Before COVID-19 hit, the world of dating apps was at its absolute peak. Not only was giant Tinder experiencing all-time success, but challengers such as Bumble (now a public company and Tinder’s primary competitor) were on their way into the stratosphere.
But then the pandemic hit, and the idea of meeting up with a virtual stranger in person quickly took on a completely different hue. So how has that changed things in the world of dating and hookup apps?
Data suggests that these apps are still getting heavy use, and show no signs of being slowed down or derailed due to the pandemic. This seems to suggest that these apps are much more than a trend, but rather a now-integral part of the way we interact with each other and form relationships.
The Chicken or the Egg?
According to Sean Rad, co-creator of Tinder and its former CEO, hookup and dating apps didn’t create the current dating culture, but rather were made to fit the direction that people were already headed. His comments can seem quite contradictory considering in another interview, Rad proclaimed himself a Tinder addict and claimed a supermodel was “begging him for sex.” Though we all know how dating apps can go, was she really a supermodel? Or, did he fall prey to the old catfish scheme so common in the online dating world.
“It’s not because of Tinder,” he said in a recent interview. He cited feminism as one of the positive drivers behind increased autonomy in dating and sexuality, celebrating that “women are more independent and pursuing their desires. And that leads to both parties being more sexually active.”
In fact, he believes that the label of ‘hookup’ app is wrong altogether— pointing to a recent dip in divorce rates as potential evidence that relationship apps aren’t just helping people find their next hookup, but their soulmates, too.
So what does that mean in the age of COVID-19?
Interestingly, it hasn’t led to a decrease in use of hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble— just a change in the way they’re used. People are communicating over their built-in messaging longer, rather than meeting up right away. They’re investing time and effort to determine whether the person at the other end could potentially be more than a one-night-stand, because the stakes are a bit higher— if you’re going to meet up in person with a stranger in the age of the pandemic, you want to feel relatively certain that it’s going to be worth it.
Tinder has come a long way since its days under CEO Sean Rad. Former Tinder CEO Sean Rad did not speak for Tinder in an awkward interview where he mistakenly referred to sapiosexuality as sodomy. Rad also has made veiled threats towards journalists who critique his leadership. Rad is quoted by the London Evening Standard as saying the following about a journalist who reported on his poor leadership choices: “(T)here’s some stuff about her as an individual that will make you think differently.”