A lot has changed since the coronavirus pandemic began. Face masks are now a must-wear wardrobe item, outdoor dining has become a prevalent aspect of American culture and singles staying at home have turned to online dating as a resource for companionship, conversation and, of course, romance.
Online dating has been increasing in popularity for years, being recognized as the most common way for couples to connect in 2017, according to research from Stanford University. Yet when the pandemic began in March, it became the only way singles could meet new people, whether through messaging, video chatting or Zoom dates via apps like Bumble, Hinge and Tinder.
A recent article from PBS noted that dating apps have faced a huge increase in numbers of users since the pandemic started in March. Tinder, for example, reported that it saw more engagement on one specific day, March 29, than any other day in its history, with more than 3 billion users swiping to connect with people, according to a press release from April 1.
The data holds true here in the DMV too, according to Michael Karlan, the president and founder of Professionals in the City, a company that connects singles through speed-dating events. With the spread of the coronavirus canceling all foreseeable in-person events, Karlan’s team had to adapt.
“Demand has been especially strong for our virtual speed-dating events,” says Karlan. “After all, coronavirus is not the only pandemic right now; there is also a loneliness pandemic. People are searching for love in the time of coronavirus.”
Professionals in the City has turned to Zoom—as many companies throughout the country have—for its speed-dating events, now attracting dozens of participants in each session, which are specified by categories like “Single Dating for Ages 50 Plus,” “Lesbian and Bisexual Women Virtual Speed Dating,” “Virtual Speed Dating for Ages 25-39” and more. According to Karlan, the company email list is growing about one-third faster than immediately before COVID-19, as people are continuously searching online for new ways to socialize.
Here’s how it works: In a heterosexual-specific speed-dating event, according to Karlan, two participants are placed in a virtual meeting room and then after a designated amount of time, people are rotated into new meeting rooms until each man has met each woman. After the event, attendees can message each other privately through the website’s messaging system.
“Whereas before singles would meet up shortly after an event, singles now engage in an extended courtship period,” says Karlan of trends Professionals in the City has noticed. “In this regard, dating more closely resembles dating patterns from generations ago.”
While Professionals in the City is hoping to resume in-person speed-dating events soon, Karlan notes that the attraction to the virtual concept may force the company to continue this offering, yet in his words, “only time will tell.”
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