COVID-19 Pandemic Could Change Dating Permanently—Here's How
Wed, April 21, 2021

COVID-19 Pandemic Could Change Dating Permanently—Here's How


Navigating the modern dating world can be full of fun or disappointment. Nowadays, we don't need to wait weeks to receive our lover’s letter. With just a click, we can immediately communicate with our partners without hassle or find someone to date without leaving our homes. As Venus Nicolino, a relationship expert and author of “Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullsh*t,” said, “We are in the process of redefining how humans communicate and potentially how we fall in love.”

Engaging in Modern Dating

Online dating has become a new norm in today’s society. Kaspersky, a global leader in cyber security solutions and services, reported that as many as 1 in 3 people are dating online. People turn to online dating for many reasons. About 48% of people do it for fun, 41% want to find friends, 24% want to have a good time with an interesting person, 19% want to find a person, and 13% are simply looking for sex. A survey revealed that people that date online are most likely to be 33.8 years old on average and working full time (63%). 

Online dating is especially popular among certain groups, particularly younger adults and those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). According to Pew Research, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 55% of LGB adults said that they have ever used a dating site or app. Meanwhile, about 20% in each group said they have married or been in a committed relationship with someone they first met through these platforms.



Due to online dating, some of the most profound and widespread changes to traditional courtship that have been seen in decades were changed. Its impacts on fundamental interpersonal processes, for instance, were the most notable. Technology has a key part to play in these changes. Many people are now turning to their devices and social media not only to play, shop, and work but also to manage their personal lives and relationships.

Modern dating gives people a lot of choices. They can meet people depending on their taste or the boundaries they set for themselves. However, experts said that having too many available options can be detrimental. In his book “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less,” psychologist Barry Schwartz explained that this can increase levels of anxiety and depression. At some point, Schwartz writes, “choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.”

“People have access to more options than ever, so much so that a single option feels disposable. This often leaves people second-guessing themselves and wondering if they could have done better. We place a higher value on the things we have to work for, or the things we take a risk to get,” author Jenna Birch said. 

Changes in Dating Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is already changing norms around dating. With lockdowns and social distancing measures being high priorities now, people who look for people to date are turning to online dating more. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and other dating apps are actively encouraging their users to make their dates virtual and not meet up in person. Recent statistics showed that Bumble has had a 21% increase in video call usage over the past week and a 21% increase in messages sent. The average video call or phone call time is 14 minutes, which is surprising because these are essentially cold calls between perfect strangers.

Time, an American weekly news magazine and news website, reported that Bumble recorded a 26% increase in messages sent in San Francisco, a 23% increase in New York City, and a 21% increase in Seattle a day after the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus a global pandemic. However, these dating apps are also struggling. After all, the whole point of dating is to physically meet someone.



According to MIT Technology Review, a world-renowned, independent media company whose insight, analysis, reviews, interviews, and live events explain the newest technologies and their commercial, social and political impacts, Match, the company behind online dating giants Tinder and OkCupid, reported a 25% decline in its stocks. It also had to balance public health with mission statements. “Tinder understands that our members are oftentimes meeting new people in-person, and, given the current environment, we wanted to remind them of the precautions they should take,” the company said in a press release.

Dacher Keltner, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that single people might fundamentally alter how they interact with strangers on first dates. They might hesitate before hugging a stranger on a first, second, even third date. The pace of dating has also been gradually slowing down as people replace in-person meetings with online conversations. And, experts see that this trend will continue for the next few years, but this doesn’t mean virtual dating will decline.

According to Bustle, the premier digital destination for young women, singles are also more open to using virtual dating than ever before. A recent report revealed that 84% of US singles said they were open to a virtual first date, nearly half plan to text or video chat with their matches, while 38% plan to call more. Dawoon Kang, the co-founder and co-CEO of the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, also predicted that people looking for a date will be in less of a rush. This is a good thing because people can take their time to get to know each other. "I think 'slow dating' can actually be a faster way to find that type of genuine connection you might be looking for,” Kang said.



These changes, however, will not ‘kill’ romantic love. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at the Kinsey Institute who has conducted hundreds of MRI scans on smitten people to see love’s effect on our brains, said that human brains treat romantic love as a central need, like thirst and hunger. “Thirst and hunger aren’t going to die, and neither are feelings of love and attachment that allow you to pass your DNA to the next generation,” she said. 

While many see this crisis a bad time for dating, Fisher thinks that this is an extremely good time for dating because people can really get to know someone. After all, the most important thing to look for in a partner is good conversation. This pandemic has also helped some singles weed out people who weren’t relationship material. Meghan Adams, a 23-year-old environmental engineer in Chicago, said she has met too many guys who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.

“Things like that have been frustrating, but it’s telling about their willingness to follow the rules,” Adams said.