To many, the COVID-19 pandemic reads like a script for a horror movie or a twisted romance novel. Every day, the world wakes up to new developments about the virus that scare people back into their homes. It has basically forced people to start thinking outside the box in terms of socializing and even finding a date. Virtual meetings, virtual workouts, virtual concerts and now, virtual dates have now become a thing courtesy of the pandemic. As the world finds different ways to socialize, dating apps have seen an increase in popularity among lonely singles seeking companionship.
Online dating emerged back in the 60’s when a curious university student used questionnaires and a computer to match potentials at dances. In 1994, the first modern dating site was launched called Kiss.com. In 1995, two entrepreneurs, that is Gary Kremen and Peng T. Ong launched Match.com. Being among the pioneer in the industry worked to Match.com’s favor such that by 2004, it was called the largest dating site in the world by Guinness World Records courtesy of the fact that they had over 29.6 million unique visitors at the time. Since then, numerous other dating sites have emerged including eHarmony, OKCupid, and Christian Mingle, a Christian-based dating site.
Dating apps were certainly frowned upon in some parts of the world especially African countries as they were regarded as a strange way to meet a potential partner. However, people are discovering the many perks that dating apps have to offer. What seemed strange and even creepy for some people before the Coronavirus pandemic has now become a saving grace from social isolation.
Over the past decade, dating apps have strived to reduce the stigma associated with their use by those seeking to find a partner. Their efforts appear to have borne fruit in that the new dating apps like Tinder and Bumble paved the way for the new generation of online dating which led to a now 9 Billion dollar industry.
Kenyans caught on to the wave earlier on and now, there are several local-based dating sites and apps which have attracted a substantial number of users. They include Afrointroductions.com, KenyanCupid.com, DateMeKenya.com and Dating.co.ke. Though there are no statistics on online daters in Kenya, the emergence of these sites is prove enough that Kenyans have embraced online dating.
Tinder, one of the world’s largest dating apps, reported a surge in user activity during this pandemic. The CEO stated that they saw conversations flourishing and lasting longer after most countries imposed mandatory lockdowns and curfews. When the pandemic first hit, Tinder reported a spike in usage in countries that were hardest hit like Italy, Spain, and The US. Bumble, another popular dating app, reportedly saw a 26% increase in messages sent during the last week of March 2020 compared to the first week of the same month. This indicates that people are seeking comfort in online platforms, especially dating apps, to counter the effects of being in lockdown and social distancing. As a result, many dating apps have added new features like video chat to accommodate their user’s new dating habits.
While dating apps were created for face to face interactions, most of them are now encouraging their users to stay home and keep their interactions on the platform. Tinder sent out a series of public service announcements through their official Twitter account and on the app as well informing users of the WHO social distancing guidelines with a funny touch.
After the outbreak, people quickly embraced the new way of dating and some even preferred it to the traditional date. This is because while using the dating apps, the pair doesn’t have to worry about bills, unsolicited contact, awkward silence, and the nerves that physical dates come with. As for whether dating apps work or they’re just a way to pass time, they do depending on the app. For instance, Tinder can be a hit of miss for serious relationships since it’s mostly known for casual hookups. Generally, people who have used dating apps tend to like them and express confidence in their success.
As the country, and the rest of the world, slowly opens up, people are still skeptical about one on one meetups. Dating apps may remain a popular alternative for social interactions even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends as more people have experienced friendlier and pleasant interactions compared to traditional dating.
So if you are single and ready to mingle, don’t let this Nairobi cold finish you, just login to one of the Kenyan dating apps and find yourself a mate .