The Business of Online Dating (COVID Edition)

Countries around the world have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic in ways that no one would have ever imagined. The global and domestic economies have been emaciated by the ongoing viral assault on the world, crippling industries such as retail, hospitality, and nearly any type of service that requires in-person interactions between service workers and the public.

Expectedly, remote industries such as tech development and support have not seen nearly the devastation that others have. There is one market, though, that has seen unprecedented success: online dating. In a time characterized by unforeseen tragedy, somehow, romance has found its way to the forefront of people’s minds. Like many other businesses, after the coronavirus epidemic passes, the online dating market may never be the same.  

Finding Love in Dark Times

Few people would have thought that such a fearful, chaotic time would leave anyone with the capacity, interest, or willingness to seek out romantic partnerships. After all, numerous studies and public statements were published at the beginning of the viral outbreak, naming mental health as a primary concern for sheltering in place in their homes. 

Many institutions provided guidelines on how to cope with the newfound isolation. Publications were distributed to the masses, directing people on how to healthily overcome the emotional and psychological weight of sudden job loss, anxiety in response to public mandates, and the loss of loved ones. Few would have assumed that a period characterized by such turmoil would lead to the pursuit of butterflies and heart-warming moments; yet, here we are. 

Daniel Ahmadizadeh, CEO of the brand-new dating app, Quarantine Together, said, “We’re not necessarily solving a coronavirus problem. We’re solving a problem of loneliness that happens to be compounded right now because of [the] coronavirus.” Perhaps that shines a light directly on the core of the phenomenon of the online dating boom we are now witnessing. The sudden growth in romantic interest is not necessarily enhanced or made anew by the pandemic, but an escape from present reality. 

Though it may not have been included in the directives published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), online dating has been the psychological and emotional getaway that innumerable people have needed. (Although, rather hilariously, the notion of dating and sexual partnerships was notoriously mentioned by a New York City Health statement, reading, “You are your safest sex partner.”)

So, how are the owners of the world’s leading dating apps acclimating to this recent change?

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A Boom in the Dating World

Pre-pandemic, the virtual dating world, was growing a bit stale. Expert forecasts for downloads and usage of these apps had declined tremendously over the years. For example, in 2019, eMarketer had initially projected a growth rate of 9.8%, later having to cut it back to a mere 5.3%. These estimates represented a measly one-sixth of the growth rate that the industry had experienced back in 2016. 

Remarkably, these weak numbers saw a dramatic turnaround following quarantine orders. Reports showed that the prevalence of online dating had jumped by an unbelievable 82% worldwide at the beginning of March, just about when several countries were introducing or had already implemented shelter-in-place orders. Examples of this swell were best illustrated in some of the industry’s leading platforms:

  • Bumble users exchanged 26% more messages with each other. Conversations on Tinder had extended in duration by an average of 10-30%. 
  • Inner Circle also had a surge in the number of messages sent through the platform, amounting to a 116% increase. 

Many of these apps introduced technologies that facilitated easier communications between users while maintaining compliance with quarantine measures. Hinge gave hopefuls the “Date from Home” video chatting option, while PlentyOfFish did the same with their “LIVE!” feature, allowing live-streaming with mutually-interested pairs. 

With the pandemic seeming as if it will continue for quite some time, perhaps even into 2021 for the United States, these app developers will need to continue to innovate to maintain this explosion in usage. All signs point to continued interest in remote dating to pass the time of sitting lonely at home while the virus rages on.

In a survey conducted by Statista in April of this year, 31% of respondents revealed that they had been using online dating apps at least “Somewhat more.” At the same time, 22% answered that they were using this technology, “Much more” than before the pandemic and quarantine orders. Although occurring alongside one of the worst viral outbreaks in history, the future of online dating looks rather promising. 

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Moving Forward with Remote Romantic Pursuit 

Naturally, one would wonder why the world of online dating has suddenly become so attractive during a time when over 4.8 million people are infected, and more than 158,000 have died from a novel, widespread disease.

When asked about whether they’d continue online dating if quarantine orders were to continue, one participant in a Business Insider interview admitted, “For me, it’s not healthy to just sit by myself indefinitely.” This calls back to the notion that online dating is provided people with a sense of closeness and intimacy that they have lacked due to social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates.

Still, that’s not all. There is something in particular about the psychological and emotional trauma being inflicted upon the masses by the pandemic that is specifically drawing them to these platforms. Matthew Hussy, a prominent Love-Life Coach, gave his perspective on the matter: 

“You’re meeting someone in a very vulnerable state, and that could cause somebody to be more attractive.… This time has only sped up a trend of people rushing to the easiest way to flirt with someone without risking getting rejected.” 

This pandemic pushes people to increase the rate at which they make use of online dating platforms. Still, it also provides a means of emotional and mental stability – albeit, a bit unorthodox. As the public awaits better news regarding COVID-19 infection rates, experts continue to deliver brand-new ways to interact with each other in the virtual, romantic landscape. They encourage users to remain on the online dating path to reduce transmission routes and continue in efforts to flatten the curve. 


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