Richmond’s Digital Love Affair: The Quest for Connection Amid Swipes


Relationships in the city can be complicated and if you are young, dating and navigating it all on your own can be a real challenge. Queer writer Cosmy Pellis is a twenty something living in Richmond that can relate and wants to help. If you have a question you would like to ask, hit her up at 

In a world where hearts seek solace through the touch screens of smartphones, Cosima delves into the complex web of dating apps in Richmond, VA, with an insightful and relatable account of her own escapades. Through her candid narrative, Pellis explores the thrilling yet tumultuous landscape of the modern dating scene – are dating apps a treasure trove of genuine connections or a maze where emotional bonds are overshadowed by physical allure?

Question: “Do you think the dating apps are doing more to connect people and help meet others or further isolate them and decrease the ability to foster an emotional connection because people are basically reduced to attractiveness?” 

I have treated dating apps like a game. Many of us have. 

They’re convenient for a quick self-esteem boost or a casual hookup, but are they making it harder to actually connect with people? 

To answer this question, I obviously had to redownload the dating apps and do some research. I go through cycles with dating apps where I redownload them, get a kick out of it for a few days to a week, and then get bored and delete them all. But this time, I decided to commit to the process for a bit longer so I could actually make some observations. 

My short answer to this question is that dating apps can be both great and horrible. There are huge perks, and huge drawbacks. Let me explain why. 

I’ll start with the good.

I am a queer woman who didn’t fully realize my queerness until less than three years ago. Since then, all of my connections with women have been really intense or really complicated, for a multitude of reasons. 

I redownloaded the dating apps after a mega heartbreak, and I set my preferences to only women-identifying people and non-binary people. This was immediately freeing. It was so comforting to know that all of the people I matched with were also already into women enough that they had their preferences set that way on the apps. It felt like a layer of security and a release to approach dating in this way. 

I went on a few super fun dates with a few really beautiful people. There were some second and third dates, but none of the connections really stuck. It didn’t matter, though. In all of these situations we were both very honest and open about our intentions and our feelings. I learned a lot about myself through each date, and I have a lot of love for each of those people and their journies. Even the most casual of relationships deserve mutual respect.

I think that dating apps can be a really powerful tool if openness is established. Especially for queer people, it can be really freeing to remove the “wonder” about someone’s sexuality that you experience when you are meeting people in real life. If you’ve recently come out or are curious about your sexuality, I recommend dating apps as a way to meet new people and uncover new parts of yourself. 

Now, let’s talk about the bad. 

I eventually changed my preference settings to everyone. I knew that I would be immediately innundated with a lot of male attention, because this was my experience in the past when I had my settings set this way. But honestly, I wanted the attention. I don’t actually think it’s “bad” to use dating apps in this way, as long as you’re still kind and considerate to the people you’re speaking with. Let’s face it, we’re all attention whores. We live in an era of social media and instant gratification. If you need a confidence boost after a breakup or are just feeling lonely, there’s nothing wrong with downloading a dating app, in my opinion.

Talking to boys was fine. I have always found it harder to find men that I want to commit to going on a date with, and who will commit to going on a date with me, as compared to women. The actual in person intercation is harder to achieve with men from dating apps, in my experience. So I didn’t go on any dates with men. 

I almost did, though. There was one boy, let’s call him Max. Max had the cutest profile of him looking super wholesome with his plants in his apartment. Boys seem to be catching onto the fact that girls love a plant dad, which is honestly scary. But anyways, his profile was full of pictures of him with plants or cats or on various travels. Our conversation was easy and smooth,  and he asked if I wanted to meet up in person. 

I was in the middle of planning a date with him when I scrolled to Instagram. My friend had reposted a story about Max assaulting one of her friends. Apparently they met up after meeting on a dating app, he assaulted her, and then denied everything and blocked her. I have always taken the stance of believing women no matter what, and I also saw the fact that he blocked her as an admission of guilt. My stomach sank with the realization that it could have been me. 

This made me really come to terms with the idea that everyone we meet on dating apps is a total stranger. We obviously know that already, and we’ve been warned our whole lives about strangers, but I think the lines can get blurred in this context. I’m also really grateful to the community that has been fostered in Richmond. If that girl hadn’t chosen to come forward, and my friend didn’t have her back and repost her warning, I could’ve gone on a date with this potentially dangerous person. 

We have got to watch out for ourselves and others. Not everyone is as cute and innocent as they seem. Dating is a risk in general, but we can take precautions; look out for red flags, share your location with trusted friends, and share your experiences with your social network. Gossip saves lives. 

My biggest conclusion is that dating apps are what you make of them. If you go into them with clear intentions and honest comunication, you could go just have some fun with single Richmond hotties, go on some exciting dates or even meet the love of your life. One of my dear friends met her boyfriend on Hinge and has been dating him for over a year now. They’re probably soulmates and they make me believe in love. Real connection can definitely be fostered on dating apps. 

But be careful. Remember that you are talking to literal strangers who have curated their profiles to make themselves look as attractive and trustworthy as possible. Try to also remember that you are talking to real people with real lives and real feelings, even if they pop up as a simple left or right swipe on your phone. I urge every reader of this column to do their part to bring humanity and respect into Richmond’s dating pool; we have nothing if we don’t have each other. 

Give Cosima a follow at @cosmy.p

Cosima Pellis

Cosima Pellis

Cosima Pellis is a queer writer living in Richmond, Virginia with her sweet cat named Chai. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2022, and has been pursuing her many interests since graduation, including dance, literature, and most of all, people. Cosima has published poetry in various journals and hopes to continue exploring life through writing about it.

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