Will you accept this virtual rose?
As the reality of the new age of social distancing and self-quarantine sets in, some University of New Mexico students like Alex Johnson decided to take a new approach to kindle new romances. Johnson began hosting a virtual dating competition mimicking ABC’s hit show “The Bachelor” complete with dates, rose ceremonies, testimonials and drama.
“It’s fun. It’s weird,” Johnson said. “I’m glad that it’s happening, but it’s weird, you know.”
Johnson said the show first got its start after he saw someone post to Instagram about a similar premise. The post featured a different bachelor that found contestants on dating apps, placing all the bachelorettes in a single group chat to compete for him.
“I think he had a great idea, but a flawed execution where he put all these strangers in a group chat,” Johnson said. “Because then you don’t know any of these people and they don’t know each other and it’s just, it’s weird.”
Johnson took a more produced approach, coordinating dates between him and the bachelorettes and holding a rose ceremony every few days. The largest change Johnson undertook to the original idea was not including all the bachelorettes in a single group chat.
Beginning just last week, Johnson took to the dating apps Tinder and Bumble to recruit 15 different female contestants to compete for his hand. After recruiting the bachelorettes, he took to his private Snapchat to show his followers how the relationships are unfolding.
“The story is all from my perspective and it’s like, I just put everything on the (Snapchat) story,” Johnson said. “So, if some drama goes down, I will put that on the story.”
As a second-year film student, Johnson studied the ins and outs of reality TV. He previously produced “Survivor Colorado,” and “Joining up with the Johnsons” among other parody reality television shows on his YouTube channel Rock Ledge Studios. Still, he said that “The Virtual Bachelor” is among the largest casts he has worked with.
“As far as reality TV shows go, it’s a pretty big cast and I don’t want to overload myself,” Johnson said. “As fun as this is, I don’t want to draw it out for months and months and months on end.”
Johnson, a self-described “lonely boy,” said that while going on an actual date with the winner or even starting a relationship could be an outcome of this self-produced dating experiment, overall he enjoys producing it for the entertainment value.
“It’s a bleak time out there, a really difficult time for a lot of people,” Johnson said, “I’m just trying to provide as much entertainment for my friends in quarantine there can be.”
Johnson said that he wouldn’t feel comfortable publishing his Snapchat publically, so he is limiting his audience to people he knows.
“The Virtual Bachelor” officially premiered on his Snapchat story April 12 and the first rose ceremony occurring April 14 with “my Bitmoji giving her Bitmoji a rose,” Johnson said. This effectively eliminated and blocked the first two contestants.
However, not everyone is going to Johnson’s lengths to find a new companion. UNM student Zach Ward said he sticks to more traditional methods of dating, but adapted to the new social distancing norms.
Ward said he chooses to hold his dates virtually rather than in-person, with plugins and games such as Netflix Party or Tabletop Simulator being his go to’s. However, unlike Johnson, he is not utilizing dating apps to find dates.
“I think that they’re stupid when there’s no virus and when there is a virus they’re just completely ridiculous,” Ward said, adding that before the pandemic hit, he had already met every person he currently goes on dates with.
Whether students choose to date virtually or organize a large dating show to find their next fling, UNM Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) has advocated that it be done safely.
“(Dating) is going to look different for everyone,” Tiffany Martinez-Durant, SHAC health promotion manager said. “If you are actively dating, unfortunately, we ask that students don’t go through Tinder, or Grinder or their Bumble or whatever applications that are choosing to meet people in person. We have to consider the risks of meeting new people.”
She said that this is the time to get creative while dating and getting to know someone on a deeper level rather than just by initial physical attraction.
“You can still have a date, just being creative, doing it online,” Martinez-Durant said. “That will help your connection be even deeper if you chose to that.”
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria