In countries around the world, most people are intensely focused on staying away from others rather than attracting them.
Ironically though, usage of dating apps appears to be on the up during lockdown, with social isolation leading many single people to virtually connect online. According to Tinder, there were more swipes on the app on Sunday March 29th than any other day in its history.
You might be wondering what the point of online dating is in the current climate. While meeting up in-person is typically the end (and often quickly met) goal of many modern dating apps, coronavirus means that users are now forced to self-isolate indefinitely. At the same time, however, quarantine has naturally resulted in the increased desire to seek out connection, in whatever form possible.
Apps capitalise on video-chat
In 2019, Bumble added video chat and voice call functionalities to its app, with the aim of helping users to feel more certain of a connection before arranging an in-person meet. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Bumble has reportedly seen a 21% increase in engagement with this feature, as users experiment more with virtual ‘dates’.
Interestingly, Bumble is one of the only dating apps to have previously invested in video chat. The feature has been trialled by others, including Match.com, but was met with a lack of interest from users. This is seemingly down to video feeling a little too revealing in the very early stages of communication. This has changed since coronavirus, of course, as users are more aware of their lack of social interaction, and are now keen to forge connections.
Once again, dating apps are pivoting to video. Despite seeing low demand for its previous incarnation, Match.com has recently re-introduced its video chat feature. Launched last week, ‘Vibe Check’ allows users to talk to matches via video, without disclosing any personal contact information. This is likely to appeal to users who might want to go on a virtual date, but are wary of making the leap to platforms like Skype or FaceTime too early, as personal information is required.
INTRODUCING: VIBE CHECK ???? Swap out your emojis and LOLs for actual laughs when you try Vibe Check: our new video feature that lets you chat and see someone live right in the Match app.
— Match (@Match) April 15, 2020
Elsewhere, Plenty of Fish has released ‘LIVE!’, which is a feature (similar to Facebook Live) whereby users can choose to live-stream to an audience, as well as choose to enter into one-to-one video chats. There’s also another new feature called NextDate, which mimics speed dating, but with 90 second-long video calls instead of in-person. As well as the possibility of making a romantic connection, this type of feature also adds a gamification (and therefore entertaining) element, which is also likely to appeal to users during this time.
Other apps are still reluctant to invest in video dating, perhaps due to the belief that interest will once again die down when coronavirus is over. However, many dating apps are still responding to coronavirus, releasing unique features that aim to drive usage in the current circumstances.
Tinder, for example, has rolled out its ‘Tinder Passport’ feature to all users for free. Previously only available to Tinder Plus & Gold subscribers, it allows users to search for matches anywhere in the world, as opposed to within their surrounding area. Interestingly, Tinder has reported an increase in the duration of conversations since coronavirus, with the average chat lasting 10 to 20% longer compared to February. In other behaviour changes, Tinder has also seen a rise in more considered conversation topics, which unsurprisingly centres around coronavirus on the whole, but is more broadly related to well-being and current coping mechanisms.
Tinder Passport: Now free for everyone through April 30th with the latest version of the Tinder app. Because social distancing doesn’t have to mean disconnecting. pic.twitter.com/ibyEpkwcFL
— Tinder (@Tinder) March 31, 2020
Bumble has also expanded its distance filters nationwide, so that users can connect with people anywhere in the same country. In addition to this, it has added an audio note function, for users who want to do more than text but are not quite ready for video. Another new feature from Bumble is the option to add a ‘virtual dating’ button to profiles, which signifies to other users that they’re ready to connect via video. As an incentive, Bumble is also donating $1 to the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity Fund for every person who adds a badge.
Elsewhere, Hinge has also added the ‘Date from Home’ feature. Instead of encouraging users to spend more time in the app itself, however, the feature helps to encourage couples to move off of Hinge. This is because users are only alerted when two people both separately signify they are ready for a video call outside of the app, which means there is less chance of rejection.
— Sunday Times Style (@TheSTStyle) April 7, 2020
Will online dating change for good?
It’s evident that online dating is seeing a surge at the moment, with users finding ways to make quarantine more fun. It’s even resulted in the launch of new apps, specifically designed with the current situation in mind. ‘Quarantine Together’ is a new dating service which introduces people for a video call every day at 6pm – after they’ve received a daily reminder to wash their hands. According to CNN, the number of new sign-ups has been growing 50% each day since it launched.
Another new app, Flutter, has also seen a rise in usage since coronavirus. The premise is that it offers users a six-hour window on a Sunday in which to make a connection, capitalising on the fact that people now have more time in a day to dedicate to online dating.
So will apps like this continue to see high usage once self-isolation becomes a thing of the past? It’s doubtful that all will survive, but for giants like Bumble and Match, however, the hope is that the industry’s fast adaptation of new features will help sustain interest in this new style of virtual dating long-term.