Connor McCallum

Dating in the Age of Mandatory Quarantine Is Seeing Growth

Despite being told to self-quarantine, dating apps are seeing a considerable uptick in users. Let’s examine why that might be and also learn about a new player on the market.


Forced to self-isolate and social distance themselves, lovers are looking to dating apps more so now than ever. And in these trying times, it can be hard to talk about anything other than the looming pandemic on our hands.

Last week, 21-year-old Chloe McDonnell tweeted “Dear boys on Tinder, I don’t want to talk about coronavirus. It’s not a good conversation starter or an appropriate chat-up line.” OkCupid themselves have reported a 188% increase of the word “coronavirus” popping up on dating profiles between January and February alone.

To many, however, the Coronavirus isn’t just a matter of conversation. Some daters are wary of even touching each other’s hands, let alone getting more romantic.

“I’m usually one to hug, but I’m probably not even going to handshake,” Erin, a 38-year-old from Northern California, told CNET. After hopping back onto Tinder now after a few months’ hiatus, she must now grapple with the prospect of an in-person date and what she would do in that situation. “If I’m not even going to [hug or handshake] in an interaction, why would I then sit across the table from somebody?”

As the pandemic spreads and public institutions close, the resulting minimized social contact between people can make many feel anxious and lonely. This is where dating apps come in; a cure to both the ensuing boredom of social distancing and the loneliness that accompanies it.

92% of OkCupid users said they’re still willing to go out on dates, but that number may soon drop – in Italy, where the death toll has just surpassed China’s reported number, only 45% of users feel safe enough/are comfortable going on a date. Overall, the app has seen a 7% increase in new conversations as of late.


To many, however, the Coronavirus isn’t just a matter of conversation. Some daters are wary of even touching each other’s hands, let alone getting more romantic.


In the United States, two Yale students, sent back to their hometowns where dating pools are limited, decided to develop a solution to find love in the age of mandatory self-quarantine – OKZoomer.

The website connects college students from more than 200 schools across the USA for virtual Zoom (Facebook’s video service) dates. The name is a reference to the video-conferencing app it uses as a platform (which also happens to be what most universities are holding virtual classes on), the generation to which it caters (“Zoomers”), and the popular phrase “Ok Boomer” (a simple way to dismiss out-of-touch older people).

“Since freshman year, I’ve always wanted to do some sort of dating-app thing,” Ileana Valdez, one of the founders of OKZoomer, told Rolling Stone. When Patrycja Gorska, Valdez’s co-founder, sent her a meme referencing love over Zoom, Valdez knew this was her opportunity.

In the beginning, the two shared a Google form promising to match up college students interested in either a blind date or making a friend. After generating more than 1,000 responses, Valdez got her brother, a CS graduate, to create an algorithm that would match people based on the data gathered from the form, then send them the others’ contact details so they can independently set up a Skype or Zoom date.

The initial round of matchmaking was limited – age and gender were the main criteria. However, Valdez and Gorska discovered there was a real demand for a service connecting lonely college students with each other during this time of social isolation.

“A lot of kids are losing the biggest social experiences of their lives, especially seniors, who are losing the rest of their semesters,” said Valdez. “It’s really hard to lose out on something like that.”


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