How the Pandemic has Changed Dating Culture
Written by Taly Matiteyahu, CEO of Blink
Before the pandemic, a standard relationship for people under 30 years old involved meeting on an app, through a friend, or during day-to-day life. After dating casually for a few months, the couple would have a conversation to “define the relationship” and potentially make it official. But, as with most aspects of day-to-day life, the pandemic has changed this pattern. While some of the changes to the dating process may be temporary, some are here to stay.
Nearly 50% of people between 18 and 29 use dating apps. Despite prevalent use, many app users feel the online dating process is superficial and that it’s hard to make deep connections. It’s common for app matches to go unexplored (less than 10% of swipe app matches are consummated with a message), text conversations to fizzle out, and people to ghost or be ghosted. Part of this is a result of the instant and addictive gratification people feel when matching on dating apps. Another part of it is the fact that online dating is a low investment prospect and people have a sense that “the grass is always greener” elsewhere – why focus on a single connection when there are a dozen, potentially-better ones to be had?
The pandemic has changed the dating scene and broken some patterns that have developed around online dating and dating apps, in some ways for the better. Given the greater difficulty of meeting people in person and the added complications around becoming intimate, the pandemic has forced people to spend more time getting to know one another and have more serious conversations earlier on. With the prospect of a real life date requiring a lot more thought (“Outdoor only? Masks on the entire time? Can we have any physical contact? Can I invite them over if the date goes well?”), people are forced to be more mindful about dating from the very beginning.
With the added complications of an in-person date, many people have turned to virtual dates to kick things off. While not a replacement for a real life date, virtual dating provides the opportunity to get a sense of chemistry and connection in a way that texting cannot – after all, how many times have we had text chemistry with someone only to later discover that we can’t even carry a conversation in person? During a virtual date, you can hear tone of voice, discern sense of humor, and get a sense of whether you might be compatible. The best part? If you don’t have a good time, it won’t feel like you wasted an evening and potentially money in the process.
Most people will have several virtual dates before deciding to meet in person. This has extended the “getting to know you” process that previously would have started during the first in-person date, usually in the wake of surface-level text conversations and/or date coordination. This has contributed to what’s called the “slow love” trend, during which deeper attachments grow. By the time a match reaches an in-person date, there is a degree of intentionality, an existing connection, and a larger sense of investment. The daters have already spoken several times and have discussed the logistics of a COVID-safe date to ensure they feel comfortable. The date itself feels more significant and the time invested is more valuable.
If there is a continued connection after the in-person date, daters tend to jump into committed relationships faster than pre-pandemic days. Lockdowns and social isolation have made many feel lonely and interested in making a relationship work. Furthermore, without distractions like commuting, hanging out with friends, and family events, people are able to spend more time focusing on and evaluating prospective partners, speeding up the early relationship stage.
As distribution of vaccines begins worldwide, there is a sense that things will “go back to normal.” In the case of dating, people will one day return to going out for coffee or grabbing drinks, catching a movie or getting dinner, but due to their convenience and ease, virtual dates are one new pandemic paradigm that are here to stay. They allow people to get to know one another and filter matches in a more time-efficient, wallet-friendly way. They also add a layer of safety and security into the online dating process. While this may mean fewer in-person dates, it does mean those dates will be more intentional, appreciated, and successful.
 Anderson, Monica, et al. “The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 6 Feb. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/06/the-virtues-and-downsides-of-online-dating/.
 Page, Ken. “Swipe Circuitry: How Online Dating Trains Us To Stay Single [EP093].” Deeper Dating Podcast, 20 Nov. 2020, deeperdatingpodcast.com/swipe-circuitry-how-online-dating-trains-us-to-stay-single-ep093/.