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Will Social Distancing Cause A Dating App Surge?

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Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended self-isolation, dating while social distancing has looked like fewer in-person meet-ups and a lot more data usage. And while that includes cheeky snaps sent between people who are already seeing each other, as well as hours logged over FaceTime by couples in long-term relationships, you shouldn't count out a dating app surge just yet.

According to Michael Kaye, the global communications manager for OkCupid, the app saw a 188% increase in people mentioning "coronavirus" in their profiles between January and February and a 71% increase in mentions between January and March. And after a noticeable spike in profile registrations, Maria Sullivan, Vice President of Dating.com, the site polled users and discovered that 82% of singles had turned to online dating during the coronavirus outbreak.

A representative from Bumble also pointed to a surge in folks reaching out from afar. From March 13 to 27, the app saw a 93% increase in Bumble's Voice Call and Video Chat usage, with the average chat lasting about 30 minutes — up from 15 minutes earlier in the month. Bumble also reported a 21% increase in messages sent, as well as an overall increase in “quality chats," which means people have been chatting longer.

Tinder has also shared that many of their subscribers have been using the Passport feature, which allows users to connect from outside their perimeter, a representative tells Bustle. The premium feature will be free to all members through April 30, with the hope that more people will be able to check in with each other.

The trend nods to a new reality, where social distancing begs for virtual connectivity. But are users reaching out because they're lonely and looking for love? Or are they swiping away because they're just plain bored?

If I match with someone close by, I could even quarantine with them.

Keaton, 25, tells Bustle that chatting with strangers on dating apps has served as a distraction from working at home, burning through movies, and going a bit stir-crazy. "It feels like there are not only more people using apps at the moment but that they're also more engaged," he says.

But not all users are messaging matches with idle thumbs. Katie, 24, is hoping that because everyone is confined to their homes right now, there will be more people swiping online, which ups her chance of making a real connection. "If I match with someone close by, I could even quarantine with them," she tells Bustle.

If your true intention is to find a meaningful match, Dr. Jess O’Reilly, a dating coach, and Astroglide’s resident sexologist, suggests skipping the small talk and diving straight into a deeper conversation. Learn as much as you can about the people you click with, even if you can't sit across from them in a candlelit restaurant. And a few dating apps are making that easier on users as well — again, Bumble has developed voice call and video chat features, and Tinder has issued an in-app health risk notice about meeting up during a pandemic.

But Keaton says he'd take Tinder's warning with a grain of salt. "I really have no qualms about meeting up with one person face-to-face and chatting over a cocktail," he says. "I'll just bring my own hand sanitizer."

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, call NHS 111 in the UK or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.

Experts:

Michael Kaye, global communications manager for OkCupid

Maria Sullivan, VP of Dating.com

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, dating coach and Astroglide’s resident sexologist

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