Record numbers on apps and genuine conversation trending. Is Corona improving online love?

Last Sunday (March 29th) there were more swipes globally than any other single day in the history of Tinder. Is the coronavirus changing online dating for the better? Michelle Heffernan investigates...


“If coronavirus doesn’t take you out can I?”

Across the world, online apps are alight with toilet paper bios and Covid chat up lines. So is it all
matches made in isolation or just greater ghosts and ghouls than usual? How is the lockdown affecting the world of online dating?

“It’s like real life Love is Blind” says Emer, 26 and living in Waterford. “You’re trying to see if you can actually fall for someone without seeing them!” Emer downloaded Tinder on Paddy’s Day and has been more or less chatting exclusively to a new match for three weeks. “I was bored off my head at home and started chatting to a guy on Tinder” she says. “We kept talking for a week and then moved to Whatsapp and Snapchat”.

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After a few drinks the pair bit the bullet and moved to phone chats. “It is awkward not getting to meet him, but in a weird way, it’s a good start because it’s all about communication. We were on the phone to each other for three hours the other night! We’ve talked so much, I feel like, when we do get to meet, it won’t be awkward” she says.

 

Isolation Icebreakers

Emer is not alone in finding new love interests online. Tinder recently revealed that Brits are having 12% more daily conversations, and on Sunday March 29th there were over 3 billion swipes globally, more than any other single day in the history of Tinder. Interestingly, isolation is proving to be an icebreaker in conversation.

Swipers are taking more of an active interest in the health and
wellbeing of their prospective mates, rather than going straight in with an indecent proposal

Sophie Watson from Elite Singles Online Dating site says “We’ve found that profiles that mention the current situation (like home office, or isolation) actually get significantly more messages than the average profile, up to 85% more. Other messaging boosts come from mentioning popular lockdown trends like jogging (+63%), gardening (+59%), streaming
(+48%), and baking (+33%). Swipers are also taking more of an active interest in the health and
wellbeing of their prospective mates, rather than going straight in with an indecent proposal.

“More caring conversations are taking place, with people opening conversations with ‘are you okay?’, rather than a simple ‘hello’. People are a bit more genuine”, says Emily, currently on Tinder, Bumble and Hinge. “I have had a lot of mental health related questions. People asking me how I’m actually doing?” It’s nice to see people actually wanting a connection.” she says.

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Digital dates on the rise

Another unexpected outcome of the current quarantine is the rise in ‘digital dates’, i.e. spending
time doing an activity together online. “I’ve been video dating a guy since lockdown began” says
Linda, 41 from Kildare. “We’ve had like five dates doing different activities. We’ve had video drinks and we went on a virtual tour of San Diego Zoo together last Saturday. On Thursday he is even playing online Cards against Humanity with me and my family!” Popular dating app Hinge is actively encouraging digital dating, with its newly launched Date from Home feature.

It can be tough coming up with virtual excursions but “you just have to be creative”

According to Hinge, 70% of users are expressing an interest in going on digital dates, so the new feature lets users’ matches know they are ready for a virtual rendezvous. It can be tough coming up with virtual excursions but “you just have to be creative” Linda says. “It’s all totally new. Before this, the idea of chatting to someone on the phone or video before a date left me cold. But now I prepare for it like it’s an actual date” she says.

 

Stay home and safe

While video calls are cutting it for some, others have been tempted to break the rules. “There’s a girl I’ve been seeing since before lockdown” says Mark, 31.” It’s my birthday this weekend and we are thinking of meeting in person on Friday. I’m aware it’s illegal and risky, I’m not condoning it...but you know....sex! Maybe the fact that it’s taboo is making it more exciting” he says.

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I feel like I have made a friend for life, because we have been through this together.

Taboo can increase temptations but it is important to remember that casual sex is off the table. According to the HSE, intimate contact will increase risk of spreading the coronavirus, and you should only be having intercourse with a live-in partner, who is not showing any symptoms of the illness. “We have been tempted to meet” says Emer, who discovered her new match lives only ten minutes away from her. “But at the same time I’m like, get over yourself! It’s obviously crap but I’d prefer to be at home and safe,” she says.

Will COVID morph into CUPID and bring digital connections into dream dates? It remains to be seen. “I do think real couples will come out of this” says Emily,“I think people who were really busy now have the time for a real connection, and are making the effort to reach out more, because nothing else can happen”.

Linda too, feels confident her digital dating will build a lasting connection, romantic or otherwise. “We could meet in person and there could be zero chemistry” she says. “But now I feel like I have made a friend for life, because we have been through this together.”

For a full list of guidelines on Sex and Coronavirus see sexualwellbeing.ie


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