How apps are shaping the pandemic dating scene

Dating apps are at the heart of COVID relationships

Apps have become young adults’ foundation for dating during the pandemic.

Dating is difficult and frustrating in the best of times. The pandemic has only made the reality of dating worse.

Since the release of Tinder in 2012, many young people have started using dating apps to find romantic relationships and sexual partners. With COVID-19 restrictions stopping people from meeting people in real life, singles are flocking toward dating apps like Hinge, Tinder, and Bumble now more than ever.

“There are for sure more people on dating apps,” Maddy Prosserman, ArtSci ’22, said in an interview with The Journal.

Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest year yet and Hinge’s revenue tripled between 2019 and 2020. Both apps are owned by the same company, Match Group, which also co-founded the online dating website in 1995.


Dating apps like Tinder and Hinge are free to download and use, but users can gain access to valuable new features if they’re willing to pay a monthly fee.

Tinder alone has three levels of premium accounts. The highest tier, Tinder Platinum, costs $80 annually for the ability to see everyone that has liked you, message other users before you match, and “boost” your profile so more users see it. All these features exist with the intention to get users more dates.

And users are more than willing to pay for the ability to get more matches. When paid features were first released in 2017, Tinder quickly became the top-grossing app on Apple’s App Store. As the number of users on dating apps increase, online dating is becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

Research has found that people who are feeling lonely are more likely to compulsively use dating apps.

A study done by Harvard University during the pandemic found that young adults were hit the hardest by loneliness during the pandemic.

36 per cent of participants across all age ranges said they were lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time.” When researchers looked at the 18-25 year old age group, 61 per cent of participants reported being very lonely.

Loneliness has been considered an issue among older adults for decades, but the widespread social isolation of young adults has seen a sharp incline since the pandemic began.

“There's a lot more loneliness in the pandemic, so it could be that a lot of people are only going on apps because they want to find people,” Prosserman said.

Pre-pandemic, many students would use their time at university to take risks in both dating and sex. In 2002, a study found that 72 per cent of sexually active students regretted at least one of their sexual encounters. Over a quarter of these regrets were alcohol-related.

With the increased health risk that comes from gathering during a pandemic, many students are more careful about who they’re spending time with. There are a lot of questions to ask before choosing to meet up with someone in person—including who they been in contact with, their vaccination status, and whether or not they’ve been COVID-safe.

“I'm more selective with who I see because there's more risk involved,” Prosserman said. “It has to be worth it.”

On the other hand, people may be more likely to be rejected for in-person meetings and, more broadly, relationships, since there are more options available.

While their actual algorithm isn’t available to the public, Tinder has given some insight into how their app works. Each profile gets assigned a “desirability ranking” that goes up when people like you. The more people like your profile, the more Tinder will show your profile to others.

In other words, dating apps will work better for you if make profile that’s desirable to others and use the app frequently.

“There's so many more expectations on an app because there's so many options,” Prosserman said. “People are less likely to give people a chance on dating apps because there's an option waiting for you right after you swipe.”


COVID-19 opinions have changed how people swipe, date, and hookup. Since vaccinations have become widely available, dating apps like Hinge now give users the option to indicate their vaccination status on their profiles.

Hinge also gives users the option to display other important beliefs and statuses that may be dealbreakers. Religion, political affiliation, if you want children, and alcohol or drug use can be quickly and easily displayed on your profile. If you’re a premium member, you can even filter out profiles with stances you don’t agree with.

Other dating apps like Bumble have introduced Virtual Date badges for people who prefer to meet virtually, socially distanced, or while masked.

The implementation of video dating software was introduced due to pandemic restrictions, but has also helped alleviate some stress that came with online dating pre-pandemic.

Women, in particular, have long expressed fear about online dating due to the possible dangers of meeting up with a stranger. Now, dating apps have implemented options encouraging users to get to know each other before they meet up in person.

The response to these new options has been positive. Over half of Hinge users surveyed in December 2020 planned on incorporating video dates into their dating life. In 2021, another survey unveiled that video discussions can help users feel more comfortable with the online dating process. 63 per cent of dating app users surveyed said talking over video chat first helped them feel more comfortable before meeting in person.

“I do a lot of Zoom dates or FaceTime dates, so it's more connecting,” Prosserman said.

While dating can be frustrating and draining, it’s also an opportunity to explore your options and have fun.

“Something really fun that I've been doing is on Hinge, I'll put my Hinge location in high population density areas like Nashville, Los Angeles,” she said.

“It actually did teach me a lot […] there are people out there that I just haven't been connecting with.”

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