Looking for love? Wash your hands first, say dating apps

Dating apps are adapting to love in the time of coronavirus, warning their users of the elevated risks of going on dates while trying to ensure they do not switch off entirely when the time comes to self-isolate.

OKCupid, which prides itself on its data-led approach to dating, asking users to fill in detailed questionnaires and matching them with others who give similar answers, has sent a push alert to every user asking them an additional question: “Does coronavirus affect your dating life?”

The company was prompted to push the question after noticing a rise of 262% in the number of mentions of the virus in UK profiles between January and March, a spokesperson said, leading to as many mentions on all profiles during the first week of March alone as there were in all of February.

UK users are not – yet – deterred by the virus from going out on dates, with 93% saying that they would carry on seeing people in real life, but the virus has apparently prompted people to spend more time looking for love: OkCupid has had a 7% increase in new conversations over the last five days, the company said.

Other dating apps have taken a softer approach, at least for the time being. Tinder has started warning users of the risks of meeting in person, with an interstitial screen that pops up advising users to wash their hands, carry hand-sanitiser, avoid touching their face, and “maintain social distance in public gatherings”.

Hinge has yet to mention the virus in the app itself, limiting its awareness efforts to winking promotional tweets resembling a public service announcement warning users to “wash your hands before you steal your Hinge date’s fries. It’s okay to ‘share’ fries, but not germs.”

As for the users themselves, the virus is taking a toll – of sorts – on some. Nicole Byer, the host of the podcast Why Won’t You Date Me?, tweeted last week that “I was talking to a man on Tinder and I told him I was travelling and he said ‘with this coronavirus!?’ Then unmatched me.”


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