2020 changed the way we do a lot of things in life. While the world recalibrated how to work from home, learn from home, and shop from home, a vast number of people were learning how to date from home, too.
We’ve taken a deep dive into the thousands of dating app reviews on Sitejabber and discovered some interesting trends about the state of online dating during the pandemic. Here’s what we found.
Online dating soars as more people swipe right
While the number of users on dating apps fell initially as the world adjusted to COVID-19 restrictions, by July 2020, more and more people were turning to online dating. We found a 27% increase in the number of people dating during the pandemic compared to the same time period in 2019.
Los Angeles matchmaker and dating specialist Julie Ferman, saw a similar trend.
“I’ve seen an uptick in these stats at two important times – during the 12 months after the 911 crisis and also during this past 11 month period, after COVID hit,” Ferman said.
“The number of introductions I’m able to make per active search client is up 16% over the prior 12 month period. That demonstrates a greater willingness among both men and women to explore possibilities with a new candidate.”
The surge hit its peak in September, where we saw a 118% increase compared to January figures.
However, we found that this increase only applied to mainstream dating platforms (Tinder, Bumble, etc.) When it came to international dating companies focused on connecting people to those outside of the U.S. (Anastasia Date, Christian Filipina, etc.), we saw the opposite – a 21% drop in engagement.
Why did this happen?
As the world adjusted to stay-at-home mandates, people could no longer socialize like they used to and lost the luxury of going out and meeting new people. Much more hard-hit than mainstream dating sites, international dating platforms may have been further hindered by travel restrictions discouraging individuals from leaving the country.
After the initial panic had died down, many turned to conventional online dating as a way to find emotional connection during these isolating times. Bumble reports that 2 in 3 daters on their app feel lonelier.
However, pandemic fatigue was also creeping in. Research from the Franklin Templeton-Gallup Economics of Recovery study shows that as time moved on and people got more used to hearing about the coronavirus, fear of the infection decreased. As a result, people let their guard down when it comes to everyday activities that they had been hyper-vigilant about just a few months before.
Sitejabber reviewer Gunter was just one of the daters ready to go out and meet someone, and wanted to be safe but also meet in person. He urged other reviewers, saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Just wear a mask and wash your hands. And stay healthy the best you can.”
Kathie, another online dater from the Sitejabber community, was at first on the fence about meeting in person. She ultimately ended up going for it, saying, “I finally gave in and agreed to a Take out Date.”
So, who’s dating?
People are changing
Women are taking more initiative. Hily, a trending dating platform using AI technology, shared with us that women are texting first 5x more often. Before the pandemic, women started only 7% of dialogues. Now, it’s almost 40%.
And although the pandemic ushered in a new wave of online daters, it seems as though people are more selective than ever. Swipes right decreased by 7%, and according to Hily, that means people are handing out fewer likes than ever.
“People are more likely to pay attention, as meeting someone new is more risky today than it ever has been, causing both men and women to screen more thoroughly,” Ferman said.
What does it look like when daters are pickier and online dating is surging? Ferman shares some hopeful statistics.
“The percentage of introductions that resulted in a third date is up 19% over the year prior. And those introductions that resulted in an exclusive relationship is up 23%!” Ferman said. “The introductions I’ve provided for my matchmaking clients and coaching clients are ‘sticking’ more so than they had been of late, over the course of the previous ten year period.”
The “state” of online dating.
The loneliness of 2020 saw a surge in online daters, and several states stood out as the top contenders.
California tops the charts for the most conventional dating app use during the coronavirus. California is followed by New York, then Texas, Washington, and Florida.
While our data shows Californians usually use dating apps more than any other state, that certainly didn’t drop while social restrictions were put in place during 2020.
The top five states reporting dating on conventional versus international dating platforms are very similar. But while Virginia trails as 19th in using mainstream apps, they take the number one spot in international dating.
Other top globally dating states are California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
Most of these states are also in the top states with the most COVID-19 cases, where there may have been more restrictive mandates and orders around social distancing.
The most impacted?
Top 5 States Increasing Online Dating During the Pandemic
|Rank||State||Online Pandemic Dating Surge|
Sheltering-in-place and social distancing affected the nation, and for certain states, it propelled a significant surge in online dating.
Washington saw the greatest surge in reported mainstream dating app usage during the pandemic – a whopping 167% increase from the same time period in 2019.
Many who live in Washington have been on high alert for the pandemic for the longest, with heavy lockdown restrictions early in 2020. Washington is the location of both the first confirmed case and death from COVID-19 in The States.
We know that throughout the years, California typically has high rates of using mainstream dating apps. But during the pandemic, we saw a new trend – 77% more Californians reported using international dating apps compared to before COVID-19. Even with Virginia being the number one state to use international dating platforms, Virginia had decreased its reported usage by 38%.
In Match’s survey, Singles in America, 59% of respondents reported considering a wider range of people as potential partners. Specifically, in Los Angeles, California, 69% of daters said the pandemic caused them to change the qualities they look for in a partner.
Disappointment is a common experience reviewers report on Sitejabber when dating strangers online. But since the pandemic, reports of negative experiences rose by 12%.
To get a closer look at these experiences, we measured the percent increase before and during COVID-19 of both positive and negative reviews. Reviewers expressed sentiment towards both their successful (or unsuccessful) dating ventures, as well as thoughts on the social platforms themselves.
Most of the dissatisfied daters come from Massachusetts, followed by Georgia, Nevada, Missouri, then Michigan.
But through it all, some states made the best of the situation. While we found Washington to be one of the loneliest states, they come out on top again as the state who had the most positive dating experiences.
So not only is Washington a top pandemic dating state, they also saw the greatest surge in online dating, and now hold the number one title to most satisfied dating during the pandemic.
Illinois, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey take the next best spots in dating satisfaction.
Satisfied reviewers like Troy advise, “Remember that online dating is a patient game and you have to take your time in order to make sure you get it right and meet the right people.”
On the other hand, daters like Robert with unsuccessful dating experiences are dissatisfied, saying, “Some of these dating sites are built to milk money out of lonely and sometimes desperate people.”
Next, we dive into the top issues daters experienced, especially when it came to dealing with the dating platforms themselves.
Dating in the time of COVID-19 – what to consider
Daters are looking for platforms to adapt as a result of the pandemic, and while some adjustments are being made, many daters are frustrated with the apps they pay for. By analyzing our reviews, we’ve uncovered the top issues that users have had to deal with since the pandemic hit. While some of these are perennial dating app problems, a few have spiked or are caused directly by the COVID-19 crisis.
The cost of online dating
While some dating platforms reduced their costs or altered subscriptions when the pandemic hit, many others didn’t, and that had an implication for users. As people across the country were losing jobs and waiting for stimulus packages, there was a level of frustration at the continuing cost of using dating apps.
James, a member of the Sitejabber community, expressed that:
“Other sites and apps have given free subscriptions during the pandemic, and the one I use most certainly does not give a refund for any issues I have.”
Several reviewers mentioned that they would prefer a discount during the pandemic, and that without that, they would have to cancel their subscription with the hope of coming back soon.
Keeping users connected on the app
As the options to meet in person decreased, 2020 saw dating apps having to adapt how users connected and met with one another, with many of them providing more virtual options.
Sitejabber reviewer Connor, a user of many apps, found that he appreciated the ones that added video chats and calls to their service.
Others mentioned their frustration with restrictions on how users could communicate – they already felt controlled by social distancing mandates in the ‘real world’ and didn’t want any of that in their online connections. Some reviewers also pointed out that on timed calls, everyone would spend the first chunk of time talking about the pandemic, and are looking for apps with free or flexible call features as a result.
Moving the connection offline
Many apps provide additional ways to connect but leave the users to make their own plans on meeting in person. Dating platforms have no responsibility for users once they have left the app, and some coax others to meet up despite stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements.
This causes tension and awkwardness among those who are looking to comply with COVID-19 mandates. Dating platform and relationship advocate S’More conducted a survey revealing that health as a dating criterion became a much higher priority for serious daters during the pandemic.
Sitejabber reviewer Jitendra, for example, expressed frustration that his dating platform didn’t remove in person as an option for connecting, saying, “Recently I have noticed they are not doing enough to stop members from arranging dates in person amidst this COVID-19 situation. I’m disappointed.”
While dating platforms have always had to deal with a level of misuse by their users, 2020 was definitely the year scams increased, particularly those related to COVID-19.
Many users noticed an increase in fake profiles. Working their way through those took time and reduced their chances of connecting with true users looking to connect and get to know them.
John pointed out, “Recently and especially during lockdown, the site has become riddled with scammers, so it takes an awful lot of time to browse through literally hundreds of fake profiles.”
Requests for money
Sitejabber reviewer Stevie posted about the messages he had received requesting money for COVID-19 medication and other expenses incurred during the pandemic. Reviewers warn against users prompting daters to pay rent, phone bills, pay off debt, or help purchase new phones to keep in touch offline.
Misuse of messaging
Users often reported that once they had connected on a dating app, they were bombarded with messages offering private content in exchange for money or other financial aid. Reviewers advise that if you’re looking for a real connection or want to keep your money safe, avoid these types of messages.
Online dating is here to stay
Online dating apps can be a great way of finding social connection during a period of physical and social isolation, and people experienced that more than ever in 2020. But as with all online social platforms, it’s important to be aware of the pervasive scams and think carefully about how to navigate taking these relationships offline and into the real world, particularly while social distancing and COVID-19 precautions are still in place.
Sitejabber gathered existing data from our reviews for inclusion in this study. We compared two different time periods: before COVID-19 restrictions from May to December 2019, and during COVID-19 restrictions from May to December 2020.