Column: Problems with dating apps in COVID-19 | #tinder | #pof

As someone new to the Northeast, my time dating here — especially in the bustling college city of Boston — has been very limited. Dating in a pandemic has become a strange juggling act between pleasure and public health. Will meeting someone for coffee do more harm than it’s worth? Is there more trust required to set a date right now than in the past?

To begin my exploration, I downloaded the most essential dating app: Tinder. 

I was just experimenting, taking a dip in the pool. As I started swiping, I realized I was asking myself a series of questions — and in a very particular order, too. First, the normal Tinder questions on attraction, location, interests, etc. But then, I asked one oddly specific question that only makes sense in 2020. Does this person look like he wears a mask? You can’t seem to answer this question before you swipe right, but is it still acceptable to ask them after you match? 

With all this in mind, enter the first swipe, and match, of my saga —  Music Man. He checked all the boxes, but again, did he wear a mask? The million-dollar question still had no answer. 

When I eventually asked the million-dollar question, he said he does wear a mask. The conversation ended that day, and about two nights later, I received an infamous 1 a.m. text. Charming. 

My only question was, did he really think I was going to cross the river to Cambridge at 1 a.m., especially in the middle of a pandemic? About a thousand things could go wrong, and only half of them pertain to COVID-19. 

I still continued to swipe and the more I asked these questions on every single profile, I also began to wonder: do men ask these questions too? 

As reported in a study by the New York Times, men are three times more likely to swipe right than women, but how big is that gap during a pandemic? Have women become even more selective?

Tinder seems to be operating on the same scale as it was pre-pandemic, and I question whether that’s a safe place to be. Tinder’s reputation for basically starting modern day hookup culture seems criminal in a world encumbered by a pandemic. One wrong decision and you risk the lives of so many people around you. 

Now, that may not be all Tinder’s fault, but it seems to facilitate this problem effortlessly. If I met Music Man, who is to say we aren’t putting other people close to us at the risk of contracting COVID-19, no matter how “safe” we are? 

Not only is it harder than ever to make new connections  — dating truly may just cause more harm than it’s worth. 


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