If you want to go on a first date, take advantage of what you can uniquely do in this moment. For starters, you can now see into other people’s houses without the expectation of hooking up. You can see so much of their actual lives before meeting up.
Rather than pretending you’re in a restaurant or struggling to connect over an awkward video call, lean into this new medium as a way to get to know your date better. Here are six things you can do to have a tolerable virtual first date.
Start with cameras off.
Take a cue from the Netflix show “Love Is Blind” and turn off the camera, for the first six minutes as you chat. By taking the focus off your appearances, you can hopefully let your guard down quicker.
Have a structure to the date in mind.
Prepare for the date by gathering some key information about the other person: their job if they have any pets or have gone on any recent vacations, said Kavita Ajwani, the C.E.O. and president of Dashing Date, a speed dating service.
But don’t dive too deep into an Instagram hole. Once you’ve hit their cousin’s girlfriend, you’ve gone too far. “There’s a balance between being prepared and leaving room to be pleasantly surprised,” Ms. Ajwani said.
Whereas before you might have met your date at a local coffee shop, you’re not going to revisit that same coffee shop on your second, third, fourth and fifth date too. You’d mix it up.
“Similarly online, I find that a lot of people are just going on one video date after the next, after the next, and it can fall flat,” she said. Engaging in different activities together and sharing different stories, or creating an environment where you could share unique stories, will help you get to know each other better.
That’s why it’s important to have a loose plan of how the date will go. “You do need to have a few extra tricks in your back pocket while at the same time letting things unfold naturally so that you do leave room for romance, surprise and hopefully an authentic connection,” Ms. Ajwani said.
To get into the first date mind-set, she recommends engaging in the same predate rituals you’d usually do. For her, that means sipping a glass of wine, applying makeup and playing music in the background.
Prepare with a couple of questions.
Some are more intense than others: Choose from these or create a version you’re comfortable with.
What show have you binged and why did you like it?
Breaking the rules: fun or frightening?
Do you read spoilers? Explain yourself.
If you could be famous, what would you be famous for and why?
If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be and why?
Who is your role model for love?
What do you value most in a friendship?
What’s the post-Covid trip you want to take?
What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
What’s your perfect Sunday?
What’s the funniest advice your parents have ever given you?
Give a tour of your fridge, ask them to open theirs.
Instead of curating how much of your house the other person will see (say, slumping against the one bare white wall you have so there’s no ephemera in view), use your house as a springboard for meaningful stories about yourself.
This could look like giving a tour of what’s in your fridge. Does anyone have an adventurous palette with lots of fiery hot sauces and fun ingredients? Do you see armfuls of vegetables and nut milks stashed in every crevice? Is the fridge empty save for one bottle of beer? Show it.
Turn your attention to other rooms. What books are perched on the night table? Is this other person neat and organized or on the messier side? There’s a lot of insight to be gained here.
Do a virtual version of show and tell.
Have each person show you something in their house that’s meaningful to them: a handwritten letter from a grandparent, a diploma, a necklace. Explain why this object means a lot to you. It doesn’t have to be a full-on PowerPoint presentation, but your words should give insight into what makes you tick and why.
Read aloud five texts that you’ve sent in the last day.
Is it deeply vulnerable to share these things? Of course. But that’s what encourages intimacy.
This is an effective way to introduce an element of fun risk to the date. Read aloud the last five texts you’ve sent to others. Maybe these messages are silly jokes with friends or messages of concern to your family. It’ll give your date insight into the type of person you are.
Have each person finish this thought: ‘Someone who really knows me would know this about me.’
These exercises are so unexpected and disarming. Pose some soul-searching questions, like: What story or myth has shaped your family’s worldview and do you believe it? It will definitely give you a deeper look into the person you’re sharing the call with and help let you know if this is someone you’d like to see on a second date.