The Scoop: COVID-19 has caused a wave of lockdowns and isolation on a scale people haven’t seen for over a century. But the internet opened the door for social connection within a social distancing framework. During the pandemic, the OkCupid dating platform has seen an increase in both matches and conversations. Rather than being deterred by COVID-19 restrictions, singles have found work-around solutions and upped their flirting game through video chat and outdoor dates. OkCupid has studied these trends carefully and delivered insights into the post-COVID dating era.
When COVID-19 restrictions rocked the world in 2020, it was a difficult time to be single. Quarantining alone at home could be isolating, and even singles living with family or friends struggled to cope. Suddenly, even simple acts like going to the grocery store or meeting in person on a first date became fraught with risk.
In this climate, singles had to adapt to the new normal and discover new ways to work, play, and date.
OkCupid is a data-driven dating service that has closely monitored how its users reacted to the pandemic and how it changed their dating priorities.
“They’re no longer interested in tall, dark, and handsome. They care more about masking, vaccinating, and social distancing,” said Michael Kaye, Senior Global PR Manager for OkCupid.
The dating site and app has investigated user preferences over the last year and discovered many new and encouraging trends emerging.
For one thing, OkCupid has seen an increase in online dating usage. Matches increased by 10% and conversations increased by 20% in the spring of 2020.
Between September and October 2020, OkCupid saw its membership rise by 21%, and it wasn’t the only dating platform to get a boost during the pandemic. Match, Bumble, and Hinge also saw significant increases in membership.
Post-pandemic daters are also more interested in virtual dating opportunities than they were before. OkCupid has seen its users embrace video dating and use online meetups as a way to explore romantic partnerships while keeping their social distance.
A More Serious Attitude About Finding Love
The OkCupid team has been using analytics and questionnaires to track the impact the pandemic has had on dating patterns around the world. One of the biggest takeaways was that this era of uncertainty made singles more certain and more serious about their search for love.
OkCupid reported seeing incredible user retention during the pandemic. About 90% of users who had been active on the platform pre-pandemic continued to use it to find dating opportunities, both in person and virtually.
The pace of online dating changed as well. Before the pandemic, a lot of singles saw matches as a race to the first date. They had to move fast to keep a person’s interest and move from match to chat to IRL date. Once the pandemic hit, though, things slowed way down on OkCupid, and there was less of a hurry to meet up right away.
Instead of a sprint, online dating became a marathon requiring singles to take their time getting to know a new romantic interest and build a relationship before agreeing to meet.
OkCupid found that single women benefited from this slow-paced style of dating, and many appreciated being able to have a conversation without being pressured to go on a first date.
“If we look at the last few months, 28.5% of young women sent more intro messages this January than last year. In December, they sent 29.6% more intro messages on our platform. This trend has been happening for a while,” Michael said.
OkCupid has also seen a shift in what its users are looking for online. More daters report looking for long-term relationships rather than hookups in the post-pandemic world. The dating platform has seen meaningful conversations win out over meaningless sex, and the experts say singles seem to be more interested in making an emotional connection than simply meeting a hottie.
“Could you say I love you to someone you’ve never met in person? People have different dealbreakers outside of money and good looks, which is nice to see. I think people are taking dating more seriously,” Michael said.
Furthermore, OkCupid users who invested in their dating profiles got the best results on the dating platform. OkCupid profiles who answer at least 15 questions and post multiple photos tend to have the most success (i.e. more matches and chats) on the dating platform.
“We’ve seen that doing the work pays off,” Michael told us. “People who complete their profiles are getting 200% more matches.”
Most Daters are Concerned with Safety and Politics
Before the pandemic, OkCupid users had different priorities than they do now, said Michael. It was a different time, and the online dating data bears that out. “Our users cared about a match’s income and job — in New York City, they wanted someone who was no more than two subway stops away!” Michael said with a laugh.
In 2020, singles were stuck at home for long periods of time, and many of them changed their priorities in the dating scene. Core values soon became dealbreakers in relationships. Politics and social issues got a lot of attention in online dating profiles, questions, and conversations, and it became clear to the OkCupid team that these issues mattered more than income or looks.
“People are opposed to dating outside of their party lines,” Michael told us. In 2019, more than half of OkCupid users, or 53%, said they wouldn’t date someone from a different political party. In 2020, that number rose to 61%, and in 2021, it has risen yet again to a remarkable 70% of OkCupid users who are partisan and proud of it.
Additionally, 32% of OkCupid users reported caring more about shared political beliefs than great sex, and some were even willing to overlook location and income in favor of shared party affiliation.
People’s feelings about social distancing, vaccines, and other pandemic protocols have also affected the matchmaking game. OkCupid has asked questions about pandemic-related opinions and found that singles who say they’re going to get the COVID-19 vaccine receive 20% more likes and 12% more matches than people who say they’re not going to get the vaccine.
This pattern holds true in the U.S. and other countries. Vaccines are hot; anti-vaxxers are not.
“Younger daters are listening to Dr. Fauci’s advice. If someone writes in their profile that they’re wearing two masks, they’re having more dates on the app,” said Michael.
OkCupid has offered a socially distanced networking tool that has allowed singles to be honest about what they want and explore friendships and relationships — even across borders. OkCupid has seen an uptick in users looking for dates outside their own state or country, so it has added a Passport feature to encourage long-distance matchmaking. As long as two users speak the same language, they can form a match on OkCupid.
“We have seen a trend in long-distance relationships, so that shows you daters are willing to date anybody around the world,” Michael told us.
OkCupid: Pandemic Changes May Be Here to Stay
OkCupid has been watching online dating trends for decades now, and the team is hopeful that the positive changes it saw in 2020 will endure even as lockdowns and social distancing restrictions ease throughout the world.
“Engagement has skyrocketed on OkCupid. We’ve already surpassed 1 billion likes in 2021 alone, and we’re only in March,” Michael said.
OkCupid’s latest redesign can give singles the matching technology they need to find a compatible partner in quarantine and beyond. The newly updated platform has a new matching feature called Stacks, which sorts profiles into categories daters can browse through. Now OkCupid users can swipe in a more targeted way and explore curated lists of users, including those with the highest match percentage, those currently online, and those who have answered the most questions (aka Question Pros), among other things.
By harnessing the power of analytics, OkCupid endeavors to support online daters as they use online dating to take control of their love life by looking for dates in a more thoughtful way.
“Daters were 13x more likely to look for someone special than for someone to fool around with,” Michael told us. “Lots of singles don’t want to be sleeping around but are searching for that person to spend the rest of their life with. That’s so encouraging!”