The Big Bounceback: Dating Apps

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Our series The Big Bounceback explores how industries are coming back as the world reopens. In this edition, we look at dating apps. As people are allowed to come together for in person dates, many experts are predicting a summer of love.

Single people have had a tough year during the pandemic – many were locked down alone and had to rely on virtual dating to socialize. 

As the world reopens, the potential for IRL dating has returned. Dating app users are saying that they want to get back out there and go out on dates again after a year of virtual flirtation.

“This summer is going to be a huge moment for online dating,” said Melissa Hobley, Global Chief Marketing Officer at OkCupid. “At OkCupid we’re in the business of finding love for people around the world, and after a year like 2020, people don’t want to be alone anymore. And women especially are really ready to date again. Ladies have become more active and engaged in their dating lives, and it’s really paying off for them – conversations initiated by women on OkCupid tend to last more than double the length of those started by men. So ladies, this is your year to send that first message and take control of your dating life.” 

Not only did the pandemic impact how single women communicate, it also affected user behaviors shift across the board from. OkCupid said that they are seeing hookup culture give way to deeper, more meaningful connections with more than 8 in 10 daters on the service revealing that they are looking for a steady partner after the pandemic. Some 27% of those people have changed their mind due to last year’s experiences. 

“So as the world reopens, we’re not only expecting a boom in dating but really a rise in more thoughtful connections,” Hobley continued. “Singles are looking for someone who is aligned with their values and beliefs. It’ll be less about ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ and more about ‘Black Lives Matter advocate, climate change activist, and voter.’”

With this in mind, dates may look more like daytime hangouts outside than evening meetups at a bar. “Now that we can safely be outside, as long as you’re fully vaccinated and following CDC guidelines, we’re also seeing people get more creative with their date ideas,” said Hobley. “After a year stuck at home, almost 4 in 10 people on OkCupid said their ideal post-pandemic date is anything outdoors. This was the most popular choice, followed by coffee and drinks, dinner or a movie, or hanging out at someone’s home – so ditch the typical drinks date and opt for a hike upstate, rollerblading at the pier, or kayaking on the lake.”

Seventy percent of Match users are ready to put themselves out there as much as possible this coming summer with 69% feeling more confident in who they are looking for after the past year, according to the company’s Summer of Love survey. While 65% of those surveyed said they are not interested in hookups or casual sex, 35% said they are open to it, and another 57% of singles said they want to have sex this summer.

"It’s no secret that singles are ready to get out after being cooped up all year (who isn’t?),” said Ayni Raimondi, VP of Brand at Match. “At Match, we’re predicting a Summer of Love. But in more ways than you might think. For the singles who aren’t looking to go back to the old way of dating, mindlessly swiping through folks looking for something more casual, but instead found themselves through a year of solitude ready to find a meaningful relationship or partner – Match is more attractive than ever before. Match is where they’ll be able to meet other people looking for the same thing.”

But virtual dating did not eliminate the playing field. In fact, Match had a record-setting year in terms of user activity, engagement and dates happening through the app. The company expects some of the features that daters came to know and love during the pandemic, like Vibe Check which lets singles meet on video and test their chemistry IRL, have become the new normal.

"We’ve seen from the research that one of the biggest changes that occurred to singles during the pandemic, is that they’ve reevaluated their dating approach and many have become more motivated and purposeful in their search for love,” said Raimondi. “So we hope that if they want a fling or few this summer, that they will indulge. But when they’re ready for that meaningful connection, Match – and our other members looking to find their person – will be waiting."

Tinder has also found that virtual dates may continue among its user base even when IRL dates are an option. 

“We’re finding that the digital dates that became popular out of necessity during quarantine may also be here to stay,” said Nicole Parlapiano, VP of Marketing, North America at Tinder. “Many have found them to be a good temperature check before committing to an in-person meeting. In fact, 40% of Gen Z Tinder members say they will continue to go on digital dates, even as date spots re-open."

Still, overall the Tinder community is also looking to get back out there. "We know people are eager to get back out there to make new connections and have new experiences,” said Parlapiano. “The term ‘go on a date’ hit an all time high in U.S. Tinder bios in February 2021. This is especially true for Gen Z daters, who missed a lot of opportunities to experience traditional 'firsts' like prom or on-campus activities during the pandemic.”

Gen Z, which accounts for over 50% of Tinder's member base, values transparency, authenticity, and general openness in their lifestyle choices, according to the company’s data. 

“We see these values influencing the post-pandemic dating landscape,” Paralapiano said. “We’re noticing trends on the platform that show singles will be more honest with their intentions, and place less pressure on dating as a whole. We’ve seen an increase in members mentioning ‘boundaries’ and ‘consent’ on their profiles, and the number of daters looking for ‘no particular type of relationship’ was up nearly 50%.”

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