- Social distancing and quarantining have been mandated across the US and many countries worldwide. But what does that mean for dating?
- Since the coronavirus was deemed a pandemic, online dating has taken off. Messaging on Hinge increased 30%, and Tinder saw its biggest day ever on March 29, with over 3 billion swipes.
- Manny Fidel, host of the “What’s Next” series, talks to love-life coach Matthew Hussey, anthropologist Helen Fisher, and pathogen expert Syra Madad about what the coronavirus pandemic means for dating.
- Hussey and Fisher believe this is a great time to be dating. Sex and money are off the table, people have more time to talk, and, biologically, it’s entirely possible to make a romantic connection digitally.
- Madad warns of the highly transmittable nature of coronavirus and its asymptomatic carriers. Her advice to new daters is to keep your distance and wear a mask. If you want to meet in person, weigh the health risks and have a real conversation about whether your partner has been smartly social distancing.
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The following is a transcription of the video:
Manny Fidel: Because of quarantine and social distancing, a lot of us haven’t been on a real date in a long time. Some of us longer than others. [awkward silence] I’ve been struggling with virtual dating, so I decided to get some expert help.
Helen Fisher: I’m Dr. Helen Fisher. I’m a biological anthropologist. I’m also chief science adviser to Match.com.
Matthew Hussey: I’m Matthew Hussey. I’m a love-life coach.
Fidel: He’s a big YouTube star.
Syra Madad: I’m Dr. Syra Madad. I am a special pathogens specialist for a healthcare system in New York City.
Fidel: She was also in the Netflix series “Pandemic.” I called up some friends to see how they feel. Do you feel comfortable on dating apps right now?
Irene Kim: I wasn’t good at the apps before quarantine. I’m not any better now. So, like, maybe this video is the answer.
Fidel: Would you keep dating if quarantine just continues?
John: For me it’s not healthy to just sit by myself indefinitely inside.
Kim: Honestly, I am very desperate at this point, so, like, I’m trying everything. That’s why I agreed to this video.
Fidel: On behalf of my friends, I brought some questions to the experts. A lot of us are wondering, is it actually possible, Matthew, and Helen, if you want to chime in, to make a romantic connection online?
Fisher: The moment you look at somebody, two brain regions become activated. A brain region linked with trying to assess their personality, and another brain region linked with, you know, whether they are physically attractive to you. Instantly when you look at somebody, even on a video, those things begin to work.
Fidel: Do you think you can tell if you’re attracted to someone right away on Zoom? Or, like, on a video call? Everyone said no, except Maximiliano.
Maximiliano Goiz: You’re meeting someone in a very vulnerable state, and that could cause somebody to be more attractive, ’cause you’re learning different layers of them as a person.
Fidel: Should we be dating during this pandemic?
Madad: It is primarily spread, you know, through respiratory droplets. And this is why it’s important to maintain that physical distance. Because you don’t know who has it and who doesn’t. And so, if we act irresponsibly and go out and want to meet people, well then we’re gonna create new chains of transmission.
Fidel: All right. Sounds like we have to stick to online dating only.
Hussey: Most people weren’t going out and meeting anyone last year either. People are not looking up at the room and who they can go and talk to; they’re looking down at their phones. This time has only sped up a trend of people rushing to the easiest way to flirt with someone without risking getting rejected.
Fidel: Matthew’s right. A lot of people were online dating before quarantine. Last year, over 30 million people were online dating in the US alone. Did you use dating apps before the pandemic? Everyone is familiar with the dating apps. OK, everyone did. So did I.
And it’s only gotten more popular as people have been stuck inside. On Bumble, messages sent saw a 20% increase in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. Over on Hinge, there was a 30% increase in messages sent. Tinder saw its biggest day ever on March 29, with over 3 billion swipes in just one day.
Celia Skvaril: 3 billion people in general is a lot to think about.
Hussey: We have to be very careful not to go to extremes. You know, “My dating life is on hold until further notice.” That to me is overkill. If you continue to meet people and put yourself out there, even in safe and responsible ways, your love life can still change in an instant.
Fisher: Bottom line is I think it’s a very good time to date. Money and sex are off the table, people have time to talk, and there’s something to talk about. We’re seeing a new stage in the dating process. So it’s an opportunity to really get to know somebody before you have the first date. And so by the time you do have the first date, it’s gonna be much more meaningful.
Fidel: So, this is interesting, because on Tinder messages got 30% longer over quarantine. So people are getting a little bit deeper with their conversations.
Fisher: And the beauty of this is you’re gonna have those conversations before you get into bed and the kissing starts.
Fidel: All right, so, our experts seem to be really good at talking theoretically. So I want to throw a wrench into this. Here’s my dating profile. Go easy on me.
Fisher: We have no idea who you are. Most people recommend that you have at least five photographs, and you should brag a little. You’ve got a good job. Show people that job. Show people the hobbies that you’re doing.
Hussey: I’m not seeing anything but that sense of humour. I’m waiting for what I call unique pairing. If you can find someone who can be very sexy in one moment, and then very goofy in next, that’s a very attractive pairing. The more unique pairings you can demonstrate quickly, the more attraction you’re gonna get at the outset in what is a very crowded marketplace.
Fidel: Yeah, I’ll be making changes to my profiles. I’ll update you guys on what happens, but don’t hold your breath. Syra, is there something that you should put on your dating profile to acknowledge that you want to be socially distant?
Madad: I think that’s important because I think it’s good to show that you are abiding by public-health measures. That you want to not only keep yourself safe, but you want to keep other people safe. And I think if you put things like, you know, “I enjoy watching a movie,” or, “I enjoy coffee,” things like that, where people can show that, you know, you’re staying home and you’re doing these things.
Hussey: The harder part now is when you actually get to a first date. You’re not going out to meet someone; you’re maybe having a date on FaceTime or on Zoom.
Fidel: Have any of you been on a Zoom date? No video-call dates, interesting. On OKCupid, virtual dates have gone up 700%.
Eva Lopez: The thought of going on a Zoom date just feels awkward to me and like something that I wouldn’t want to do.
Abby Tang: I don’t imagine a Zoom date is gonna be any more awkward than a regular date. I get to wear fewer pants.
Hussey: We know that conversation is a powerful attraction tool. We know that visually being able to see someone, which, just like we are right now, we still have the benefit of. These things are all massive attraction triggers.
Fidel: Are you allowed to treat this like dates in the past where you can just date somebody if you just want sex? Does it necessarily have to be a romantic thing?
Hussey: For some people it’s sexting, for other people it’s sending photos, for other people it’s taking their clothes off on a video call together.
Fisher: Sex on the internet, I mean, you’re not gonna get pregnant, you’re not gonna catch any diseases, you’re not gonna walk the walk of shame.
Fidel: OK, let’s say we take it past the Zoom date. I mean, are we allowed to be meeting people in person?
Madad: The biggest weapon that we have against COVID-19, in the absence of a vaccine or a therapeutic, is our behaviour. If you want to see somebody, keeping that six-foot distance. You know, wearing a face mask. Not coming into physical contact with them.
Hussey: Syra, can I ask you a question? Is that tantamount to saying you’re asking anyone who is currently single to be celibate until there’s a vaccine?
Madad: Not necessarily. If you know that somebody has been responsible and has not gone out to 10 different places and they themselves have been careful in terms of, you know, sheltering in place, isolating themselves, then maybe there’s some sort of confidence there, that you know that, OK, if I meet this person, they potentially may not be infected. But again, you’re taking a risk.
Fidel: Can you get COVID-19 from having sex?
Skvaril: It depends what you’re doing, but…[laughs]
Goiz: I’m sure there’s droplets somewhere there. [all laugh]
Fidel: OK, gonna shake things up one more time, because we have a surprise guest question.
Kyle Kerchaert: Hey there. My name’s Kyle, and I’ve got a few questions for the dating experts. I’ve had asthma my entire life, and now that we’re in the middle of this pandemic, it’s giving me a lot of anxiety and a lot of uncertainty about what that means for my dating life. How do you recommend even approaching this subject with partners? And, second, is dating something that I can even do?
Fisher: I always start with myself. And so if I were her, I would say, well, you know, I’ve been tested a lot of various times, and because I do have asthma, I would really like to know whether you’ve been tested.
Madad: You just want to make sure that you’re being safe and that you’re keeping your distance from people. So certainly not, you know, kissing anybody or having that physical contact.
Fidel: Helen, what happens if you are on a date with someone and they’re not willing to have that conversation about whether they have been tested for COVID?
Fisher: I think that’s a dead giveaway that they’re not gonna be able to tell you about other things about themselves too.
Fidel: OK, let’s sum this all up. All right, we learned all this great stuff from you guys, and I’m actually feeling positive about online dating now. But we need some actionable steps. So, based on everything we’ve heard, here are some guidelines for dating during COVID-19.
Madad: I think it’s important to stay informed. One of the issues I think, and something that I’m certainly very concerned about, is the psychological aspect of all of this. Never feel as if you can’t go to a healthcare professional or healthcare provider to talk about any of your issues, whether it’s mental health or anything else.
Hussey: On a dating app, the best thing you can do is either talk about things that excite and interest you or be a little vulnerable about things.
Fisher: After you’ve met nine people, stop. Get off the dating site and get to know at least one of those people better.
Hussey: Someone is not gonna get to know all those things about you through text. And while the conversation may start by text, you have to be brave enough and bold enough to graduate that conversation to a phone call, a FaceTime, a Zoom call, a voice memo even.
We’re in it. It’s happening. Now let’s talk about movies. Now let’s talk about books we’re reading. Now let’s talk about what’s going on in our lives.
You go meet someone in person. As soon as I see this person I can say, “Normally I’d give you a giant hug, and I wish I could, ’cause you look really handsome. But I am having to be extra careful, especially as someone with asthma.”
Madad: Are they an individual that doesn’t care about what public-health recommendations are? They think that COVID-19 is something of a fluke. They think that they’re invincible. So, I think for me, just first knowing and having that trust and confidence knowing that this individual has been responsible is a big thing. And that at the end of the day, we wanna make sure that we’re protecting ourself and other people around us.
Fidel: I’m gonna take all of this back to my friends and see what they think.
Lulu Nieva Z: It really made me think about the fact that this will not get over soon.
John: It’s just, like, one of these things where there’s all these circles of accountability you kind of have to pay attention to.
Lopez: Having talked to them long enough to really build up that trust.
Kim: I think both of us having tests to make sure we’re both healthy.
Goiz: It’s part of our new normal, and that’s just something that we’re gonna have to accept.
Fidel: All right, so, after talking with everyone, I learned a lot about dating during COVID-19, and I hope you guys did too. But dating is just one of a million ways our lives have changed during this pandemic. So I want to ask you guys what you think our next episode should be about. Let us know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna hit Tinder and just indiscriminately swipe right for about an hour. Peace!
Hussey: Might I say, you’ve gone to very elaborate measures to upgrade your dating profile to bring us all here today together. [Manny laughs] Is this even airing?
Fidel: You got me. [laughs]
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