#bumble | #tinder | #pof Arizonans are meeting up on apps

Dating apps such as Bumble and OkCupid are reporting increased activity as more people are staying inside and practicing social distancing due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

C. August McMullen recently moved to Mesa from Florida and downloaded dating apps for the first time.

The 28-year-old is using Mutual, Tinder and Bumble to connect with people. On its website, Mutual describes itself as “the world’s most popular dating app for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

“It’s the age of physical distancing and I’m (an) extrovert,” McMullen wrote in a message to The Arizona Republic.

McMullen, who identifies as gender fluid, has exchanged messages with several people on Mutual but admits “I’m not sure what i’m doing” on Tinder.

“I saw that Bumble has a BFF function, so I’m using that for friendship,” McMullen said. “Not much luck actually talking to anyone, but oh well.”

Gabriela Rodriguez recently moved to Tempe and started using Facebook Dating for the first time to meet new friends and potential dates — people she would connect with in person when there is no longer a need to practice social distancing.

“I am in quarantine and being new in town, meeting new people in (these) circumstances is almost impossible,” Rodriguez said in a message to The Republic.

She has connected with some people over the app and noticed that “people are now more engaged and responsive, which is obviously due to the fact that we are all home and have less distractions.”

However, one exchange with another user on Facebook Dating was so shocking that she posted screenshots on Twitter.

The user propositioned her and made it clear he was looking for a sexual partner. 

She replied, “In the middle of a global pandemic?”

“Yes in the middle of the world ending I would like someone I can meet up with on a regular basis that (isn’t) a carrier pigeon for disease,” he wrote.

Rodriguez was not expecting that.

“The conversation prior to that tweet was very friendly and polite and I got that message out of the blue,” she said. “But given the circumstances that the entire world is facing, it came as a bit of a shock that someone could be so insensitive and crude all at once.

“I’m no stranger to getting rude or inappropriate messages on dating apps, and I know that most girls can, sadly, relate to that.”

Dating apps are busier during coronavirus

Bumble is one of the few dating apps that offer video and audio chats. Bumble’s voice chat and video call features have become more popular as people follow CDC safety recommendations and forgo in-person meetups.

Bumble and OkCupid are among the apps seeing a spike in use.

“There has been a 21% increase in Bumble Voice Chat + Video Call usage, which only further validates that when physical connection is limited humans will seek out other means to interact and engage,” a Bumble spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Nationally, we’ve also seen a 21% increase in messages sent. We also see that people are messaging one another for longer periods of time and sharing more in each message they send,” the statement read. The data reflects the March 12-24 period.

Bumble’s founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd promoted social distancing in a blog post that reads, “We’re encouraging you, for now, to please take all your dates virtual. Even if you’re feeling well, you could be unknowingly spreading the virus by meeting (in real life).”

“There’s been a lot of activity on dating apps while people are social distancing,” Michael Kaye, global communications manager for OkCupid, told The Republic.

OkCupid users are discussing the pandemic on their profiles, with the app seeing a 900% increase in mentions of the word “coronavirus” from February to March, Kaye said.

Time for ‘a slow dating approach’

Apps are quickly adapting to the new norm for dating and connecting with others. Match.com launched a free Dating While Distancing hotline, where dating experts give free advice at 888-302-6224 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST daily.

This is the time for “a slow dating approach,” according to a blog post by dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.

“For singles, the sudden change in day-to-day life can feel discouraging for their dating prospects,” the post reads. “This slow dating approach could be a faster way to get that genuine connection we’re searching for.”

The dating app has changed some of its rules to adapt to the times. Normally, chats expire after seven days, but now two users can stay connected indefinitely as long as a message was sent in the past three days.

More than one new platform has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic to help connect people looking for platonic or romantic relationships.

OKZoomer, built by Yale University students, has set up nearly 10,000 dates among college students across the country, according to its website.

“As the world moves towards practicing social distancing, our social lives don’t have to suffer,” OKZoomer’s home page reads.

Reach the reporter at kimi.robinson@gannett.com or at 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin.

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