In her New York Times bestselling book “Eat Pray Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert visits a medicine man in Bali.
People swarm from around the globe to land at his feet and ask for a speck of guidance. The subject of the bulk of those inquiries?
“So, there’s this guy …” says Gilbert.
Meaning, we spend our lives and our energy seeking out love, affection and companionship. We want to find the yin to our yang, The One, or maybe the next one in a series of ones. This desire could be the underpinning to the fabric of our humanity.
And if you think a virus called COVID-19 could stop that heartfelt longing, you’d best think again. It does not.
Singles are flocking to online dating services in their time of need. OkCupid reports a more than 160% increase in daters who say they had been on virtual dates in April as compared to March. And in Colorado, the site’s matches went up by 15% after the stay-at-home order went into effect.
“We’ve seen matches and conversations skyrocketing,” says OkCupid global communications manager Michael Kaye. “People are matching a lot and answering questions a lot. There’s a lot of activity and engagement. Women have stepped up and started to introduce themselves more than before.”
Over at Bumble, a dating site that requires women to initiate the first move, the numbers are also up. According to a Bumble representative, during the week that ended March 27 versus the week ending March 13, there was an 8% increase in 18- to 24-year-olds who registered on the site, an 84% increase in voice calls and video chats, and a 26% increase in messages sent.
Colorado Springs daters also are clearly not sitting around and saving up their energy to whisper sweet nothings. Around the same time Gov. Jared Polis told Colorado our state could begin to reopen, matchmaker Donna Shugrue’s phone rang off the hook.
“Clients called to say I’m ready,” says the owner of dating service Perfectly Matched. “After 9/11, I had my best year in the business. Situations like this make people think abut their priorities. The stay-at-home order made people think about how nice it would be to have somebody to go through it with.”
When talk of a pandemic began to rise to the top of our national consciousness, OkCupid’s Kaye wasn’t nervous people would lose interest in clicking on the site. He was more invested in how they could continue to match people. One of OkCupid’s signature features is the quirky, thoughtful questions they roll out to members, which helps the site figure out who to show them in the app. So that’s where they turned first, to ask their daters how they planned on dating through the storm.
“Over 90% said they planned to continue dating, just virtually,” he says. “We started adding digital date ideas to social media channels.”
The OkCupid data provides a voyeuristic view of Colorado Springs’ dating proclivities. Here in our fair city we’re more apt to enjoy virtual dinner or drink dates than daters in Boulder or Denver. We’re also more likely to watch a virtual movie or TV show together than our single pals to the north. But we’re less likely to love video chat dates than those in Northern Colorado. So, virtual Netflix and chill? And save the real-time “chill” for a less fear-ridden time about germs and such?
Kaye also has heard of his daters doing virtual workouts together in the mornings or cooking dinner together over video chat.
“One I loved is a couple who’s reading books together,” he says. “They take time to each read a chapter during the day, and hop on FaceTime later in the day and talk about the chapter they read. They’re creating a book club.”
The folks at Bumble also went into overdrive to accommodate their daters. They created a virtual date badge to add to a profile so potential matches know the dater is open to video chat. There’s also a new question game and the ability to send an audio message. Both services encouraged their clientele to meet more people from across the country by expanding their distance filter.
Matches are even spilling out into different countries. Kaye believes the pandemic will lead to a rise in long-distance relationships. In pre-lockdown days, people would typically match on the dating site, talk for a couple of hours or days and go on a date, often within a day or two. Those days are gone. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“A lot of incredible relationships are coming out of this situation,” says Kaye. “There’s a lot of time to get to know a person without the other pressure of getting dressed up or having first-date jitters or that pressure to hook up right away. It’s going to be nice to see.”
For others, the stay-at-home order wasn’t about to stop them from meeting Mr. or Mrs. Potentially Right. About half a dozen of Shugrue’s couples have met for first dates over the last six weeks, all outdoors at parks. Some have even moved on to their second date. One, in particular, Shugrue says, is definitely not doing the social distancing thing.
“People say I’m ready to meet somebody right now and others say they want to wait a little bit,” she says.
“Little by little, we will get back to what it was. The virus can stop many things, but it will not stop people from wanting to meet and fall in love.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270
Contact the writer: 636-0270