Swipe Right, Fall In Love: Pandemic Romance Is Digital—And There's No Use Fighting It

By Jove Moya

"How did I meet your mother? I used a dating app"

Tatler Asia
Photo: Getty Images
Cover  Photo: Getty Images

Unlike earlier generations, late millennials and Gen Zs never had to adjust to the internet. It was there when we were born and it will be there when we’re old and ailing. Whatever we need, the internet provides. Looking for a pastime activity? Watch videos on YouTube. Your otherwise boring soup needs a twist? Find new recipes online. Want to meet your next love? Swipe right. 

Debates about whether or not online dating has replaced real-life interactions—the cinematic kiss-under-the-rains, the coffee shop meet-cutes and whatever swoon-worthy scenarios Jane Austen came up with—are ancient. Dating apps are here to stay and calling it taboo is so ‘2000-and-late.’ Do you reckon Romeo and Juliet would meet their untimely demise if they had smartphones for dating? 

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, everybody was collectively robbed of time—the time to bond with loved ones, mingle with friends and meet strangers, you name it. For the hopeless romantics, this meant one thing: their one true love was absorbed by the digital sphere and Cupid is the algorithm bound to sync their profiles on the right app, at the right time.

See also: Crazy Smart Asia: Joseph Phua—Building Southeast Asia’s Biggest Dating Platform

Tatler Asia
Above  Debates about whether or not online dating replaced real-life interactions are ancient. (Photo: René Ranisch/Unsplash)

Quarantines are no match for people whose hearts are fueled by romance

No. It’s true, and we have Lucille McCart, the communications director of the online dating app Bumble to back us up. In an exclusive interview with Tatler Asia, McCart explains the dynamics of swiping left and right amid the pandemic.

“The number one insight we have observed at Bumble over the last two years since the pandemic began is that the desire to connect and engage and socialise is part of the universal human experience, and when people’s ability to gather in person is limited, either through lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, or fear of contracting or spreading the virus, apps like Bumble provide an important platform for connection,” she says.

Towards the end of 2021 in the Philippines, the online dating platform observed that almost half or 49 percent of people surveyed believe that it is possible for one to fall in love through dating apps. Forty-two percent said they used an online dating app within the past year, and the remaining 30 percent said they have been using dating apps more since the pandemic began. 

Tatler Asia
Above  In an exclusive interview with Tatler, Bumble Communications Director Lucille McCart shares the dynamics of dating online amid Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Bumble)

“The pandemic has altered our lives in many unexpected ways, and dating has been no exception. Throughout 2020 we witnessed the rise of virtual dating, with many users globally turning to Bumble’s voice call and video chat feature to connect with their matches on a deeper level. During this time we added new features to the app based on these insights, including our Covid preferences centre which allows users to display what type of dates they are comfortable with (virtual, socially distanced, with masks etc), and we introduced the ability to send audio notes and video notes.”

See also: Bumble’s CEO Gave 'Burnt Out' Staff A Week Off

Are we on the same page?

Zimbabwe-born author and philosopher Matshona Dhliwayo said it best: “There are many fish in the sea”. But what if the “sea” in question isn’t the typical peaceful park or crowded dive bar where star-crossed affairs start? What if the “sea” is now the digital space where a potential partner is hiding amongst a pool of strangers?

People throng online dating apps primarily for this reason: to meet someone. It is perhaps a safe bet that apps like Bumble speed up the process of getting to know each other by putting up the idea that you and your chatmate are on the same page. 

“In Bumble, you can use our ‘lifestyle badges' feature to indicate what type of relationship you are looking for, and to look out for potential matches whose relationship goals align with your own,” McCart says. “You can also use Advanced Filters that allow you to go beyond the regular filters of gender, age, and distance. Looking to date someone who exercises as much as you do? Or someone who also doesn’t want kids? You can set filters for these to increase your chances of finding someone whose values align with yours.”

See also: This Entrepreneur Wants To Connect Runners From Around The World

Tatler Asia
Above  Online dating makes it faster for people to get to know each other. (Photo: Timon Studler/Unsplash)

Does he like boys? Does she like girls? Say adieu to misgendering. Dating apps have also become more inclusive. In Bumble, gender-specific interests are welcome.

“At Bumble, we are deeply committed to providing a kind and inclusive platform for everyone. We understand the impact of standing alongside the LGBTQIA+ community and making sure they are able to have a safe and empowering experience on the app. As part of our commitment, we’ve partnered with leading experts and representatives from LGBTQIA+ advocacy organisations, to help us better provide a space that makes people from all spectrums feel safe and seen,” McCart says. “We recognise there is more work to be done and hope to continue to advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community in the future.”

(*Note from the interviewee: With heterosexual matches, the woman must make the first move. With same-gender matches, either person can make the first move within the 24-hour window.)

To catch a 'catfish'

Here’s the catch... lurking with you on dating apps are opportunistic catfishes, the scums of the internet, the potential bad news. 

For starters, ‘catfishes’ are people who pretend to be someone they're not by using profile photos that are far from their physical appearances in real life. They may either be financial scammers or online predators who are on the prowl for their next victims.

To avoid falling for their traps, use dating apps with caution. “We hold everyone on the app [Bumble] accountable and have a zero-tolerance policy for hate, aggression or bullying of any kind. Since our inception we have invested heavily in ensuring our growing community has access to the necessary tools and features to have a safe experience while our members make meaningful connections,” McCart says.

As part of Bumble’s efforts to prevent abuse from occurring, the team has put together features that prevent catfishing: photo verification, request photo verification and private detector. 

“These features prevent catfishing, allow our community to request for their matches to verify their identity, and stop the sharing of unsolicited, nude images. Look for the blue checkmark which means they have been verified to be a real person. Voice and video calls allow people to get to know someone better before meeting IRL (in real life) without giving up their phone number or email.”

Tatler Asia
Above  Catfishes are people who pretend to be someone they're not by using profile photos that are far from their physical appearances in real life. (Photo: Tamara Gak/Unsplash)

No shame in love

Real-life romances and online dating experiences need not be compared or put against each other in the first place. In the grand scheme of things, the two don't really differ, do they? How different is starting an online conversation from mustering the courage to approach an attractive person you saw in a local hangout?

Successful relationships, after all, are not measured by the way couples meet, but by the love and respect, they have and develop for each other. 

“We’ve heard stories of couples who lived on the same street and went to the same coffee shop every day, but had never met until they matched on Bumble,” McCart says.

If you ever find yourself growing grim about the mouth, do not hesitate to find love online. Go forth, have fun, and set up that one remarkable profile.

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