- The COVID-19 vaccine is now a dating app “deal breaker.”
- Forty per cent of OKCupid users would cancel a date with someone who wouldn’t get a shot.
- Dating apps do not routinely verify whether someone has been immunized or not.
Getting a coronavirus vaccine is the hottest thing right now. At least, that’s the impression you might get from dating apps, where people are mentioning they’ve got their shot as a way to meet likeminded people.
“We have seen a 137% increase in mentions of “vaccine” on our profiles [globally] between November and January,” Michael Kaye, a spokesperson from dating app OKCupid, told Insider.
Tinder said it has seen a 258% increase in profile mentions of vaccines between September and December, Tyla reported. Bumble, another dating app, told Insider it had seen an increase in the number of people with the word “vaccine” or “vaccinated” in their Bumble profiles but did not elaborate. Grindr, an online dating app for gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, told Insider it did not collect data about COVID-19 vaccines.
“Not only is the vaccine becoming the biggest talking point on dating apps, it’s actually becoming a huge deal-breaker,” Kaye added.
Sarah Kelly, a journalist who hadn’t had a COVID-19 vaccine yet, tweeted January 31 that a man wrote to her on a dating app: “Ur real cool however I found someone who is also Vaccinated!!”
—sarah kelly (@thesarahkelly) January 31, 2021
OKCupid includes a set of “matching questions” that users can voluntarily answer. The questions ask whether they would get vaccinated and whether they would cancel a date if a match wouldn’t get a shot. This then appears on their profile for potential suitors to see. The questions have been answered more than 17 millions times.
Kaye said people who answered that they would get a COVID-19 shot got more “likes” than those who said no. He said 40% of Millennial and Gen Z-aged OKCupid users would cancel a date with someone who wouldn’t take a vaccine. The figure was 18% higher for women compared with men. Most OKCupid daters are straight, but LGBTQ + people use the platform too. So far, more than 212 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 90 countries, according to Johns Hopkins University. Most countries have prioritized those at highest risk of severe COVID-19 disease, namely older people who are less likely to be using OKCupid, Tinder, or Bumble. But key workers like health professionals and those with certain medical conditions have also been top of the priority list in some countries. Some younger people in the US have been able to get a shot by queuing up outside pharmacies for leftover doses. Vaccine trial participants are another group of younger people who have been able to get a shot before others.
‘Fraught with dangers’
Dr. Nilufar Ahmed, a lecturer in Social Sciences at the University of Bristol, told Insider in a statement that the area was “fraught with dangers.” Meeting someone who was vaccinated does not reduce the risk of catching coronavirus or stop you from passing it on, she said.
Dr. Veronica Lamarche, a relationships expert from the Department of Psychology at the University of Exeter, didn’t think that it would necessarily open the “floodgates” for risky behavior, because often people who were conscientious enough to engage in protective health practices, were also more likely to be conscientious in other ways too.
“It will probably increase the likelihood that people feel safe to interact with other people because they’ve been vaccinated,” she said. “And then it’s really a question of vaccine efficacy at that point, whether or not it’s increasing their risks.”
‘Health disclosure nightmare’
Dating apps do not routinely verify whether someone has been immunized or not. In the US, dating apps would not be HIPAA-compliant if they shared health information.
Lamarche said daters could lie about their immunization status, and people might engage in dates that aren’t as safe as they expected. But she said that if health-based questions were compulsory and apps had to verify the details, you would get into a “health disclosure nightmare”.
“I think that is something that goes beyond just the simple question of the pandemic and something that needs to be considered in terms of the morality behind being forced to disclose these different types of health information,” she said.Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor at Warwick University, told Insider that what it means to be “vaccinated” was unclear, and including all the relevant information in a short bio on a dating profile could be a challenge.
“There’s a whole issue about how many doses of the vaccine you get, because you do need two doses for most of these vaccines,” he said.
Young said that for him it was “a slippery slope.”
“Clearly people are at liberty to declare anything they wish to declare. But I do wonder about where you draw the line,” he said. “Do they say actually I’ve had a papilloma virus vaccine for instance, because that’s linked with cervical cancer and head and neck cancer.”
“Are you going to start mentioning other aspects of your health?” Young added. “Do you need to start doing DNA tests to see if you’re at increased susceptibility to various diseases?
‘Winning the war on the virus’
“I guess from a public health perspective, dating apps could help win the war on the virus, because people will go: if I want to date somebody, then I better be vaccinated,” Ivo Vlaev, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School, told Insider.
Young said most young people usually don’t get severe disease, but could end up with long-term complications of COVID-19 if they catch coronavirus, so it was important to protect as many people as possible with vaccinations.
Vlaev said all policy decisions impact our private lives. “The more governments and other organizations require vaccination status, the more we are going to require from each other,” he said.
“There aren’t any hard or written rules about how to date. So I think it’s interesting that we’re seeing that people put this information on their profile and that’s a way of signaling what the social norm is,” Lamarche said.
Kaye said a really positive impact of the pandemic was that people are talking more about important sexual health issues on their dating profiles, for example, whether they had been tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Lamarche said it could backfire, though, if some people say publicly that they haven’t been vaccinated or won’t get immunized.
“This could start to set a different set of norms and expectations, and disagreement on what is typical or what you should be doing if you want to get a partner,” Larmarche said. “You might see a counter-movement emerge.”Lamarche said she generally thought it was probably a positive trend, especially to motivate younger groups who might feel disincentivized to get vaccines if they feel that COVID-19 is less of a factor in their lives.
“By and large, the benefits probably outweigh the negatives,” she said.