Science Technology

Love in lockdown is not impossible, but how will it change?

Dating in the midst of a pandemic is difficult. No clubs and bars, jostling bodies and blacking out on the pavement. So, with cuffing season upon us once again, people are turning to online dating services to find that special match. But with the world so unfamiliar, the rules of engagement have changed.

In these lonely times, more of us are looking for an online start to love than ever before. Usage of dating apps has surged. Especially among younger people, subscriptions to dating services have been booming: for the Match group (who own Tinder and Hinge among others), subscriptions grew by over 10%, adding an extra million users over last year.

As restrictions have eased, usage has begun to drop, although not to pre-Covid levels yet. The pandemic hasn’t unseated in-person dating as the status quo, instead digital dating retains its position as a tool which speeds up the process of finding that in-person date. Even if the current changes are temporary, that does not make them any less stark.

Not a fan of video calling? This isn’t the year for you. While last year it would have seemed unthinkable to start FaceTiming after the second date, some dating apps have been rushing to include in-app video chat. Maybe we should have been doing this earlier: being able to check that the person you’re going to meet is who they say they are beforehand seems like a big win for avoiding creeps.

However, to some extent old habits are hard to break. An Edinburgh humanities student that I interviewed said that they tried to avoid video calling as much as possible, only picking up the camera if they had already been on a few good dates already. We don’t seem to be a generation that enjoys picking up the phone – nothing gives me stress like calling customer support – so this is another reason why you shouldn’t expect digital dating to become the status quo of love.

In a YouGov survey, 55 per cent of people said that they wouldn’t go on a second date with someone who didn’t adhere to social distancing rules. Therefore, for most of us during a lockdown, digital dating is the only thing we want, no matter how painful it can be to try and get Netflix Party to work with a stranger. What’s it like to be in the other 45 per cent? One student admitted to me that they would break coronavirus restrictions (notably, only if their date was hot enough to warrant the risk).

Not everybody is getting in on the craze though. A finance apprenticeship student I spoke to from London explained that he hasn’t signed up for any online dating as it feels too impersonal and too easy to get emotionally hurt. There are lots of us who would rather wait, which is probably why stocks of the Match group fell at the beginning of the pandemic, even if they have recovered since.

It’s fair to say that for those who want to date during this pandemic, digital is the go-to for finding that special someone, or just someone to fill the loneliness hole. However, don’t expect it to replace the first awkward coffee date — it is a temporary solution, out of pure necessity. This too shall pass.

Illustration: Katie Moore

By Nick Bush

Nick (he/they) is the current Editor-In-Chief at The Student. The paper is uniquely situated to act as a common voice for an otherwise atomistic student community and provide a central place to celebrate and support the identities of the student population. Outside of the purely editorial perspective, Nick has been deeply involved with the construction of the paper itself and established a new design language in 2021 that is being rolled out across our digital and print platforms. Sitting on the committee as Head of Digital for the third year in a row, Nick has also designed and developed four iterations of the website and introduced a range of internal services.