I imagine that many singles in quarantine during this turbulence without professional support are feeling the lack of a special someone by their side even more deeply than pre-COVID. So your innovative launch of relationship advice site, Dating in the Age of COVID-19: How to Find love in a Pandemic, caught my eye. Tell us about what inspired you to launch the site.
(02:32) What really inspired me is the fact that, like many of us in the dating industry, when we first really got the notice to stay at home and to be safe and quarantine, a lot of people’s natural instinct was to say, “I can’t date. I can’t meet anyone. I don’t want to go to a matchmaker if they can’t match me.”
So we had this temporary pause button pushed. And then quite quickly after that, maybe a couple of days after that, suddenly everybody who realized they had to be connected, the feeling of knowing there was somebody there in your court that you could be hopeful about love rather than feeling sad that you can’t find love, became really elevated, which is natural to happen in a crisis.
People saw that after 911, where people were kinder to each other and people wanted someone to be in the storm with. So, when the clouds lifted, and we had a sunny day, we could still be together.
I created Cyber Dating Expert a really long time ago, and I’ve been in the technology industry and the online dating industry for over 25 years. I had earlier on embraced video dating, yet the clients were hesitant.
I really realized that people needed the support, they needed a wing girl or a wing guy to kind of coach them and lead them into video dating and virtual dating, which basically they never wanted to do in the past because they felt they had maybe a bad hair day, they weren’t looking their best. They felt they’d make a better impression in person. And what I realized is they needed this help.
So we created Dating in the Age of COVID-19: How to Find love in a Pandemic, where we’ve been helping singles navigate virtual dates and video dating.
And whether you’re using a feature within your app or whether you just are having a lot of fun on Zoom calls with your friends and family, and you prefer using Zoom or FaceTime, there are a variety of tools in the toolbox to basically help love not get kicked to the curb.
How COVID-19 has Affected Singles’ Desire to Date
(04:50) I love that, love not getting kicked to the curb. And as you said, connection is even more to premium when everyone is quarantined in that sense.
(05:18) Originally, when I first did the poll, I did a Twitter poll, and a lot of people were putting dating on hold, but I’d say it was, maybe 60% still wanted to date, 40% put it on hold. And this was a Twitter poll before the required stay at home orders were in place.
The question we asked is, “How has COVID-19 affected your dating life?” And the options were, I want a long term relationship more than ever, or B, I can’t wait to get back to hooking up like I did before, and C, I’ve put dating on hold.
When I look at the results of the poll on the home page, 75% say I want a long term relationship more than ever and only 16% said they want to put dating on hold. And for the serial daters, well, they’re in the minority. 8% of people are looking to continue to date multiple people and get back to that routine.
So when you have three quarters of the singles that are viewing the site, that are taking the time to take the poll, that are saying, “I want a long term relationship,” now is the best time to start.
The reason now is the best time to start dating online is because everybody’s there. People are home, they’re attached to their mobile phones like their personal digital teddy bear.
So, this is what we’re seeing, is that people want to connect and they’re making great matches. The feedback I’m getting is, “I didn’t really believe there were that many great guys online, and they are.”
Dating Tips for Single Men
(07:04) That is really exciting for people out there who are feeling isolated. Frankly, it doesn’t need to be. One of your services is a mock video date to help prepare clients for their virtual date.
What do you find are some of the most common areas of improvement for men? I’m going to start with men. So what do you find as some of the most common improved improvement?
(07:42) The mock dates are called the Dress Rehearsal. And I go with them, and in advance I tell them what I want them to wear and I give them a list of talking points, and I go on as their date. We have a 20 minute date, which I like to succinct that the first date really should be 20 minutes and nothing more, because the goal of the first date is just to put a second one on the calendar.
So if you have a great first video date, you know you have one goal only, put another one on for tomorrow or the day after.
The guys don’t take the time to look at the lighting, so they don’t look their best. I see the women, they’re taking the cue, they have great lighting in front of them and on the side of them, and you see a guy that looks like he’s a tunnel.
And I’m like, “You’ve got to practice the lighting, because you can only look as good as your worst photo on a dating profile. And honestly, you’re really only as good as your lighting when it comes to virtual dates.”
(08:45) Tell us tips on the lighting. That is really insightful. How, tell us some tips for the men out there.
(08:51) Well, I can’t expect everyone to have a green screen like I do, and professional lighting kit, and a studio set up, to do Skype interviews or dates or whatever.
For the lighting, if you can sit next to a window and schedule your virtual date before it gets dark outside; sunset time is the perfect time to schedule a virtual date. You can sit by a window where you have some natural light coming in on the side, and find a lamp.
Or you can order one of those fabulous ring lights. I got one online for $29.99 when I don’t want to set up my big camera studio. And for $29.99, I’ve got a ring light that’s right behind my computer.
And for a quick call, I just turn on that ring light. And again, under $30, you’ll get it in two or three days. And that will put the light in front of you instead of behind you. I think it’s a great investment to buy a ring light.
And if you’re using your mobile phone, you can get the clip on versions, and they’re very inexpensive. They will clip onto your mobile phone, and you have voila! Instant, almost studio lighting.
Dating Tips for Single Women
(10:10) What about for women? What are some of the common areas of improvement, of growth?
(10:32) The two things that women need to do are:
- They need to dress as if they’re going on a date in a restaurant, and they’re going for happy hour drinks with someone that hopefully turns into appetizers and dinner, or they’re having a candlelight dinner with someone. You need to set the stage, and you need to put on that dress or that sweater that makes you feel the best that you would wear if you were going on that first date.
- And while we all can ask this question in the beginning of your virtual date, “How are you doing during this challenging time?” That’s a quick introduction question, and then you need to move on to positive things, because if everybody’s talking about watching the TV news cycle, or they’re talking about how they heard about somebody else who’s got sick, it beats the day kind of on a downer, and chances are you won’t get a second date.
An Interesting Shift in What Singles Want
(11:33) Are you finding more men or more women who are seeking this Dress Rehearsal, this mock video date to prepare? I know people are thinking, “Huh, more likely men, or more likely women, or is it equal?” Could you tell me about that?
(11:53) It’s pretty much equally balanced, but what I am noticing is the men are very persistent in staying in touch with the women in between, and the men are the ones that say, “Let’s become exclusive.”
All these women, they wanted to find relationships before we had to go to virtual dating. And now the men are quick to say, “I don’t want to play the field. I want one person to be with.” And that’s a shift. That’s a dramatic shift especially in a world where we’ve seen so many options, and so many commitment-phobes.
A matter of fact, there are two stories on the site, it’s called Dating During Quarantine, one couple is quarantining together, and the other one sees each other every day, and they started dating in the very early stage, right before the lockdown started.
And in both cases, the men decided they wanted to be exclusive. They knew what they wanted, and they wanted to quarantine with this one person, this one person only, and take down their profiles.
(13:01) Really, really escalating the time and the progress of that relationship. That is really interesting.
Are you finding any gender differences when it comes to different age groups as you provide this service? Any patterns with different ages, different genders, within the different genders. This decade of people tend to X, Y and Z, or this decade is fascinating. Any differences or not really?
(13:34) No, there really isn’t. Love is so universal. Everybody wants it. Everybody wants to feel connected to someone. The people that are doing the Dress Rehearsals are between 25 and 75.
Singles are Getting Creative during COVID-19
(13:46) Are you finding any regional differences in the way men are approaching this virtually or not really?
(13:56) Not really. There are couples, as I said, they’re all across the country right now and which are very creative. And I think the more creative you can be, the more exciting your dates are.
One couple loves going on picnics. They go on virtual picnics apart, and they pick different parks, and they get the same food.
Another couple has a date night, and they order from the same restaurant, and that’s kind of romantic and sexy, and they share the menus in advance, and they decide where they want to dine. And because there’s so many interesting programs that are on television now that people are streaming, and all of these charity benefit concerts, it’s really, really great to be able to pick a movie, have a movie night, microwave some popcorn, and log on, and do a Zoom chat with each other while you’re watching the same movie. And if you’re streaming it, you can push the pause button, and you can take a break, or you can have dessert.
I’ve never seen so much creativity in dating as I have right now. And I love the fact that men are sending care packages to women, with anything from Purell, to toilet paper, to chocolate covered strawberries.
(15:26) Speaking of creativity, whether you’re interested in museums, concerts, symphony, cooking, the NFL, Major League Baseball, Champions League Soccer games. We’ve seen such a variety.
From the perspective of women seeking commitment-oriented men, it seems like the trends you’re seeing in terms of men’s interest in exclusivity and committing earlier is there.
(16:21) I think the most important and most noticeable thing because of dating and isolation or dating during quarantine is that, relationships are moving fast as far as getting to know someone, but slow because they’re all taking place where people are asking questions about each other, learning about each other’s families, and they’re not hopping into the bedroom.
I think this is really significant, that we have what I would call sort of an old fashioned courtship going on across a variety of demographics, where people really are taking the time to get to know someone.
They understand that they’re in a long distance relationship. They understand that they’re pen-pals, that they’re on this journey together, and they can sit and think about, “Where would we go on our very first date when it’s safe to do so?”
And whatever your hobbies and passions are. If you love going to rock concerts, there are so many concerts on Instagram and streaming. Go to the concert with your date.
(17:35) They both have the emotional connection like you were saying. It’s building up an emotional connection and that’s really exciting actually from the relationship point of view. Even before we get to the video date, talking about going back to the online dating.
Tell me, are you seeing any differences regarding the kinds of online dating pictures that people post in the COVID-19 environment? Any differences you’re seeing in terms of what people are posting or no?
(18:09) I do, and I think it’s really crucial to change and update your dating profile. This is the perfect time for people to do spring cleaning, and clean up the closet, and then go to your dating profile, and I call it the digital facelift, and take down some photos that are really old, put up some new ones.
I have seen photos of people, more selfies. Now it’s more acceptable to have a selfie, because it’s all you can do, you’re alone.
And I’m also seeing some post a picture holding a bunch of rolls of toilet paper, which is kind of humorous.
So, when you’re rewriting your profile, there is a big difference between saying I’m COVID-19 free, which I don’t recommend, to saying, “I’ve got toilet paper. Do you have Purell?”
(19:03) You said something about old, in terms of spring cleaning and refreshing your profile or the picture. What do you consider old? How dated do you think is too dated in terms of that?
(19:33) I think anything less than five years is dated and probably anything less than three years, I think because we really are promoting truth and advertising here and authenticity.
- I think your photos should be captioned, and I think you should just say what year they were taken in. No one’s got great photos posted on the profile that were taking in the last 30 days or 60 days.
- I think if you went on a really great trip before they had travel bans, and that you just were lucky enough to go some place in January or October, post a photo of your vacation shot, because everyone is dreaming about when they can go on vacation again. And just say, “This was my last trip. But in my virtual dreams, I’d like to go to the Caribbean when this ban is lifted. And my favorite Island is Turks and Caicos.”
- Be very specific about where you’d like to go, whether it’s an African safari, or whether it’s to go museum hopping throughout the United States. There’s so many things that you can do.
- But dream about a better tomorrow, and you will have a positive profile that doesn’t really sound like you’re a Debbie Downer or Donny Downer.
(20:53) And possibly resulting in someone to share that better tomorrow with as well. Those are great tips regarding the pictures and the captions. Any other sort of best practices for online dating in the COVID environment?
(21:16) Try the video, but try it with a friend, or try it with somebody like me, but do a dress rehearsal of some sort just to make sure that you do look your best.
You can hop on a FaceTime call with a friend and just say, “Hey, how do I look? How is my lighting? Is my lipstick okay?” The last thing you want to do is have lipstick on your teeth, right? So, you should do that with a friend, and have some sort of dress rehearsal, and know that everybody’s feeling isolated and lonely, and everybody really wants to connect.
I have one couple who’s sending each other a song every morning, just a song that makes them feel good. Listen to the quarantine playlist, and then maybe you’ll create one or maybe you’d like to add to my playlist. Music is the heart and soul of so many people out there, and it’s so healing. It’s just so healing.
(22:23) Tell me at least one or two songs on the COVID playlist on the site. That’s really cool. What are some of the songs?
(22:31) Well, the COVID playlist starts with Lean on Me by Bill Withers. That was always on the playlist before.
It’s fun songs like Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol, All by Myself, by Eric Carmen, makes it a little sadder. But basically it’s a song all about things that could be related to being alone, and needing love and support from friends and potential love interests.
(23:08) Speaking of needing love and support, and are you finding any online dating sites reporting shifts in the search parameters of their users? What kind of search parameters we’re seeing pre-COVID? What are they seeing in terms of any differences at this time?
(23:36) I think there are certain keywords that are popping up in profiles such as Zoom, such as Corona, such as toilet paper, Purell. Things like video date. People are putting in their profiles keywords that are popping up a little more frequently.
(23:57) What about the search parameters? Like the age, or the religion, or the geographical parameters. Are you finding shift changes in that during the COVID environment?
(24:17) It used to be, “Well, I don’t want to date somebody that doesn’t live 15 miles away from me.” And people were very regional in what they were looking for, because they didn’t want to be in a long distance relationship. Even if somebody lives across town or a mile away, you’re in a long distance relationship now.
Bumble was encouraging people to search throughout the entire country instead of just searching within your geographic area, and they’ve enabled that feature.
And Tinder has a Passport feature, which is normally for Tinder Plus, and it’s normally a paid feature. Instead of being a premium feature, they are now offering it to everyone, so you can search in any city. It’s usually good for when you want to search before you’re going on a trip.
Now if you widen your parameters, instead of saying, “I’m searching within 60 miles or 45 miles,” you can search throughout the whole country. You can search to another continent. But it’s manageable to search throughout the country, and the sites are actually encouraging it just so you can make more connections.
And the worst case scenario is you’ve met somebody nice, and you’ve made a new friend, and you have a new pen pal. And I think pen pals and social distancing are the new sexy.
(25:36) It’s interesting, because we have lot of Indian American clients. The idea of dating someone, if you’re in California and dating someone in Chicago or New York, is not as foreign as sometimes for non-Indians.
But I’m finding a lot of non-Indian clients also embracing that at this point. So that’s really consistent with what the sites are seeing as well.
What I say to people is, “The downside of having someone right in your backyard, even apart from COVID, it’s almost that you can get into a relationship of convenience where it’s just in a path of least resistance, but no one’s really excited.”
When you are dating long distance, you have to kind of think, “Is this worth the effort?” And it’s somewhat more deliberate, and from that perspective there’s a positive.
Are you seeing people in terms of their age parameters, or religion parameters, or any other of those markers being any different, or is it mostly just the geography where people are broadening and expanding their horizons?
(27:00) Age is a really interesting subject to bring up, because I have a new client who’s in her seventies, and she’s very, very active, and loves to travel. She’s just very social, and she’s a very attractive. And like a lot of people, she said, “I look younger than my age.” And of course we all hear that, and we don’t like to see it on a written profile.
And so, we put up her profile a few days ago, and she’s getting all of these messages and hits from really smart men that are age appropriate. She just didn’t want to date somebody that was significantly older than her that might have health problems.
So, she is meeting people that are age appropriate, similar age to her, who are really great guys. And they just started chatting with brand new, and she’s getting this overwhelming response.
And she had it in her head that anyone that would be age appropriate would be looking for somebody 10 to 15 years younger. That’s not the case. They’re looking for a companion that they can relate to, that has similar life experiences.
Whereas, pre-COVID, those men who might’ve been 72 or 68 might’ve been looking for somebody in their fifties, now they’re looking for somebody they can relate to.
People aren’t getting hung up at that age anymore. They’re really more concerned about people’s values.
(28:34) That is really good to hear, because we as relationship activists know it’s all about the key life values, and compatibility there. So it is, from that perspective, another sort of silver lining. It’s a positive dating consequence of the COVID environment.
Speaking of consequences of the COVID environment, pre-COVID, the marriage rate in this country had been declining. And I’m curious if COVID will lead to an increase or a further decrease in the marriage rate in this country. What are your thoughts?
(29:12) Because of COVID, we’re going to find a lot of new relationships and meaningful relationships that are going to be created during this time. And they will be really significant because they were together during the worst of times, during a very frightening time, when they were together.
We’re going to see other relationships that are not going to last. And that’s because either one person was realizing they just weren’t as committed as the other, and this was the opportunity to sort of do the slow fade, or they’re quarantining together, and they realize that they don’t really have that much in common or they just are getting on each other’s nerves.
I would not be surprised to see the divorce rate increase when this is over for couples that really were not compatible, that probably would have gotten divorced anyway, but maybe it just got accelerated.
At the same point, I’m seeing people that are telling me, “This is an eye opener. I’m really thinking about where I live, who I’m with, and how I’ll live the rest of my life.”
And I’m seeing people say, “Hey, I’m semi-retired. I can move anywhere for love.” They’re so much more open to moving for love now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
(30:40) Pre social distancing, there was a story of a couple or maybe two even, quarantine together. I’m looking, is there any other favorite Corona dating stories. There have been a lot of hopeful and positive consequences of dating. I would love to hear a story before we end with really insightful interview.
(31:33) Some of the best stories I’ve seen are the couples who show this level of continuity and commitment to the relationship. They don’t know if they’re going to go the distance, but they are the couples that send each other little love notes. They’re the couples that send each other little gifts.
And I’m not saying break the bank, but I’m saying sending a gift of sending a song every day, which is one couple who loves music is doing, it’s just so romantic. They look forward to the day that they can go on a real life concert together rather than just streaming it from separate homes.
The sweetest stories I am seeing, are the stories that people are really hopeful romantics, and they’re all coming out in big masses, both men and women. So, I am going to see a lot of new relationships develop. People fall in love.
Whether they get married or not really depends upon what they’re looking for as far as a partnership. The people that are looking for marriage and children, they’re in one bucket, but people who have been married before and are divorced, they may be looking for a life partner, a companion, or someone that can just be their emergency contact number, because we’re in an emergency right now, and if something happened, they’d like to know they have someone they can lean on who they can call.
(33:02) I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us. They’ve been enlightening and they’ve been hopeful. I’m hoping you’d like to share with our listeners the URL of your new site, Dating in the Age of COVID-19. How can people find this new sight, and access the playlist and other things you mentioned?
(33:26) It’s datingintheageofcovid19.com. If you are dating now, and you would like to share your dating during quarantine story, there’s an opportunity there where you can submit your stories and share with the other people who are viewing the site, how you are dating during COVID-19.
You can book a session with me for a Dress Rehearsal. It’s really affordable. I want to make this so everyone could look their best on a virtual date. Everyone is taking virtual dates and they’re making it the way that we will be dating. It is the new normal. So get with the program. It’s okay if you don’t have a perfect hair day. No one does, neither does your partner.
No one has a perfect hair day anymore. And it’s okay. You can go on a virtual date; you should put your lipstick on if you’re a woman. People have gone on virtual dates after the first one completely without makeup, completely authentic. And you know what? People still like that, they like to see that you have an authentic side. So ditch the perfectionist syndrome, and just look as best as you can, and show up with a happy face.
There’s Virtual Dating on Facebook Right Now
(35:06) Some of our listeners who did not catch Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement might be wondering, “Oh, wait a minute, what virtual date on Facebook?” Take a couple minutes and tell some of our listeners who may not know much about that a bit more.
I don’t know how many people are really meeting through Facebook Dating, but they are going to ramp up virtual dates. They’re ramping up other features as far as group hangouts and things that you can do with your friends and family.
But they are going to be rolling out, within the next few months, something called virtual date. Virtual date is no different than what you’ve been doing on Bumble.
Lots of people have Zoom chat rooms, so they’re Zooming with their dates. I love the Zoom chat feature because you’re side by side on the date the way it shows up on your computer. Other people just love the convenience of FaceTime.
But Facebook is joining the party, so you’re going to have lots of options. Whether it’s virtual date on Facebook, whether it’s in-app on Match, or Plenty of Fish, or Bumble, or The League has speed dating events a couple of times a week. There’s just so many ways that the dating industry is stepping it up to make sure that people are still dating, and people are still connecting.
And the usage on these dating apps has gone off the charts. It’s 50% increase. I saw one article where it said some people in the UK were logging on to Match seven hours a day.
(37:19) So many options to connect. Thank you again.