COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease) killed my love life.
Fine, it wasn’t exactly love yet, but it had the potential to be something beautiful until the lengthy lockdown nipped it in the bud. Because how can you date if you can’t actually go on dates?
Eventually, with no end to the quarantine in sight, our fireworks fizzled out, leaving behind nothing but plans that never pushed through. Sigh, I actually liked that guy.
My little pseudorelationship is just one of the countless affected by the pandemic. Long-term couples suddenly found themselves in what felt like long-distance relationships—even if they lived in the same city.
Am I seriously thinking about love and relationships when people are worried about health, food and livelihood? Yes. And I’m not the only one. You shouldn’t be surprised. Connecting with others is a basic human need—and one that feels necessary during what has been such an isolating time.
Spike in usage
As soon as the lockdowns started in March, dating apps saw a spike in usage. There were plenty of people who signed up for the first time.
“Just trying this app ’coz of the quarantine lol,” wrote one Bumble user.
Another: “Bored, need someone to talk to during this COVID lockdown sh*t.”
In the United States, daily messages went up 10-15 percent, Tinder told Lifestyle. There was a 25-percent increase in daily conversation in Italy and Spain and conversation length in Europe and Southeast Asia went up 10-30 percent.
And here’s an interesting fact: Conversations are lasting longer in places most impacted by COVID-19. People are fighting boredom and loneliness caused by the pandemic by trying to make new connections.
Bumble saw a similar growth. There was a 21-percent increase in Bumble video call usage. Average video call and phone call time is 14 minutes. “This only further validates that when physical connection is limited, humans will seek out other means to interact and engage, and video calling is meeting that demand,” Bumble told us.
There’s an overall increase in messages and an additional increase in “quality chats,” too. According to Bumble: “People are chatting for longer and sharing more in each message they send.”
On Bumble, more and more users started to mention the words “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” on their profiles. On Tinder, the following phrases can be found in a lot of bios: “stay home, be safe,” “social distancing,” “wash your hands.”
“Looking for quarantine buddy,” multiple users wrote.
“Hola this lockdown thing is bad for an extrovert like me,” Steve wrote in his bio.
Many profiles now show users wearing masks.
There’s humor, too, of course. Some users actually managed to come up with pandemic-inspired pickup lines: “If coronavirus doesn’t take you, can I?” “Quarantine and chill?”
When toilet paper was flying off shelves in different parts of the world, a software engineer wrote in his bio: “Got a big toilet paper roll collection that I can share.”
If you’re not impressed by toilet paper, there’s a guy who wrote, “I got lots of groceries,” and another who posted, “I have canned goods.”
Charles from Pampanga’s profile read, “Pengeng GF bago tayo ubusin ng COVID-19!”
“Your well-being is our #1 priority,” read a message from Tinder that reminded people about the importance of hygiene and social distancing. “While we want you to continue to have fun, protecting yourself from the coronavirus is more important.”
Ideally, when you hit it off with a match on a dating app, the next step is to meet in real life … but not now.
When the number of cases continued to surge, Tinder had another message for its users, reminding them to “keep it on your phone for now.”
“Social distancing doesn’t have to mean disconnecting … We hope to be a place for connection during this challenging time, but it’s important to stress that now is not the time to meet IRL (in real life) with your match.”
This is a sentiment echoed by many dating app users.
“No meetups before the coronavirus crisis ends,” wrote one Bumble user on his profile.
Mau, a freelance physical therapist from Caloocan, told Lifestyle that he’s open to meeting someone from Bumble but not now. “For her safety and mine, mas okay na after COVID or basta safe na.”
Alex, a mechanical engineer in Dubai, said, “Due to COVID-19, dating strangers became scary. I don’t have plans to meet people during the quarantine. You don’t know who is infected and who isn’t. Better to be safe.”
Berkeley, 26, a doctor from Ankara, said that he usually goes on one Tinder date each month but COVID-19 put a stop to that. “I see my parents sometimes and I might get infected. I don’t want to carry the virus to them.”
Someone to talk to
Tinder did what it could to help people keep connecting. Passport, a paid feature that allows users to change their location to anywhere in the world so they can find matches in whichever city they want, became free for everyone.
“Now more than ever, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference,” Tinder said.
The people behind the app had noticed that paid subscribers had already been using the feature to reach out to those in the hardest hit areas of the pandemic like Italy and Korea.
“While it is not a moment to be meeting matches in person, we recognize that Tinder—a platform that is about connection—can play an important role as people navigate the uncertainty that COVID-19 has introduced into our everyday lives,” said Tinder CEO Elie Seidman in a statement.
On its website, Bumble featured an interview with Emmy award-winning medical journalist Dr. Seema Yasmin called “How to Date During Coronavirus, According to an Epidemiologist.” It also came out with advice from a Talkspace therapist on managing anxiety and loneliness.
Bumble told Lifestyle: “We feel Bumble can provide a great outlet for those who may be concerned with meeting people in person—it’s one way to stay connected to real people without having to meet in the physical world. Currently, we have some great features like voice call and video chat that allow for an even deeper connection without having to meet in public, or share your phone number or email.”
But for some, the virtual connection doesn’t feel enough.
“People right now are basically bored and just want to talk,” said Dennis, 32, a chef from Marikina who has been on Tinder for two years and Bumble for five months. But he likes getting to know his matches in person, he said. His fatalistic approach to the pandemic makes him willing to meet with matches even during quarantine. “If we click during this lockdown period, why not? If it’s my time, it’s my time.”
El Bandito de Amor, a teacher from California, disagrees. “I think it would be irresponsible to meet someone in person under current conditions.”