“I used to be on all the dating apps till about six months ago, when I gave up because I had lost hope and was bored with the others,” says Tarana Reddy, a film producer based in Chennai. “But last week, I had nothing better to do, so I re-downloaded Hinge, just to see what was going on.”
On it, she found others who, like her, were back on the app because their social lives and physical interactions are on hold as cities around the world are going under lockdown. And they aren’t alone — dating apps like Hinge, Bumble and Tinder are seeing an increase in new users across the board, as more and more people hop aboard to escape the confines of their homes. Existing users, too, seem to be spending more time and effort in looking for a connection.
While most apps are waiting to see how the trends shift and settle over next week, Tinder has a few country-wise insights, for mid-March: “Daily messages are up 10-15% compared to the prior week in the US. In places like Italy and Spain, we saw increases by up to 25% in daily conversation as compared to the week prior. Conversation length was up anywhere from 10 to 30% as compared to February in places like Europe and South East Asia,” says a Tinder spokesperson over email.
Quantity over quality
But longer conversations don’t necessarily mean better ones. As Tarana somewhat sardonically points out, just because someone is under lockdown, it does not mean they suddenly turn funnier or more interesting. “A couple of them have even come up with quarantine-related pickup lines,” she says, sounding distinctly unimpressed. Not surprising, considering the cringe-worthy ones we have come across, like, ‘Hey there, are you the vaccine? Because the whole world is chasing you.’
Funnily enough, Tinder’s top bios have also changed from the usual “wanderlust”- and “sapiosexual”-studded statements, to phrases like “stay home”, “be safe”, “social distancing”, “how are you”, and “wash your hands”.
Tinder is tweaking its features like Passport, which allows users to match with people in different destinations around the globe, regardless of where they are currently located. “Tinder’s Passport is currently available as one feature within Tinder Plus and Gold subscriptions. However, in the next iOS and Android releases, which we anticipate being around the end of March, the Passport feature will become free for everyone,” says a company statement.
In sharp contrast are the few users who don’t see the point of going online while isolating, no matter what part of the world they are in, since there aren’t high chances of it leading to a real date. Akshat Pradhan, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently in isolation at home in Pune. “I will be in self-isolation for two weeks now. I was on Tinder and Hinge, but haven’t used it for the past week. I probably won’t be trying them for a month at least,” he says.
For the others, these dire times have not made the interactions any more ardent — just more sporadic and half-hearted, if Tarana’s experience is anything to go by. “I’m not the best at texting… I text when I am free, and if something comes up, I forget to. So the people I have matched with are getting a little passive aggressive about it. They say, ‘We’re under quarantine; how busy could you be?’”
Many, like Indian expatriate Payal Kohbragade, see these apps as a means for some much-needed change of pace. Payal, who moved to Germany in February and is now under lockdown with five housemates, says, “I don’t want to talk to the same people over and over again, like roommates and family. Talking to someone new on the app helps break the monotony of our repetitive lives.” Of course, some changes have to be accommodated, “We meet on e-coffee dates instead, through video chat.”
Her last real date was about a week ago, when they decided to take a stroll around a park instead of sitting at a café. “We wanted to avoid closed, crowded spaces, and also kept the minimal personal distance from each other throughout,” she recalls with a laugh.
Not all lovebirds feel jaded, however. A good example is the Love Is Blind Instagram page by New York-based roommates Thi Q Lam and Rance Nix. The duo, who have been trying to keep six feet away from each other in their New York apartment, are posting photos of various couples, who are keeping each other safe through social distancing even in the confines of their homes. And then there are apps like Quarantine Chat, which are enabling strangers all over the world to chat. Innovations like these are likely to keep coming up, since, as Payal says, “it just helps to talk to someone new.”
(Some names have been changed for the sake of privacy).
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