You could build a stronger connection.
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  • The coronavirus pandemic has led to a spike in messages sent over dating apps, and new matches have to take their first dates digital.
  • But virtual dating can have real advantages, especially if you do it right.
  • Business Insider talked to dating expert Maria Sullivan about how to virtually date right, and what types of connections it could lead to.
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The coronavirus pandemic may have put pretty much everything on pause, but matters of the heart still rage on - even if through a screen.

Services like Tinder and Bumble have seen increased use, Mother Jones reports. After the week of March 12, Bumble saw a 21% increase in messages - and for Tinder, messages increased by 10%-15% over a week in mid-March. And Tinder has made its "Passport Feature" free to all users, meaning singles can match with anyone around the world.

But if you've really hit it off with a match, it can be frustrating to not take the conversation offline. Isn't the whole point of a dating app to eventually delete it?

That's where virtual dating comes in. There are plenty of activities that you and your quarantine cutie can do remotely, but what makes a virtual date actually effective? And what happens when quarantine is lifted and you actually encounter each other face to face?

To answer these questions, Business Insider emailed Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Here's what she had to say.

How do you effectively set up a virtual date?

A virtual date still needs the same planning you'd put into an in-person one - including some of the nerves.

"Initiating a virtual date can be awkward, but in this time it is also becoming the norm," Sullivan said. "If you are text-chatting with someone for a while and decide you want to hang out with them, bring up the idea and schedule the same you would a real date. Ask for a day and time they are available and put something in the calendar."

Can you still forge the same type of connection over virtual dating?

There's good news for those quarantine connections: you may actually emerge with a stronger foundation from your months of video calling.

"Yes," Sullivan said. "Even though you are dating through an electronic device, you are still getting to know someone and spending time with them. Because of this, you are able to make a strong connection without ever meeting up in person. By virtually connecting, you are able to get to know someone for who they are and not solely rely on your sexual attraction."

What are common virtual dating mistakes?

"Common virtual dating mistakes include being located in a noisy, crowded space or having a bad Wi-Fi connection," Sullivan said.

So if you're stuck at home with your family and roommates, maybe try and take advantage of when they're going out for walks or other essential services.

"You want to make sure your date has your full attention, just like if you were out at a restaurant," Sullivan added. "Additionally, while FaceTiming with someone you're interested, it is important that you have a good Wi-Fi connection so your video and sound doesn't become blurry or lag."

What makes a virtual date successful?

Basically, you want to come in prepared with things to discuss - especially since the weather or ambience of the bar you're in are off the table.

"A lot of fun conversations and questions will make a virtual first date successful," Sullivan said. And that will help you make the most of your FaceTime. "Having a list of questions will ensure the conversation will not have any awkward pauses because no one knows what to say."

How can you still establish intimacy during virtual dating?

Not being together in person obviously hinders physical activity, so you may have to put in a little more effort to establish intimacy.

"Flirting is an important part of virtual dating because the sexual part of the relationship is missing," Sullivan said. "Make sure to compliment your date and let them know what you like about them. These comments will help to form an intimate connection while you cannot physically be together."

If you virtually date someone during quarantine, how do you translate that to the real world?

Prepare for your first in-person date the same way you would for your first video call - and realize that there might be a bit of readjustment.

"Pick a spot that you both will enjoy and, just like your first virtual date, have questions ready," Sullivan said. "Being prepared to meet in person will help the first in-person date be successful."

How will virtual dating impact the dating landscape at large?

The new prevalence of virtual dating may actually expand daters' horizons - and their available dating pool.

"With virtual dating, you can connect with people all over the country and really see who is out there, making finding your other half a little easier," Sullivan said. "Once the COVID-19 outbreak dies down, people will be able to go out again and mingle, but a lot will still keep virtual dating in their back pocket just to keep all options open."

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