the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Edward Shin ’21 and Aleyna Baki ’21
Image Credit: South China Morning Post
Fifty-five years ago, readers all-around the world learned about love’s ability to transform age and time while reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez. The famous classic tells the story of two lovers who can never be together because of a combination of unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances. Sound familiar? Just like cholera, the coronavirus is also changing how humans connect for better or worse.
One thing is crystal clear — it will take time before lovers can hold hands, kiss and go for dinner again. Now is the time for picnics, long video calls and long walks in the woods (with masks on, of course). This period also marks the rise of online dating platforms. Before the pandemic, the downloads for the top 15 dating apps were decreasing. Match Group, a platform that controls 60% of the dating app market and owns more than 45 dating brands, including some of the most popular apps like Tinder, Hinge, Match and OkCupid, saw an 11% subscription increase compared to the previous year. Before the pandemic, only 6% of users of dating apps were open for video chatting — now that number has increased to 69%. After states began rolling out stay-at-home orders, Bumble, a well-used dating app, saw a 26% increase in the number of messages sent on its platform. This all makes it seem like the internet is the new Cupid.
Slow It Down
Talking to someone before physical attachments helps understand each other better. Normally, 34% of Americans engage in sex before an “official” first date. Psychologists report sharing one’s innermost feelings might lead to long-term commitment. According to anthropologist Helen Fisher: “The human brain is soft-wired to attach to a partner slowly.” Yet, what does that mean from an evolutionary perspective? A University of California, Berkeley sociologist who specializes in the impact of touching, said: “Touch is as important a social condition as anything.” Touching releases oxytocin, the hormone responsible for attachment. In the age of corona, money is off the table, too. No more expensive dinner dates and discussions about splitting the bill.
“I Do” Goes Virtual
The wedding industry is worth over $300 billion, and it is known to be the “recession-proof” industry since nothing can stop people from getting married. The pandemic changed this notion by postponing and canceling weddings, but most importantly through the transformation of traditional weddings. Even when COVID-19 was only in China, many brides were left dress-less since 80% of the world’s wedding gowns are made in China. Lockdowns all-around the world limited the number of people who can attend the ceremonies. For instance, in England, only 15 attendees are allowed; in Northern Ireland that number is 25. According to The Knot, a wedding planning website, an average American wedding is attended by 140 guests. Luckily, over a 1,000 people can be added on Zoom. Zoom weddings allow people who live too far away to be present on the happiest day of their loved ones. Governments are also making it easier for people to marry virtually. Through “Project Cupid,” New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed couples to apply for marriage licenses. In India, 12 million weddings are scheduled for auspicious days, so they cannot be postponed. Popular matchmaking website shaadi.com is providing virtual wedding services that arrange everything from priests to makeup artists. Still, despite these interesting changes, most people hope there will be “real weddings” with offline hugs soon.
Not So Happy
“After the epidemic, the first thing I want is a divorce” wrote a woman named Xuebi, overburdened by “doubling as both man and woman in this family.” The pandemic locked people into their homes and brought financial distress; according to Susanne Choi, a sociologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it also led to a rise in marital conflict. Many couples are spending more time together in closer proximity. Ultimately, many are learning more about each other. Some are deciding they cannot live together anymore; others are thinking more about what kind of life they want to have. Divorces are even faster thanks to Zoom. The hearings that used to take hours of waiting in the courthouse are just taking five minutes now. In the age of coronavirus, separating hearts does not take much effort.
As Márquez once said: “Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.” In times of war and epidemics, love exposes the magical reality hidden in the human soul. In the darkness and isolation of death, it unites us. Most importantly, love in the time of corona shows we cannot survive by ourselves whether as individuals, communities or countries.