Dating apps have sought to spark love during the pandemic, new research shows
The traditional is new again
Duguay and his co-authors Christophe Dietzelpostdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, and David Myles, a postdoc at McGill University, began collecting and analyzing data from dating apps beginning in March 2020, when countries began responding to the pandemic. (The eight apps in this study were those marketed primarily to heterosexual populations – data from queer-oriented apps like Grindr and Her are discussed in their other research.)
Most app companies have been quick to seize the opportunities presented by improved video calling technology to standardize virtual dating. Although the term dates back to the 1990s, its meaning has evolved considerably from the textual and electronic connections made at the time. Video technology allows future couples to eat, drink and converse together from their respective homes. It may lack the atmosphere of a restaurant or bar, but it opens up new possibilities for connection.
To keep users coming back even when in-person meetings were difficult or impossible, apps changed how they look and feel. Some have developed their own video call technology and incorporated it into their interfaces. Others have posted lists and tips to spice up virtual dates, created student-specific features, and changed their logos to accentuate the at-home vibe. In general, they kept language light and conversational.
The emphasis on authenticity, love, and romantic messages has also caught the attention of researchers. They write that in a highly unusual time like a global pandemic, the apps appealed to a sense of societal normalcy, emphasizing trust, monogamy and marriage.
“These ideas are very safe and traditional, and many people try to ground themselves in relationships, relationships, and emotional stability,” Dietzel says.
However, as Duguay notes, this presents its own set of problems. For one, it excludes users who aren’t looking for long-term romance. Second, the approach excludes sexual activity and assumes that people should put their sexuality aside during a pandemic. “Now, after two years, we know it’s impossible.”
To see again and again
As societies emerge from the pandemic, researchers believe that dating apps will retain at least some of their new features.
“They’ve invested in the technology, got the message out to people, and the experience is easy and seamless,” says Duguay.
And, Dietzel adds, the inevitable return of in-person dating doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the new messaging embraced by companies like Bumble.
“They can still project certain values, like encouraging their users to slow things down,” he says. “After all, these apps are businesses, and it’s in their interest to keep customers using their sites for as long as possible.”
Read the quoted article:The Year of “Virtual Dating”: Reimagining Dating App Offerings During the COVID-19 Pandemic