Digital dating: How the Coronavirus is Changing our Love Lives

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The coronavirus and global lockdowns have changed the way we learn, work, live and now date. To help ensure their users are adhering to government guidelines, dating apps are changing the way they work, which is proving to be a huge challenge. 

The traditional swipe, match, chat and meet formula popularised by apps like Tinder is no longer cutting it, as more and more people crave social interaction as a result of being isolated alone. Self-isolation has led to a rise in social media usage, with apps like Houseparty rising from the grave to become key tools. Now, dating apps are facing the same surge in popularity.

According to CNBC, Bumble saw a 21% increase in sent messages in Seattle, a 23% increase in New York City and a 26% increase in San Francisco between March 12-22. A Vox report found a 75% increase in registrations for Wingman. 

Apps are doing their bit to help enforce social distancing. Tinder and Bumble issued warning cards about the coronavirus, with Bumble also issuing an epidemiologist-led guide to dating. To help push digital dating, Tinder has made Passport – a feature that allows users to change their location – free for all. Before the pandemic, Passport was restricted to Tinder’s paid tier. 

Tinder Passport is now available for all users

Rise in Video Calls

Dawoon Kang, the founder of Coffee Meets Bagel told Vox: “This is an opportunity for us to all break the same old dating app pattern. Many of us are jaded about swiping and texting, doing the same old thing. What if we used this time to be a bit more creative about how we get to know someone?

Like with work, video calls have become the go-to method to replace physical meetings. Bumble reported a 21% increase in video calls between March 12-22. Coffee Meets Bagel also reported a rise in video and voice calls, with 17% of US users having had voice calls with their matches and 9% having had video calls. 

New Ways to Connect

Inspired by social distancing, a new dating app called Quarantine Together was launched on March 15. The text-based app asks its registered users whether they washed their hands everyday at 6:00 PM. If they say yes, they are introduced to another user by text. After 15 minutes, the matched users will be offered a link to video chat. “There are no rejections,” founder Daniel Ahmadizadeh told CNN. “It’s less about your photo or your bio, it’s more about actually being able to talk to another person.”

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Quarantine Together isn’t the only new idea during this period. The Plenty of Fish dating app has launched LIVE! The feature allows users to live-stream with friends and potential matches, similar to Houseparty. 

A new dating app for the quarantine age

Dominic Gallello, chief marketing officer at Badoo told Vox: “This crisis is ushering in a new period of modern courtship. Longer, richer conversations taking place, taking the time to get to know people before meeting face to face…The data is showing an increase in meaningful conversations. What we mean by this is longer chats and dwell time, with more interactions and longer messages.” Tinder too has data to agree with this. The company put out a statement showing a 10% increase in conversations between mid-February and March-end. 

The increase in time spent on dating apps has also changed how people approach courtship. Nina Sawetz, a UK-based PR and media professional, saw 4,000 retweets for her date idea. She and her date are ordering food for each other via Deliveroo, and neither of them knows what the other has ordered. They plan to open the deliveries over FaceTime. 

The Future

In the coronavirus age, dating has taken a more intimate twist. Moving away from Tinder’s focus on quantity, we are now seeing a shift to quality – people are now forced to become inventive and more open with matches. Conversations are richer, and video dates are giving users a sense of intimacy once reserved for the closest of friends. 

Dating apps will have to reinvent themselves to keep up. It’s very clear video calls are going to replace physical meets as the first step in getting to know someone. It could help dating services like those from Facebook, rise to relevance. Video will soon roll out as an essential feature for dating apps, changing the way people interact.

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Social distancing has also led to the return of old-school romance. Quick hookups and speed dating are giving way to more intimate and personal methods. Watching movies, cooking and eating and listening to music (all over video calls) are once again returning to the mainstream. 

As more people are isolated and lonely, the craving for intimacy is driving quality. Perhaps the quarantine was needed? If nothing else, it has probably improved our love lives. 


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