As vaccinations are making it safer to leave the house, many people are considering re-entering the dating arena. Last week, the White House announced a partnership with dating apps to create a feature that allows users to sort matches by vaccination status as part of the Biden administration’s July 4 vaccination goals.
Millions of people had to adjust to online dating and apps this past year.
“It was the only option,” says Drew Millegan of McMinnville, Ore. He says there was definitely an adjustment period, as he wasn’t much of a texter before the pandemic. But he had to learn fast — and now he’s even using emojis.
“I guess, if you can call it a skill, I’ve improved my communication skills over the dating apps over the pandemic,” Millegan says. “Which is an interesting side effect.”
Nate Rathjen of Leesburg, Va., enjoyed the time-saving function of video dates. He got to talk to matches face-to-face, without a commute.
“That was awesome, because they’re first dates,” Rathjen says. “You don’t really know how they’re gonna go, and you could have just spent three hours for nothing.”
But with more and more people getting vaccinated, there’s less of an excuse to date from home. It’s time to actually meet up in person. And even though the health risks are fading, for some people, the barrier is more emotional.
Tammy in San Diego says her transition back to in-person dating has been an awkward one.
“I just went on a date yesterday from a dating app and felt like it went pretty well,” she says. But she also noticed several lulls in the conversation.
“Pre-pandemic, when I was seeing people much more regularly, I would be able to bring up another topic of conversation quickly,” she says. “But my mind isn’t firing on all cylinders as quickly as it used to. So I definitely think it’ll take some time for me to be able to socialize as well as I was before.”
Damona Hoffman, a dating coach for the online dating site OkCupid, says that even though the desire to connect in person is there, the confidence might not be.
“People are open to dating again but they’re still a little bit cautious,” she says. “There’s still a little bit of hesitancy about just moving offline and throwing caution to the wind.”
And after more than a year of solitude and distance from others, that hesitation goes beyond trading apps for in-person dating. Some people are feeling stuck altogether.
“The fear of dating is real,” Hoffman says, “and I never want to dismiss that: not being practiced, not feeling like you’re in your best skin and able to put your best foot forward right now because we have been so isolated.”
But, she says, those people are not as alone as they think — at least, metaphorically.
“You have to remember that everybody else is in the same boat. Dating really is a learned skill,” she says. “It’s like riding a bike. So once you get back out there and you start having conversations and feeling the butterflies again and making real connections, it will feel more familiar.”
“You just have to start,” she says.
Awkward is good; it’s human. We’ve all been through the same thing this year.
“Just go for it,” Hoffman says. “And know that everybody else is re-learning along with you.”
Even before the pandemic, dating and romance have always come with their own risks: rejection, intimacy, meeting scary relatives. It can be tempting to forego the process altogether. (And there’s nothing wrong with being single!) But if it’s plain old fear holding you back, just remember: no risk, no reward.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Russian hackers are at it again. The same group that hacked into software made by SolarWinds appears to have launched another supply chain hack. That’s according to Microsoft. The company sent out an alert last night saying hackers who appear to be linked to the Russian intelligence service broke into the email marketing company Constant Contact in order to impersonate the government agency USAID. Dina Temple-Raston of NPR’s investigations team has been tracking Russian hacking operations and joins us now. Hey, Dina.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Good morning. Hi.
CHANG: Hi. So we should first note that both Microsoft and Constant Contact are financial supporters of NPR. OK, so tell us more about what Microsoft discovered.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, it has this cybercrimes team that’s watching for these kinds of intrusions all the time. This week they found hackers in a bunch of international development and human right organization systems. And as best as they can tell, the hackers broke into a company that was helping USAID with marketing, and they used that hack to send phishing emails. You know, Microsoft told us it wasn’t a huge hack. They said maybe as many as 3,000 accounts were either hacked or threatened, maybe as many as 150 institutions. But they think the actual numbers are probably a lot smaller than that.
CHANG: And these are phishing emails. Like, we’re talking about fake emails that looked like they were from USAID.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. So unsuspecting recipients would open these emails. They’d click on the links. And by doing that, the malware would be installed on their systems. And then the malware would basically give the hackers free access. They could steal data. They could infect other computers on these networks. They could read emails. They could even plant other malware. We talked to Tom Burt, vice president of consumer security and trust at Microsoft. He was behind that advisory last night, and he said that the hackers actually kind of customized the malware depending on the target.
TOM BURT: These guys are actually doing something a little different in, even before the malware gets installed, they’re doing some things to help them understand the environment that they are going to try to install the malware into so they can pick the right malware package.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The reason that’s important is because that’s the kind of thing that nation-state hackers do. It’s not the kind of thing that common cybercriminals do.
CHANG: That’s so…
TEMPLE-RASTON: They just aren’t that careful.
CHANG: …Interesting. OK, so Russian intelligence is definitely behind this hack.
TEMPLE-RASTON: We asked Tom Burt that, too, and he says they think it was a subset of the SolarWinds hacking group linked to the Russian intelligence service, the SVR.
BURT: The association with the SVR comes from what – the techniques we see them using and from the kinds of targets that they are targeting. So it’s a collection of circumstantial evidence, you might say, that point in a consistent direction.
TEMPLE-RASTON: So the group that was behind SolarWinds is known as APT29 or Cozy Bear. And Microsoft said that they saw a lot of things that seem to overlap with Cozy Bear – easy to say. But they don’t want to say unequivocally that it is the exact same people. It might be a subset. What they’re not equivocating about, though, is that this hack came from Russia.
CHANG: OK. And is the technique here similar to what was found in the SolarWinds hack late last year?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes and no. The SolarWinds attack was actually really complicated and stealthy, and Microsoft appears to have seen this latest hack really quickly. And it’s much simpler. I mean, the hackers aren’t directly targeting companies or institutions they want to hack. They’re focusing on suppliers in this case, just like they were in SolarWinds. And they’re finding a company further down the supply chain, like a software company, to hack into them instead. The big question now is what the response is going to be. President Biden has already warned that Russia shouldn’t be doing these attacks, and now they’ve done another one. So the question is whether or not this is going to force a response from the U.S.
CHANG: Yeah. All right. That is NPR investigations correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Thank you, Dina.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You’re welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.