Tatiana Lim-Tom was never a fan of dating apps during the school year. She busied herself with her studies, her family and extracurricular obligations. But COVID-19 had different plans for her.
“The boredom took over and I just ended up downloading Tinder,” said Lim-Tom, a senior biology major from Lawrenceville.
Since transitioning to online courses, University of Georgia students have had to develop more nontraditional ways to meet new people, both platonically and romantically. With students on lockdown in their homes, the shift from daily in person social interaction to none has been difficult to adjust to.
“The biggest issue with social distancing and dating now is not meeting up in person. In Athens, everyone is gone. You can still get matches every now and then, but I don’t think anyone has a real mindset to date right now,” said Zaria Hunter, a senior animal science major from Woodstock.
Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have implemented new features to help users with physically-isolated dating. The apps have begun to encourage users to not meet up with their matches and to practice proper social distancing.
Bumble specifically has taken measures to emphasize the "in-app dating experience," including the expansion of distance filters, according to a representative speaking on behalf of the company in an email. Another measure the company has introduced is a "Virtual Dating" badge, which is designed to outwardly indicate that a user is okay with chatting on the app and going directly to a voice call.
The company's U.S. user data has shifted during the pandemic, the representative said. Between March 13 and 27, Bumble has seen an 84% increase in voice calls and video chats, along with an 8% spike in 18-to-24-year-old-user registration.
Though engagement has increased, some students interviewed still desire in person activities. Some students have found it challenging to form relationships online with no clear vision of when they will meet their matches in person.
“Talking to people online, you either do one of two things. You either don't have that emotional connection that happens, or you create too many situations in your head,” said Daniel Carter, a junior MFA theater design major from Logan, Utah.
Students who have been using dating apps before COVID-19 have even seen shifts in how people are communicating during their time in quarantine. Montana Dean, a senior theater major from Temple, Georgia, said Tinder was previously viewed just for hookups. Now that people are home, users are now more genuine when talking to new people.
Ellie Reingold, a sophomore animation major from Decatur, has become creative with her social distancing tactics to maintain healthy relationships. Instead of communicating through screens, she’s taken to snail mail.
“It’s not ideal but I’m learning to accept the new normal. My boyfriend and I started to mail each other letters just to do something fun,” Reingold said.