During the COVID-19 pandemic, online dating sites such as Tinder and Bumble have surged in popularity. According to The Observer, days after the initial stay-at-home orders were implemented in the United States, Tinder had its highest day of activity with more than three billion swipes on March 29.
After half a year in a global pandemic, dating and social connection have changed rapidly. Many are turning to online platforms as a way to connect with others. Gen Z-ers and millennials on the app have gotten creative and gone on dates via Animal Crossing and Netflix party, according to Tinder’s official website.
Miami University junior Maddie Rennie downloaded Tinder as a first-year in college. Today, Rennie uses Tinder to stay connected and meet new people amidst the pandemic.
“It was really nice talking to people that I hadn’t met before because getting to know someone from the beginning is definitely time consuming,” Rennie said. “It gave me something to do during the days.”
Like Rennie, junior Emerson Day uses Tinder to converse with others and fill time during the pandemic. Recently, Day redownloaded the app after the end of a long-term relationship and years of disuse.
“The first week, I would get on the app when I first woke up and then I would [look at] it when I was back in bed again,” Day said. “I would be on it for an hour and not even realize it.”
Dr. Kendall Leser, director of Miami’s public health program, believes that social isolation has contributed to an uptick in technological dependency in order to stay connected with family, friends, coworkers and partners.
“As human beings, I would argue that we all crave social connectedness and togetherness, so turning to these apps to find a person makes sense during these times, especially when you’re being asked to be apart,” Leser said.
However, as the pandemic continues to persist, some are wondering whether it’s safe to meet in person. After several weeks of talking over the phone, Rennie met with her current girlfriend in person. The two made the decision to meet after getting out of COVID-19 isolation. At first, the two wore masks and avoided public places, but after a while, it became a “void point” in their minds.
“Knowing that I had it, she had it [and that] both of our isolations were over made that fear dissipate a bit,” Rennie said.
Although Day himself has never met anyone in person, several of his friends have gone on dates.
“My friends who do meet up with people on Tinder … they go on dates,” Day said. “They go to get coffee. They go to watch a movie somewhere. They go to get food. It sounds like dates like that work out, and most of the time, I hear that they’re seeing that person again or meeting a different person in a different place.”
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Rennie, Day and Leser all believe that communication is critical before meeting up in person. Leser recommends having a conversation about wearing masks, social distancing and comfort level in outdoor versus indoor environments.
“Make sure that you have a conversation with them about where they’ve been, if they’ve been going to the bars [and] if they’ve been going to frat parties,” Rennie said. “Things like that you should talk about beforehand, and definitely wear masks and respect each other’s distance at first until you’ve gotten to a comfortable point with each other and [have] hung out a few times.”
If living with roommates and a close circle of friends, it’s recommended to include them in these conversations.
“We want to plan for the people around us,” Leser said. “I would recommend thinking about others because that’s what … preventing COVID is all about: not getting it yourself because you don’t want to get sick, but also not spreading it to other people who are more vulnerable than you.”
For those wanting to be intimate during the pandemic, Leser emphasizes the use of all safe sex practices. While it’s important to be aware of COVID-19 risks, they should not overshadow protection from STIs, STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
“I want to emphasize being smart and practicing safe sex and understanding that you are at risk for contracting COVID through not just kissing but the mere presence of being around people if you are not socially distanced, masked and washing your hands,” Leser said.
Any relationship requires communication, comfort, trust and honesty. When deciding whether or not to meet in person, Leser and Rennie urge people to take these qualities into consideration. Although a virtual world can substitute for some interaction, human beings are social creatures.
“People aren’t going to stop living their lives because we’re human,” Leser said. “We have to adapt and try to practice the healthiest behaviors possible.”