How Seattleites are keeping dating alive during the COVID-19 pandemic
What do you do when you're still searching for your soulmate, rebounding from heartbreak, or simply want to play the field while a global pandemic is underway?
One solution is to keep meeting people via dating apps — but only from a distance.
Aretha Basu admits she has a history of being a "notorious ghoster" when it comes to connections established on dating apps.
The 25-year-old Seattle native said she's struggled with maintaining consistent contact with those she's matched with, due to a combination of forgetfulness and living life on the go.
But the way she uses dating apps has changed since mandatory social distancing orders went into effect, preventing would-be daters from meeting up in person.
"I think what's really changed post-COVID is everyone is experiencing the same thing, right? Like we all actually have something in common right now to talk about," Basu said.
She added that the shared experience of being under quarantine has made it easier to break the ice and find common ground with potential suitors.
"It's made it a lot easier to have conversations with people because it's like, 'Oh, yeah, I'm also very bored' or like, 'Yeah, I'm also binge-watching all of these things on Netflix.'"
Various dating apps have adjusted their messaging to users since mandatory social distancing measures have taken hold: keep dating, but do it from home — virtually.
Bumble saw a 21% increase in the number of messages sent by users based in Seattle between March 12 and March 22. Since mid-March, daily messaging on Tinder has gone up by 10-15% among U.S. users.
Basu said there's also been an uptick in the number of people she's connected with since the quarantine started.
"I've found that since I'm using the app more consistently, I am getting more matches," she said. "I don't know if that's because other people are also on the app more, you know."
Others have made similar observations.
"I've noticed that I've gotten a lot more frequent matches, if you will, than before," said Bri, who asked KUOW not to use her last name in this report. "And I think that's just because people have more time on their hands now."
Not only are dating apps seeing increased use in the time of coronavirus, but people are engaging with them in different ways.
Bumble also cites a 21% increase in the use of its voice chat and video call features during mid-March. A survey conducted by another dating app, Hinge, found that 70% of users have an interest in going on virtual dates.
However, the fact that dating app users potentially won't be able to meet face-to-face for months to come is also palpable.
"No one's really fallen off the face of the earth," Bri said. "It's just taking longer to respond because I think we know that we're not going to be able to see each other anytime soon, anyway. So it's not like really pressing, you know?"
As for the future of remote romances established during the pandemic — we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
For her part, Basu hopes to maintain her virtual dating network even once life gets back to normal.
"My goal is definitely to make new connections and then, you know, kind of foster them through this time," she said.