An illustration of online dating.
As living during a pandemic has forced us to completely restructure our lives, one surprisingly positive outcome is the decreased tolerance of ghosting and insincere connections on dating apps. (Illustration by Sonja Vasiljeva, San Jose State University)

How the Pandemic Has Changed the Dating Scene

Like many other facets of everyday life that COVID-19 has forced to go completely online, the culture around finding love has changed entirely.

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An illustration of online dating.

Like many other facets of everyday life that COVID-19 has forced to go completely online, the culture around finding love has changed entirely.

The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed how people communicate. Everyone was suddenly forced to adjust and alter their ways of interacting with others, whether it was with their co-workers or loved ones. The interactions that have possibly changed the most during the pandemic, however, are those that are romantic in nature, especially dating.

Prior to the pandemic, many couples would first meet at school, through friends or family, or maybe at a bar. Casual flings and hookups were considered a common occurrence, especially through the use of dating apps. Although these apps proved to be convenient at the time, they also became fairly monotonous.

Many individuals would repeatedly go through a procedure where they briskly filtered through their matches and aimed to meet in person as quickly as possible — a habit that eventually made dating seem dismal for some.

Consequently, the popularity of dating apps was slowly declining as swiping inherently made people feel lonelier, according to PNAS.

Because of the pandemic, however, dating has entirely transitioned to online settings (like most of our daily affairs). Surprisingly, there were a number of noticeable changes in daters’ attitudes along with this transition — many of which were positive in nature.

52% of dating app users said that they have shifted away from casual hookups to more intentional dating, according to a survey conducted by Singles in America. Many are starting to see the significance of “date night,” while being less willing to tolerate toxic online dating behaviors such as ghosting.

With the pace of dating gradually slowing down, people have become increasingly selective and deliberate about who they are reaching out to on these platforms. Many singles are taking the time to engage in meaningful conversation — online conversations that used to center on material topics such as sex and money have taken second place behind the exchange of more personal information and self-disclosure. This shift can be seen firsthand: During the pandemic, Bumble has seen a 26% increase in the number of messages sent on its platform, while Tinder saw conversations rise by 10-30%.

Many singles (and couples) also began to go on FaceTime or Zoom dates — encouraging people to increase feelings of connection as they really get to know their date. This also became a convenient way to assess a match’s personality and communication skills without needing to invest much time. Additionally, multiple platforms began to adapt their business models to encompass these new dating norms that were established during quarantine.

Hinge created a “Date from Home” feature that allows a video chat to occur if both parties agree to the call. The League currently presents “League Live,” which is a video speed-dating platform. Although Bumble has enabled users to make in-app video calls since 2019, many continued to neglect this feature until now. Since the beginning of quarantine, video chatting over Bumble increased by 93%, according to Mashable.

Although some have come to view virtual dating as a blessing due to the increased focus on emotional compatibility and long-term sustainability, it has also proved to stall the potential of romance for others.

Many budding relationships have fizzled out due to the difficulty of new couples to confront new experiences together. Numerous individuals have found it hard to get a relationship off the ground as video dates can only accomplish so much while planning in-person dates in the midst of a pandemic proved to be a difficult task, as many places have closed or otherwise re-opened with strict regulations still in place.

Some relationships failed to persevere due to many individuals being surrounded by numerous complications associated with the pandemic — financial instability, death and social injustices — which all take a serious toll on one’s emotional health.

Despite feeling instant chemistry with their match online, some daters found that their in-person date with their partner exuded an unexpected awkward vibe. Although video dates may supply more information than simply reading an online dating bio, it remains opaque.

There are stark differences between how someone appears in a profile or on a screen and how they actually present themselves in real life. 70% of online daters believe that it is very common for other users to lie in order to seem more appealing, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Consequently, online dating may often create detachment rather than encouraging proximity between daters — there is a danger of feeding and nurturing a fantasy of one’s match as well as unmet expectations in regard to one’s chemistry with their prospective partner.

Additionally, while the tolerance for ghosting has decreased since dating has entirely shifted online, some are craving intimacy to the point where they are willing to overlook any potential red flags.

Some individuals have even resorted to reconnecting with a past lover; according to a study done by Kinsey Institute, 25% of people (out of a research pool of 3,400) had been contacted by an ex during the pandemic. Many ultimately felt safer reconnecting with someone they dated from the past rather than taking the risk of hooking up with a stranger who might not follow similar health precautions.

Most importantly, there is now an added health concern about dating someone during the pandemic. There is the additional worry that meeting an online match in person may have future health implications (if both parties are not vaccinated).

A subliminal sort of anxiety exists concerning the physical intimacy in dating that most were accustomed to before the pandemic, resulting in a new means for gauging compatibility between matches: their approach to COVID-19 safety. Although this may initially risk complications between a budding couple, this may help set strict parameters concerning other matters regarding their future relationship.

Although the pandemic has upended the dating scene, it may have possibly been for the better. There is ultimately a new sense of optimism and purpose for the dating community as the prolonged period of isolation has not only restored many people’s desire for commitment and emotional connection but there is also now a new sense of transparency and honesty that will better help singles find their perfect match.

Writer Profile

Alice Han

Pepperdine University
Communication Studies (Minor in Journalism)

My name is Alice Han, and I am currently a third-year student at Pepperdine University majoring in communication studies and minoring in journalism. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, but currently reside in Alaska.

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