As folks hunker down for at least another couple weeks of quarantine (most likely more like months…) I haven’t been able to stop thinking about DATING amidst all this craziness. How is that happening? Is that happening? What are the apps like? Are people even on them – and if so – are they meeting up or *GASP* talking on the phone??
With everything else going the way of Zoom/Skype/Facetime, it’s really only a matter of time before a First Date becomes a First Video Chat, right?
I polled my social media accounts for my single and dating friends and acquaintances to see what in the world is going on out there. What’s the temperature on dating? And then of course, because #journalism, I also got some stats from themselves.
Athough we are most likely still in the beginning stages of quarantine, turns out dating apps are already seeing increases in both usage and conversation. AKA not only are more people logging on, more people are talking, when on! I mean, what else is there to do, right?
“Overall, the data indicates a trend of increased use of Bumble by our new and existing users, especially as it pertains to our chat, Video Chat and Voice Call features,” said a Bumble rep, reporting on data as of March 12. “As we are now just entering the initial phase of quarantine, we’re expecting these and other user behavior trends to evolve.”
Yup, Bumble has seen a 21% increase in their voice chat and video call features since mid-March. But those number don’t translate for everyone.
“Being cooped up in my apartment and bars being closed doesn’t do much for my style of dating. The virus has and will continue to stop me from meeting anyone during this time,” said Danielle from Austin, a 28-year-old who responded to my social media poll.
Alex from Seattle has a hard time believing that phone calls are really going to cut it.
“I love talking on the phone if they want to hear my voice, but no one really does that”, said Alex, 22, from Seattle. “I don’t do Skype or FaceTime with men or women that I want to meet or date first because I prefer in-person experiences. So far, none of my dates have been nervous to meet up during the pandemic.”
To be clear, none of the apps I talked to are encouraging people to continue meeting up in person, but that’s not stopping a lot of people.
“With 70% of Hinge users expressing interest in going on digital dates, we’re encouraging our community to [… use] phone calls and video chats to build connections,” said a Hinge rep. “Hinge’s mission will always be to get people off the app and onto great dates, whether that’s in-person or digitally for the time being,”
And maybe the increase in user numbers is just out of pure boredom? When cooped up at home, who doesn’t love a little window shopping?
“I’ve basically just been swiping on Tinder because I’m bored, but haven’t talked to very many people/wouldn’t meet up with anyone right now so it seems kind of pointless, but it’s entertaining,” said Madison, 24, from Bellingham, Washington.
Video Dates – Yay or Nay?
Just the thought of a first date via FaceTime is enough to make people sweat but, surprisingly a lot of people are open to virtual first dates! In fact, Sydney, 29 from Chicago, Illinois faced (no pun intended) her fear of virtual first dates by Google chatting with a potential suitor.
“During the date I felt the need (or maybe the freedom) to kind of over-animate my personality, being in the comforts of my own home,” she said. “I think I came off as very confident and cool because of that.”
But even on video chat, some matches just…don’t match.
“He said something like, ‘It sounds like we both have dominant personalities, and I think that might be a problem in the future because we will always be competing for dominance.’ Huh? Would he have said that if we were in-person? Would I have had the same demeanor towards him if this was in-person?” said Syndey. “What if that totally shifted his perception of me and that was a consequence of my environmental disposition in lieu of corona? Then I realized it wasn’t me, it was for sure him and that was just his personality.”
But figuring out that they weren’t a match from the comfort of her own home was “pretty ideal and low risk.”
“[Something] that crossed my mind was, ‘Is virtual dating a more efficient way of deciding if we want to actually invest time with someone?’” said Sydney. “If you think about it, going on a first date takes a lot of time and money and involves risk; you have to dedicate a precious workday or weekend evening to go out with someone you might end up hating. With how precious our free time is these days (out of quarantine), I wouldn’t be surprised if the virtual first date becomes normalized. I could see the process of courting via apps be more like match first, chat, virtual first date, and a second date in person, being the second phase to the initial screening of a potential relationship.”
Sydney is not alone in braving the storm. Several people I polled, and per the data the apps reported back, mentioned that they’d either been on, or been open to virtual dates.
“I was kind of in a lull after going on a few dates that didn’t turn out, so I feel like if anything the virus might spike use of the apps and possibly make them more enjoyable to go on…possibly,” said Megan, 23, from Burien. “I am definitely going to hold on in-person dates, but am opening to trying a FaceTime happy hour.”
Because of the increased usage and openness to virtual dating, apps like Tinder are making strides to differentiate their in-app experience and give incentive to stay swiping even though in-person dating isn’t really possible.
“Many of our current subscribers are even reaching out across the world, using the Passport feature to find solidarity with matches thousands of miles away. In these trying times, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference,” said a representative from Tinder. The app is making that Passport feature – which allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world – free to all members through April 30, 2020.”
Others feeling like the current dating climate isn’t even worth it if you can’t meet up in person.
“Normally I consider dating to be something I pursue when other areas of my life (work, family, etc.) are stable but since there are so many things changing in our society right now, it’s not much of a priority to me right now,” said Austin, 25 from Seattle.
Many, like Austin – are just calling it quits, and waiting to ride out the storm before jumping back in to dating whenever this thing ends.
“I’ve recently stopped using dating apps because of the virus,” said Ella, 25 from Tacoma. “I’ve tried to be socially responsible and distance myself as much as possible, and I feel like meeting strangers (or someone you’ve only known online) is just an additional way to spread things, being in very close contact with someone. I’m honestly kind of surprised dating apps are still up and running during this time. Considering their main focus is getting people to meet. Plus what are you supposed to do when all of the restaurants or bars are shut down?”
Is it just us or is this like an elementary school playground again? People are truly worried about the cooties, and for good reason! Some daters are exercising caution as their jobs are on the “front lines” or at higher risk.
“In Oregon, we are now being told to shelter in place, but I also work in a hospital so I wouldn’t want to take chances picking up anything I could bring to work,” said Alicia, 24, living in Portland on why she’s not even attempting to date in person right now.
“As a flight attendant, I’m at high risk so I’m not seeing anyone I’m talking to on the apps right now,” said Julia, 26 from Denver. “One of the guys I’m mainly talking to isn’t worried about interacting with me because they are pretty ‘isolated, young and healthy,’ however, with my job, a lot of flight attendants are experiencing date cancellations because of the fears around our exposure. I have had a few friends who have had guys cancelled on dates due to the virus but now we just aren’t sure if they’re uninterested or are actually concerned.”
Others haven’t even left their homes because of germ fear.
“Now with social distancing making it morally questionable to spend time with others, it’s a no brainer to give up the actual in-person-dating part all together,” said Ashely, 24 from New York. “I haven’t left my apartment in two weeks and am nervous to even touch my door handle, so I’m definitely concerned about the virus.”
So what about you? Are you open to trying virtual dating or just happy pressing pause? Either way, we hope you are staying safe, healthy and happy!
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