In search of love in a pandemic: swipe right for masks, vaccination status and phone conversations

Six weeks ago, Libby swept to the right; messaged and found his match was a bit good.

The pair chatted for a while; got into a fight and finally made a plan to meet. The date was set for a no-pressure meeting at an Auckland art gallery, and Libby was looking forward to it.

Five weeks later, the couple still haven’t met in person. The day before their scheduled date, New Zealand was plunged into their second national lockdown, and it will be at least two more weeks before Auckland drops to Level 2. Even then, that first meeting will likely be different than what Libby was considering.

“We will probably wear masks and stand two meters apart.”

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Masks, vaccination badges and virtual drinks: welcome to meetings in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the streets of the city are deserted at night; the bars are dark and the restaurant doors are closed; New Zealand singles are always busy, maybe not by romantic candlelight, but by dull phone light when they log into dating apps and spend hours chatting with strangers on the internet.

It’s the Kiwis who refuse to let blocks and social distancing get in the way of their search for love, and instead step up their efforts to find a match online.

They are not alone. The Washington Post reported in July that national Google searches linked to the date were at their highest level in five years, and dating app statistics showed a 10-15% increase in user numbers from February to March 2020 .

In New Zealand, online dating app Bumble has just developed the Night In option, where two people can play an interactive game during a video chat after a match. In July, it launched a ‘vaccinated’ badge so that users can share their vaccinated status with potential new partners.

Statistics from Australian app users show 45% more people are asking for potential dates about their vaccine status or symptoms of Covid than in the previous year, and 21% say they wait longer to have sex sex with a new partner.

Spokeswoman Lucille McCart said that while Covid has made courting much more difficult, it has also normalized virtual dating and helped people be clearer about what they really want.

“Around the same time last year, we conducted a survey and found that around 20% of the app’s users were newly single and had broken up during the height of the pandemic. The lockdown caused a lot of people to reevaluate what they wanted, and people are more likely to seek more serious relationships because of what we’ve been through. “

The New Zealanders have stepped up efforts to find a match online during the lockdown.


The New Zealanders have stepped up efforts to find a match online during the lockdown.

It’s a sentiment Aaron agrees with. Like Libby, the future date doesn’t want her last name to be used, although he is happy to describe the search for love in a pandemic: “It’s damn frustrating.”

Single since breaking up with her longtime boyfriend in the 2020 lockdown, the Aucklander has mainly relied on ‘the good old-fashioned way to meet people’ through friends, work and social occasions. . With much of these methods on the cards for the near future, he is putting more effort into his online interactions.

“Normally I would partner up with someone and meet in a few days if the signs were good. Now we’re chatting longer and interacting more – I think that’s actually a positive thing. “

Taking this time means he’s been able to weed out the people he normally would have had to meet to assess, and has a few scheduled dates that he’ll finally be able to meet them in person. In the meantime, there are other positives.

Dating apps have adapted to social distance dating by including vaccine “badges” and offering virtual experiences.


Dating apps have adapted to social distance dating by including vaccine “badges” and offering virtual experiences.

“I watched a movie online with a guy I’m interested in, and he didn’t even need to know that I was wearing pajama pants under my nice shirt. I feel a little guilty that I didn’t tell him… if he reads this, it will be embarrassing.

Aaron’s experience of spending more time talking online is reflected in what another dating platform sees of users.

FindSomeone spokeswoman Millie Silvester said the trends on the website are similar to those during and after the 2020 lockdown.

“When New Zealand first went to Alert Level 4 in 2020, we saw a 29% increase in the number of messages FindSomeone members sent compared to before the lockdown. “

In August, the company saw a 4% increase in the number of new members compared to July and a 17% increase in messages sent.

In Wellington, a future date says she’s sent and received a lot more messages than usual on Tinder – although the ones she receives aren’t of particularly high quality.

“People are definitely more desperate and thirstier than they were before the lockdown, which is a bit sad. “

Single for a few years, the 41-year-old likes to take a break from the pressure of in-person dates. These days, she can lie on the couch eating crisps while texting instead of having to worry about looking her best across a table.

Henry Golding plays the very lovable Tom in the romantic comedy Last Christmas and says “there should be a Tinder for the good guys.”

“I also perfected my selfie game – you have to take the photo from above.”

Vaccination status is a determining factor when it comes to potential dates for many of her peers, and she would not date an essential worker due to concerns about exposure to the virus. Like everyone else, she has a tip to increase your chances online.

“Upload a photo of yourself in your mask. Obviously other photos where we can actually see your face, but the mask goes a long way to show what your views are.

Sasha Madarasz owns Two’s Company, a dating agency for Wellington and Auckland, and says that despite the pandemic and lockdowns she has never been so busy.

“If anything, Covid has made people more determined to find a mate. “

Sasha Madarasz of Two's Company.


Sasha Madarasz of Two’s Company.

Outside of confinement periods, Madarasz meets and selects clients in person before recommending them to a potential match already on his books; these days, it still does – just virtually. Her loving clients have also adapted.

“They spend more time chatting on the phone… texting during the day, which leads them to catch up with a glass of wine on Zoom on a Friday night.”

It also works: “Next week and the week after, there is going to be a rush for first dates. “

Jessica Maxwell, senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Auckland, says it’s no surprise people want or need to connect with a partner during the pandemic.

“Loneliness is on the rise; We’re missing all those little interactions that research shows are important … the neighbor, the barista. Even in the movie Castaway Tom Hanks is so lonely that he befriends a volleyball … not that I’m saying people on Tinder are like that.

She cites a study showing people concerned about Covid-19 were starting to seek financial security and partner loyalty: “A high percentage of people are now looking for ‘that one’ rather than just dating.”

As for Libby, since that canceled date, she and her partner have gone from messaging to phone and video chatting. She looks forward to the eventual reunion; the pair already know they are going to get along.

But if that doesn’t work it’s also good: “It gave me something to do during confinement.”

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