As we emerge, blinking and unsure, into the post-lockdown world, the landscape as we know it has changed. How it has changed, we still have to figure out. So what, does the future of online dating look like now?
One of the biggest shifts, we’ve seen over the last year is how we work. Workers have gone remote, meetings have moved online and mindless chatting over the water cooler is a thing of the past.
Socialising and, more specifically, dating have also gone though a transformation. A major one. The way we have been able to connect has intrinsically changed. I mean, how can you meaningfully date when you’re stuck indoors during a pandemic? But there’s nothing like a world-wide crisis to make people crave connections with others.
Dating during a pandemic is soaring.
Back in March 2020, when lockdown hit and we found ourselves inhabiting a strange, new way of existing, we might have assumed that the pandemic would put dating on hold.
In April 2020, messaging on Tinder increased globally by 52% since the start of March.
UK Hinge reported that almost half of their users had been on a video date since the new function launched last summer.
Dating during the pandemic is indeed soaring.
The unexpected benefits of dating during a pandemic
But is this new way of online dating changing things for the better and, if so, how?
I get it, you’re probably puzzled, thinking how on earth can Covid-19 have helped online dating. After all, online dating can be challenging at the best of times but throw in a highly contagious, deadly virus, confusing government directives and national social distancing mandates and it’s no wonder, single people have been struggling since the arrival of Covid-19.
I’m not denying the challenges that come with trying to find an emotional connection during the most trying of circumstances but it does look like there may be some positive shifts in how we date going forwards. Could the future of online dating be looking up?
Video dating is the new first date?
Pre-pandemic, dating in cities like New York City, London and Los Angeles was super expensive. The average cost of a date was topping around $226 in Los Angeles, $144 in New York City and £127 in London. Ouch! Virtual dating has been embraced and normalised as a way of pre screening dates, saving daters hundreds of pounds/dollars.
The months and months of family, work and dating video calls means people are getting pretty comfortable with this way of communicating. Pre screening dates looks set to continue well into the post pandemic era as the new ‘first date’ scenario. Great news as it will save us time, money and effort.
It isn’t a substitute for that real-life date, but it doesn’t need to be. The dating journey has evolved. The video date is an added stage – a ‘pre-date’. GQ describe it as ‘a chemistry test that also helps you break the ice before committing to a meet up.’
Any potential downsides to this? Yes, I think we may end up not giving some people a chance who perhaps we ought to. Connecting virtually is not the same as connecting in real life so we may end up missing out on some potential great matches.
The importance of trust
Pre-pandemic, there was a big hook up culture especially in the cities and especially on the swipe-style dating apps.
Being able to establish a sense of trust with your date has always been important – but lots of people have continued to date someone even when red flags were flying everywhere. Many people even marry people, ignoring red flags relating to trust. But now, since Covid-19, trust has taken on a whole, new significance. Suddenly, dating someone who is lying to you could risk the life of a loved parent or older relative.
Being able to trust your date or partner now underpins everything.
When you’re dating, it’s always important to work out your boundaries and dealbreakers and let your date know what these area as you need to. It has been very important to set boundaries for your dates since the first lockdown last March. These boundaries may have rolled back or pushed forward depending on infection rates, Tier systems etc. but they should always be there.
Your boundaries might include some or all of the following:
- taking regular Covid-tests
- agreeing to be physically exclusive with your date after a certain period of time
- a period of quarantining before forming a ‘social bubble’
- social distancing on dates
- wearing a mask at times
How your dates respond to these boundaries are very important and, indeed, useful. They can help you uncover more about their core values and whether they align with yours or not. Do they embrace them? Try and wriggle out of them? Pay close attention. Their response is telling you who they are.
Goodbye hook-ups, hello slow dating.
Pre-pandemic, there was a big, thriving hook-up culture, especially on the ‘swiping’ dating apps. And a lot of dissatisfied daters.
We have had more time to get to know people during the pandemic. It has provided an opportunity to get more introspective. People are invested in learning more about themselves. They’ve had more time to figure out what makes them happy. What they’d like to avoid.
Are we seeing the death knoll ringing for hook-up culture, given this need for trust.
According to data from the big dating apps, the pandemic is definitely influencing daters’ relationship goals.
In a Bumble survey, 46% of people said they were looking for something serious after experiencing loneliness in lockdown. And 52% of the Hinge community said they were ready for a long-term serious relationship. This is a huge shift. For now, anyway. About half the dating community is thinking seriously about finding a deeper connection.
In fact, the Kinsey Institute have just surveyed thousands of Americans – in partnership with Esquire and Cosmopolitan – about their ‘pandemic sex lives‘ over this past year and what it means for the future.
And the results are in. More than half of their survey respondents say they’re just not into one-night stands anymore. And 64% say they’re less interested in having more than one partner at a time. Roughly the same number are prioritising – once regular outdoor dating resumes – the search for a deep connection over a quick hit.
Wow. This is great news for all of you who are so over the hook-up scene. The future of online dating is looking up. How long this will last post pandemic though, is not known. But I think it’s important to realise that people are asking themselves big questions like, ‘Is this someone I could handle another lockdown with?”. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to get things into perspective. And a deep connection is high on that priority list.
Is Dating with Intention the future of online dating?
Many people are now being more intentional about who they spend time with. They are craving deeper connections. Lockdown has taken away the noise and craziness of regular life, opening up space to get to know the people we are dating in a different way. People are focusing on getting to know them emotionally and mentally before connecting physically.
Many are shifting into slow dating, it seems. People want to take their time getting to know someone before deciding if they want to pursue something with them or have sex with them. And the research results touched on above suggests this may last long after lockdown has ended.
Words and photos by Saskia Nelson for Hey Saturday.