Have you been feeling lonely during the pandemic?
A recent poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute finds that more Canadians are reporting isolation and loneliness as the country heads into winter and the threat of more social and economic restrictions from the second surge of COVID-19 cases looms.
However, a new online gathering hopes to combat some of the pandemic-blues and even help some people find love.
The Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Want to Fall in Love offers the opportunity for singles to meet people in a structured format that is "all about connection."
The online event is for people of all ages, sexual orientations, genders, and backgrounds. So far, it has only been organized for cities across the United States, but the online gathering will offer the chance for Vancouverites to "meet" this month.
Jenna Bean Veatch is a multi-disciplinary performing artist and teacher, but she tells Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that she was inspired to create the event five-and-a-half years ago while she was in grad school.
"I booked a little venue here in Bellingham, and 70 people showed up to that first event--and it felt so clear that I'd stumbled on something that people want," explains Veatch.
After spending years living in heartbreak, Veatch says she deeply wanted a connection she didn't have, and as an artist, she was always creating art about finding it.
"I was as surprised as anyone to find myself hosting a dating event--I never would have imagined myself do that. But when I took a step back, I could see my life as an artist had always been about that," she says.
And while she was hesitant to move the events to an online format due to the pandemic, Veatch says in some ways it works better as a virtual event.
"It can be scary to show up something like this--you feel really vulnerable. And many people are more at ease in their own homes, which makes it easier to show up in the first place. And once they're there, to show up fully and authentically," she explains. "And really showing up as our full, genuine and authentic selves--because that's what it takes."
While it varies, anywhere from 11 to 65 people participate in a given online event. However, the average is 30, says Veatch. The event begins as an entire group, and she encourages people to connect. She also cracks jokes to keep the atmosphere light. After a while, the chatroom is broken up with Zoom's break out feature to connect on a more intimate level; approximately four people are placed in each one.
But the event isn't only meant to garner love connections.
"I'm encouraging people to welcome friendships, too, If someone leaves the event with a new friend, that feels like a success to me."
Although the event is online, Veatch says only residents of the Metro Vancouver area should partake in the city's event. If someone fancies a participant, she contacts them privately when the event ends so no one has to risk rejection.
As for the event's name, Veatch says the "not-creepy" title strives to deter people from unwanted behaviour on and offline. It is meant to be a departure from popular dating apps like Tinder, which are notorious for "creepy" encounters and bold solicitations.
"This structured online event for people in the Vancouver area is not about scrolling and swiping and making snap judgements based solely on physical appearance," states the event listing.
"This event is about being open enough to see each other's humanity."
The Vancouver Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Want to Fall in Love
When: Sunday, Nov. 29 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $7 – $25
Find out more information about the event HERE.