Before you break into your nightly performance of All by Myself by Eric Carmen, sample the digital blessing that is virtual dating. Here’s what experts and users had to say on the potential of dating apps to reinvent socialising in the time of COVID-19
‘Will you be my quarantine?’—the frequently voiced proposition that aptly captures romance in the time of COVID-19. Cheesy one-liners are now peppered with the everyday phrases of ‘social distancing’, ‘hotspot’ and ‘flatten the curve’.
As we are reminded every day of the new normal brought on by the coronavirus, there is another new normal cementing its place as a substitute to human warmth—one that’s the outcome of our current need to distance physically.
“I’m taking my dating life slowly, steadily and creatively”
For 26-year-old Minnati Mehra (name changed), virtual dating during the lockdown became an opportunity to get to know someone duly before exchanging numbers; aided by Bumble’s voice and video call feature. Mehra tells us, “With all the time saved by not commuting to work and not meeting friends and socialising, I am taking my dating life slowly, steadily and creatively.” Through spontaneous trivia evenings and Friday after-work virtual happy hours, she identified people she could have meaningful conversations with.
“When people can’t meet in person, they still find a way to date”
OkCupid noted a 10 per cent increase in matches worldwide as of March 2020 while Tinder saw a record over 3 billion swipes in a single day. Ariel Charytan, CEO of OkCupid, expounds, “You wouldn’t believe it, but when people can’t meet in person, they still find a way to date. In fact, there have actually been over 50 million messages exchanged across the world on OkCupid over the last month between daters connecting for the first time.”
“I’ve come across more people that I’m attracted to”
Convenient and compelling, apps are the new mode of conversation and social interaction. According to a Bumble spokesperson, there has been an 11 per cent increase in Gen-Z registrations over a span of only two weeks. Along with the global demand for online dating apps, the Indian audience, too, is cosying up to virtual relationships. A Tinder spokesperson tells us, “In India, conversations have been up by an average of 39 per cent and the average length of conversations is 28 per cent longer.” A Bumble user recounts, “I’ve come across more people that I’m attracted to and I don’t know if it’s because the pressure is off to meet with someone in person, but I’ve noticed myself becoming more vulnerable with the people I’m meeting on Bumble since the quarantine began.” That said, it would be presumptuous of us to think that dating apps have it all in their favour.
“Self-isolation, studying and WFH means that we are missing out on the everyday interactions that make us human”
The Tinder spokesperson shares, “These are testing times and people are bound to feel a mix of emotions. Self-isolation, studying and working from home means that we are missing out on the everyday interactions that make us human. With this in mind, we have made our Passport feature free, so users can virtually travel to anywhere in the world and make new connections.” Allowing users to drop a pin at any destination of their choice and connect globally, this feature is a way to let users virtually transport themselves out of quarantine into any corner of the world.
We don’t have to go through this isolation period completely alone, Charytan declares. Staying connected, whether through dating apps, video calling with friends or even phone calls with family is of the essence right now. He adds, “With restaurants, bars, gyms, offices, and entertainment establishments around the world all temporarily closed, people are looking for human connection now more than ever before.”
I found the key to this ‘lock’down
Priya Dali, a Mumbai-based illustrator, engaged her Tinder match in a fun iteration of ‘The 36 Questions’ method. “She is in lockdown in Pune, and I, in Mumbai. We matched on Tinder just a few days ago. She’s a teacher and an artist, and I’m an illustrator who’s interested in the teaching space so we already had a few things in common,” Dali says. Crediting the 36 icebreaker questions for easing their online dating experience, she shares, “Over the course of the 36 questions, we digressed into unrelated conversations, questioning each other further on the answers we gave, getting a glimpse of the other’s experiences, ways of thinking and life until now, which was quite refreshing.” And in true charmed fashion, the duo didn’t realise how time flew by as they chatted through the day. However, Dali admits, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe we’ll meet someday or maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll just end up being two gay friends who met on Tinder and found a few moments of calm and laughter in a time when the world was crumbling.”