On January 27, Twitter user @drethelin Tweeted that he was changing his location on Tinder to Wuhan, China, in an attempt to get “the real scoop” on what he alleged the Chinese government was keeping from the public. With anxieties running high and misinformation spreading, people have been turning to unlikely sources — Reddit forums, TikTok videos, anonymous chat rooms — as a method of obtaining new and accurate information. And now that COVID-19 has been named a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), people are using Tinder for coronavirus updates from Wuhan.
Tinder offers a premium feature called Passport to Tinder Gold or Tinder Plus members, which allows users to swipe left and right in any location, no matter where they actually are. “I learned the quarantine is not exactly soldiers on every block keeping people in, it’s more like your neighbors will snitch on you if they see you out and about,” @drethelin told Buzzfeed News. “But I probably could have learned that from public sources if I did more research.”
James, another Tinder user who works as an English teacher in Vietnam, also changed his location to Wuhan, in an effort to obtain more info. “With all the scaremongering and fake news, I just wanted to find out about the experiences of the people who were actually there,” he told Buzzfeed News.
James matched with Tinder users, who chose to remain anonymous, in Wuhan, who were eager to talk to him about what life under quarantine is like. One user reported feeling “anxious every day” as “all transportations are unavailable.” As of March 10, BBC reports that China has recorded its lowest number of infections: just 19, and all in Wuhan, apart from two people who had arrived from overseas.
But is changing your location on a dating app to glean information ethical? One user asked James, “Do you want fun or not?” — implying that they felt misled by his location setting. Bustle reached out to Tinder about how closely the company is monitoring this activity, and a representative shared that Tinder has no comment as this time, except for a reminder to maintain a social distance, as per the WHO’s recommendations.
At times like these, swiping away on an app can make people across the world feel so connected, and yet, so far away.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, call NHS 111 in the UK or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.