By day two of social distancing, I’d already noticed a difference in online dating. I opened my Hinge app to find 56 notifications. Unusual, I thought, and for a moment I was flattered. Then I realised I wasn’t necessarily more popular than usual: suddenly everyone was stuck at home with idle thumbs.
This is the time of the year where I thought I would be dating more. The arrival of spring and promise of summer thaws us somewhat. The post-hibernation hunger for human connection means our social lives get more active, flocking to parks and al fresco dinners, and our appetite for dating increases.
Yet as we’re being advised to not leave our homes in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, unless in exceptional circumstances, any hopes of summer love feel abruptly cancelled. Or could it mean a new dawn for online dating? The end of time wasting, conversations going nowhere, ghosting? Only time will tell.
People have certainly come out of the woodwork. I have noticed how my matches want to talk more. The conversation is no longer surface level, with generic questions about work and what we got up to over the weekend, but has shifted slightly deeper: reflections on how we’re feeling, how we’re spending our time and what the plans are for the year.
And I’m not alone. Friends have forwarded me essay-length messages from men on dating apps and social media; others have noticed their exes getting back in touch. More people want to call; we’ve all downloaded Houseparty to play games.
Dating apps are evolving to cope with the shifting demand and habits. Bumble, which has seen a 35% increase in messages, has launched in-app video calling, while Hinge says 70% of its users are up for a digital date. The period has also seen new apps emerge such as OKZoomer, launched in response to Covid-19, with the tagline ‘where you can love everyone…at least six feet apart’.
“We are human creatures who seek connection with people,” says Ammanda Major, head of quality service and clinical practice at Relate, the UK’s relationship charity. “People are perhaps looking for things that make them feel good and happy in these difficult times. Online dating could be one of the ways to achieve that.”
London-based marketing consultant Priscilla McGregor-Kerr, 25, recently went viral after tweeting about a Facetime date. Her date sent her £15 on Monzo to buy herself a bottle of wine and later that night she sat in her bedroom chatting with him for three hours – a very modern love story.