CHICAGO (CBS) -- The fear of COVID-19 is causing many in the dating world to put things on pause. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging people to practice social distancing, some say that makes dating impossible. Experts, on the other hand, have a very different opinion.
"It's actually a great time to date," said Dr. Tari Mack, a psychologist and relationship coach in the Chicago area. She's also the author of the book, Every Relationship Is a Test. "It is creating a new culture where people can actually get to know each other instead of rushing into sex."
Dr. Mack currently has clients who are now doing virtual wine dates with potential partners using apps like FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. "The message is you don't have to put dating on hold," she said. "Long-term relationships need friendship and this allows people to build that."
Bela Gandhi is a nationally known relationship expert based in Chicago. She runs smartdatingacademy.com and said people are continuing to date but in a different way.
"People aren't meeting in person, but that doesn't mean there isn't activity." So much so that Gandhi holds Instagram lives on @smartdatingacademy and many singles tune in to ask questions about navigating the dating world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like Dr. Mack, Gandhi said social distancing prevents people from hooking up too fast. "You can create really good rich connections with people using Zoom or FaceTime," she said, adding that activity on dating apps hasn't changed since COVID-19. In fact, it's increased.
CBS 2 spoke with folks at Bumble.com, a dating app where women make the first move. A representative echoed the same thing: Usage has remained steady and in trend for this time of the year. The app is also encouraging users to utilize built-in features like voice call and video chat during this time.
Representatives at Match.com said they are encouraging users to do the same and to avoid in-person dating for the time being.
CBS 2 also spoke with Chicago singles. Some said they are too concerned with everyday worries that come with COVID-19, such as the stress of finding essentials at the store, that dating isn't a priority right now.
"Of course I'm not going to go out and meet a stranger that might be sick, said Bailey Boyle, who is open to virtual dating. "When you're thinking about whether or not you're going to be able to wipe your butt, the last thing on your mind is a dating app."
Others are choosing to put dating on hold so they can focus on their families.
"Right now I have so much concern for my family and their health and I cannot take on someone else's additional baggage," said Karen Belgrad. "I don't have the emotional bandwidth for a stranger."
Then there are those doing who agree with the dating experts.
"Video chat first, get to know one another without the small talk and then see if you still want to meet once this madness is over," said Nazy Hosseini.
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