Match of the day: online dating during a pandemic

This article is a part of our series Love in the Time of Corona. If you have any interesting or scandalous love, relationship, or sex stories of your own during the pandemic, reach out to us! We’d love to hear all about it

In a world where you see the cashiers at your local Sainsbury’s more than your actual friends, the prospects of finding a romantic partner can often seem quite bleak. So, for many, dating apps have become increasingly significant in their pursuits of love, sex and everything in between.

Tinder received the most swipes ever recorded in the app’s history on the 29th of March 2020, and this figure of 3 billion swipes in 24 hours is proof that online dating became a popular quarantine hobby, and one that is slightly less Instagram-worthy than banana bread.

This popularity is sure to have been more prevalent amongst the student community, due to the sudden shift from being surrounded by peers of your age to being stuck at home with your parents and younger siblings, no longer allowed to leave the house.When asked why they joined dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Bumble during the pandemic, two second years at the University of Edinburgh gave various reasons.

Whilst for both students the initial reason for joining was partly the boredom brought about by sitting on the sofa all day, they both admitted there was an element of validation seeking on these apps.
If you have ever used an app of this sort, you will understand what they mean when they describe the almost instant self-confidence boost brought about by a match. The feeling of flirting with a friend at a flat party has been replaced by the ping of a notification from someone you may have never met.

In some ways, it feels like dating apps have become just another in a long list of places to endlessly scroll. According to dating service, young people aged 18-30 spend on average 20 hours a week on dating apps. That is the same as some part-time jobs.
However, there seems to be a much deeper side to the surge in dating app usage, linked to issues of loneliness rising during the pandemic. This feeling of loneliness seems to be a common theme amongst single students.

Brought about by the fact that we are no longer able to see our loved ones as frequently or in the same way as we could before, these feelings can be combatted by the seemingly never-ending reel of Tinder profiles. For some, this proved to be a very successful way of combatting social isolation.

So, is all this scrolling really that bad? Whilst these apps are oftentimes just a bit (or a lot) of fun, it seems that in actual fact, as the pandemic has progressed, people have been taking them more seriously.

One of the students we spoke to told us that whilst she did not get a dating app with the intention of doing more than talking to some new people and gaining confidence, as lockdowns eased and she returned to Edinburgh for the new term in September, she began to realise this could be the way to start something serious.

Deciding against a virtual date which would probably be interrupted by flatmates singing ABBA loudly in the background or be thwarted by bad connection, she opted, like many students, for a socially distant walk as the preferred first meeting.

After a series of takeaway pints and walks round The Meadows, a relationship that she could never have anticipated began to blossom. These two, who are now in a committed and happy relationship, both admitted that they probably would not have downloaded a dating app prior to quarantine, so may have never met each other.

In a way, the pandemic has taken some of the stigma away from online dating, which maybe before was seen only as a way to sleep around. When bars, clubs and pubs are shut and there are not many ways to meet people, unless of course you fancy that local Sainsbury’s cashier, there seems to be no reason not to try out a dating app. And, there seems no reason to place judgement on others for doing so.

Whilst we are not trying to suggest that dating in a pandemic does not have its difficulties – one first year told us that they had to isolate after a mediocre Hinge date told them they had tested positive – there are definitely silver linings to be found in the changes which have occurred in the world of dating, especially the online one.

We believe that this new year of 2021, although we face many challenges, is about opening yourself up to opportunities you may never have considered before corona. So, if you have been thinking about downloading that app – do it, you never know where it might lead!