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Our lives are tied to our screens, which means that, no matter how much you hate it, at least part of dating is, too. Whether in our current pandemic dystopia, in a long-distance relationship, or in a same-city courtship or cohabitation, screens are an invaluable tool for connection – as long as you use them right. The below tips will help you get comfortable figuring out how to connect through your screens, how to best communicate, types of dates to try, and how to avoid screen-time burnout.

Figure Out How You Actually Want To Communicate

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Some of us prefer texting to be an all-day affair spread over hours with luxurious response times and fully realized discussions – like the texting version of email – while others prefer clear conversations that begin and end with quick response times – like the texting version of a phone call. Others prefer Instagram DMs to texts, emails to phone calls, or phone calls to anything else. Check in with yourself around your schedule and preferences. If you’re not sure, look at the times of day you’d feel glad to hear from a friend, versus the times you’d feel annoyed.

Talk About How You Each Want To Communicate

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You likely don’t need a “we need to talk”-level conversation about how frequently you text or call each other, but you do need to be clear together about your expectations and boundaries around communication. Then, you have to stick to them. Did you establish that you prefer conversations that begin and end in the evenings so they don’t disrupt your routine or workday? Don’t follow up that boundary by sending them memes all afternoon and pouting when they don’t respond. Dating someone who tells you they wake up early to work with no distractions? Don’t text “good morning 🥰” at 6:30 a.m., even if you really do hope they’re having a good morning. Mutually upholding each other’s and your own boundaries will feel better in the long run than the short-term rush of, for instance, sending off a quick text at lunch when you know someone has all-day meetings.

Have Online Dates Together

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Regardless of how much you’re in communication or not during your day to day, setting scheduled dates can let you connect in new ways. Video dates that feel like grabbing drinks or dinner can be one approach – but along with those, get creative. Take a virtual museum walkthrough or tour a botanical garden. Drive around a city and listen to local radio. Attend an open online beginner’s drawing class or book a cooking or pottery class at a local studio. Have a watch party with your mutual friends, through Netflix party, a group Zoom call where someone with the movie screenshares, or a group text where you count down and all press play simultaneously.

Have Offline Dates Separately Together

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If you’re tired of sitting in front of your screens but also dating someone on the other side of them, do separate offline activities together. Take a late afternoon walk through your neighborhoods while you talk hands-free on the phone. Go read in nearby parks for a few hours and exchange photos of where you are and what you’re reading. Have phone or video sex, or an evening of sexting if you’re feeling shy. Order the same type of take-out from separate local places and compare notes.

Don’t Fixate On The Next Time You’ll See Each Other

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Regardless of why you’re connecting primarily through your screens right now, it can be easy to slip into constantly dreaming of and wondering about and planning the next time you’ll see each other in person, to the exclusion of other interactions. Don’t do that. Instead, appreciate the ways you can connect now and the ways that you can have unique experiences together even when apart. It’s not “we have to have video dates because that’s all we get,” but “right now is a chance for us to get to know each other in a different way.”

Remember To Put The Screen Down Sometimes, Too

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Screens are an incredible way to connect with other people, but sometimes both the screens and the connections with those who are far away can be a distraction from being present in our lives as they are now, especially in moments of otherwise having to sit alone with our thoughts. But the fact is, you can’t healthily be on your phone every hour of the day, and you can’t expect others to be, either. Sometimes the best part of dating through a screen is putting the screen face down in another room and taking yourself for a walk or doing an activity you enjoy by yourself. Practice having boundaries with yourself, with your screens, and with others – and you’ll be able to bring your all to dating and to everything else that you do.