At a time when social distancing is king, one would think that a return to meeting people in real life would be something to be excited about. The opposite is true, as the new anxiety syndrome FODA shows.
Coined by the dating app Hinge and made viral by a hashtag on social networks, the acronym FODA embodies the new anxiety of 2021: ‘Fear of Dating Again.’
Is the fear of getting sick to blame?
We know the rules of social distancing by heart by now. So much so that they have ended up shaping almost all of our social interactions: we avoid family reunions in order to preserve fragile loved ones, we don't have nights out with groups of friends anymore, and we don't offer to write our mobile phone number on the hand of that cute stranger we met, because we avoid touching anyone.
So how can we imagine ourselves dating again without worrying about masks and hand sanitiser? This is of course complicated. So complicated, in fact, that some dating app users prefer to take the initiative and specify in their bios whether or not they have been vaccinated.
For Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert for the dating app Match, this concern is well-founded:
It's understandable to be apprehensive about meeting new people in this context.
Not only do we all have to deal with the heavy psychological baggage of the year 2020, but we still have the apprehension of a possible infection.
A sign of poor mental health
But the fear of getting sick is unfortunately not the only cause of FODA: one year after having transformed all the social functions of our lives, the COVID-19 virus has had a second impact, one that is psychological. Because our mental health has never been so bad, in terms of well-being and imagining the future, singles in search of human connections fear more than look forward to the moment when they will have to start weaving social links again.
Among users of the Hinge app, more than 50% are more anxious than before about meeting someone in real life. On Bumble, two out of three users report mental health problems, according to a study published in November 2020.
For Logan Ury, head of the Hinge app, dating has always generated anxiety, which has been heightened by the context of the health crisis, as she explained to HelloGiggles:
Dating has always been an anxiety-provoking experience, but after a year of restrictions and lockdowns, it is normal to feel a little more anxious than usual.
It will thus take time to relearn how to flirt, how to get lost in one's eyes, and how to trust and to reach out again…