A bar sits closed in the early evening of March 16, 2020, in Brooklyn after a decree that all bars and restaurants shut down in New York City to ease the spreading of the coronavirus.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Stay-at-home mandates due to the coronavirus are shifting American routines, workflows and now dating. With 25% of all Americans being asked to remain indoors, and businesses closed in cities across the country, singles can’t go out to bars and restaurants to meet people. As a result, dating apps are seeing a serious spike in usage during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Bumble, a dating platform favored by urban millennials and Gen Z singles, saw a significant increase in messages sent in cities under shelter-in-place mandates. From March 12–22, Bumble recorded a 21% increase in sent messages in Seattle, a 23% increase in New York City and a 26% increase in San Francisco.
Match Group, the umbrella company for Match, Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and four other dating platforms, has jumped on the opportunity for more frequent swipes — when Tinder launched in 2012, it revolutionized online dating with its concept to swipe right for yes; swipe left for no — launching free tools for users in light of widespread pandemic-prompted isolation. Match’s Dating while Distancing hotline staffed by the company’s dating experts is now available and free for users 12 hours a day.
Swipers can even review possible matches in another country’s quarantine. Tinder is rolling out its Passport feature, typically reserved for the platform’s subscribers, for free this week, until April 30.
The dates have been better than the ones in real life because we’re having to communicate more.
a 27-year-old woman quarantining in Michigan
Platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Houseparty are being integrated into workflows and social hours across the world, and the same technology is now among high-demand features of the dating world: video and audio dates. Bumble has offered in-app calls and video chats since last summer, but it recorded a 21% increase in Bumble Video Call usage in the past week alone.
The Plenty of Fish app spotted opportunity for connection amid isolation as well, launching its LIVE! feature in areas heavily affected by the pandemic. Users in Washington, New York and California are now able to livestream with friends and potential matches; the company plans to roll out global livestreaming by the end of April.
“With 70% of Hinge users expressing interest in going on digital dates, we’re encouraging our community to ‘date from home’ using phone calls and video chats to build connections,” the dating app said in a message to users.
The platform doesn’t currently offer any of these features in the app.
70% of Hinge users expressed interest in going on digital dates during the coronavirus outbreak.
Samantha, a 26-year-old woman quarantining on Long Island, has been on one virtual date in March and already has five more lined up for the upcoming week. “I’ll continue to do this even when this is all over,” she says of FaceTime-enabled “screenings” of her online matches.
Offices that integrate technologies like Slack and Zoom while working from home may very well continue doing so once the global pandemic subsides. Similarly, dating habits formed during quarantine could shift business strategy for all online platforms, not just those already in the romancing space.
There have been notable failures. Facebook’s dating feature largely fell flat, but an integration with its Messenger video feature could breathe new life into that venture.
For now, dating platforms are focused on promoting health awareness and promoting connectivity in a time of isolation. Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd messaged users on Friday afternoon, encouraging them to keep their connections virtual for the time being.
Jeni, a 27-year-old woman quarantining in Michigan, says she’s been on six virtual dates. When compared to her face-to-face dates, these online meetups are about equal in frequency but differ in quality.
“The dates have been better than the ones in real life because we’re having to communicate more,” she says. But she’ll probably go back to in-person dating. “I would rather see them face-to-face right away. The more you delay meeting, the more likely it doesn’t happen at all.”