India is embracing virtual dating, Tinder study shows

The loneliness of the pandemic led to 11% more swipes and 42% more matches per member, the report said (Photo: Bloomberg)
The loneliness of the pandemic led to 11% more swipes and 42% more matches per member, the report said (Photo: Bloomberg)

Summary

With in-person dating becoming risky, people turned to dating apps to continue socially interacting with others. While born out of necessity, digital dating has been embraced as the new normal

NEW DELHI : Not only are Indians spending more time online looking for love, they are also engaging with potential partners in ways that are different from the pre-pandemic days.

According to Tinder’s Future of Dating report, users engaged in conversations 32% longer in February this year than a year ago. The loneliness of the pandemic led to 11% more swipes and 42% more matches per Tinder member, the company said. In addition, daters embraced the new normal, with nearly half of Tinder members video-chatting with a match amid the pandemic.

The findings are based on aggregated Tinder app activity between January 2020 and February 2021, besides responses from 2,000 singles in India surveyed between September and November 2020 and 5,000 members in the US in May and August 2020.

Further, bios or the short descriptions that first come up with a potential match’s profile saw more mentions of topical issues, indicating that users were open to discussing mental health and privacy-related concerns and personal portrayal becoming more real. While Tinder does not listen to conversations, it can still access their bios. Mentions of ‘anxiety’ grew 31%, ‘normalize’ grew 15 times, ‘boundaries’ by 19% and ‘consent’ by 11% over the past year, according to an analysis of aggregated data.

Tinder members used their bios to clarify expectations: the phrase ‘wear a mask’ went up 100 times through the pandemic. Seventy-one percent of the 2,000 Indian singles surveyed said they are open with their hygiene preference before meeting a date. Sixty-six percent said knowing their date’s mask-wearing habits before a meeting is important. A similar percentage agreed to socially distance when deciding to meet a date.

Users in the GenZ cohort (18-25 year olds) are also choosing to keep things fluid and not define a relationship as serious or in other specific terms, the report said. Sixty-two percent of users expressed their unwillingness to commit and would rather define the relationships on their terms. Users utilized the pandemic for seeking more open-ended relationships instead of the conventional terms of dating.

One out of every three Gen Z Indians feels lonely due to a lack of social interactions (35%) and believes they’ve had to hit a pause in their lives (34%). Gen Z Indians cited ‘making new connections’, ‘finding friends in their communities’ and ‘looking for fun hangout buddies’ as key reasons to swipe. With in-person dating becoming risky, people turned to dating apps to continue socially interacting. While born out of necessity, digital dating has been embraced as the new normal, with many singles appreciating the ability of digital dates to lower the pressure associated with getting to know someone. Sixty-eight percent found it easier to make connections online, 67% said meeting new people online was liberating, and 60% felt less judged while interacting.

As people are more inclined to seek meaningful connections, virtual dating will become more important now as a large degree of trust must be formed before meeting in person, according to executives at the dating app.

“Users certainly are more cautious in meeting in-person now, and that’s why leading dating apps have introduced questions that specify if users prefer ‘virtual dating’ or ‘social distancing with mask’. With lockdown-related curbs on movement, dating app users want to first explore a ‘connection’ before meeting in person, but it is too early to conclude if this practice would lead to a change in mindset in the long run," Parul Bhandari, a sociologist specializing in the study of marriage and intimacies had said in an earlier interview

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