You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had a profile on a dating app at some point.
But with opportunities to chat, meet up and network with people at your fingertips, comes a host of modern problems…and that’s before taking a global pandemic into account.
However, as lockdown eases in Australia, we spoke to Lucille McCart, the Associate Director of PR and Communications for Bumble Australia Pacific to learn how Australia’s 4 million registered Bumble users can best navigate virtual dating in 2020.
“We have seen a huge shift in our business since lockdown restrictions came into effect in March,” explains Lucille. “As humans we are inherently social creatures, so when we all of a sudden lost the ability to meet each other in real life, we immediately looked for other ways to engage and interact,” she says.
The shift to video was significant, as well as basic behaviour like utilising calling more, rather than messaging, Lucille explains. “We saw trends like a 76% increase in Voice Call and Video Chat usage in Australia, and a 17% increase in messages sent between Australian Bumble users. People were turning to dating apps like Bumble as the only way to make new social connections and virtual dating, something no one had seriously considered before, became something we were uniquely positioned to cater for, given we already had the capabilities in the app to meet the demand for increased communication.”
However, it isn’t just interactions that have shifted— the way users think about dating in general has evolved, with Bumble finding 86% of Australian users are interested in dating in real life, but with a movement towards ‘slow dating’. “As users develop their connections before meeting in real life in a much deeper way than before, 57% of our Australia users believe that COVID changed their personal dating behaviours in the sense that the courtship process is not longer and the trust bar before meeting is higher,” explains Lucille. As Bumble reports, 41% of respondents want to date IRL but claim they are unsure about how to approach in-person dating again. Additionally, a third are nervous about meeting up for the fear of catching or spreading COVID-19…which we can honestly relate to as far as general life resuming as normal. “Before lockdown users on dating apps might have placed less importance on the conversation because an in-real life date could come about quite quickly,” this is the major change online dating is now facing.
So how can we alleviate anxieties about returning to regular life?
Bumble is making it easy. “Bumble users can now add a Badge to their profile that indicates what kind of dating they are comfortable with – virtual dating, social distanced dating, or socially distanced with a mask…they can now skip the potentially awkward conversation about how they are comfortable dating post lockdown and match with users that have to same preferences as them,” she explains.
While COVID-19 has affected online dating (as well as everything else!), the strategies being implemented now are sure to benefit daters far beyond coping with the effects of a global pandemic. As a leading company in safety online (with a zero-tolerance policy for bad behaviour including abuse, harassment, racism or bigotry, plus the banning of hate speech or images of guns), Bumble’s integration of video features due to COVID-19 are changes expected to stick, “as we move further out of lockdown it is likely that our community will continue to incorporate virtual dating into their routine of meeting someone online,” Lucille says.
What about when it comes to real life?
Whether you’ve jumped straight back in or are easing your way back to regular socialising, “Always look out for users who have our blue tick of approval — if they haven’t verified their profile, don’t be shy about asking them to do this before meeting up with them,” says Lucille.
“Secondly, use our video chat feature to ‘meet’ your date virtually before seeing them in person. This is also a great feature to take advantage of if you are still socially distancing, as you can get to know them on a more meaningful level than what you can over text.”
And thirdly, “When you’re taking the leap (you go, girl), meet in a public place for your first date, like a coffee shop or restaurant, and tell a friend where you’ll be and what you are doing.”
Bumble’s mission is to put women in the driver’s seat of their dating lives, encouraging them to make the first move. The app is intended to foster confidence that transcends dating, and they’re doing a damn good job of accomplishing that. “If we can show a woman that it is easy and rewarding to make the first move on a dating app, then hopefully it carries through to other parts of her life – like asking for a pay rise at work, or putting herself forward for a promotion,” explains Lucille.
Dating in 2020 is like nothing we’ve ever seen before, but for women, the only way is up.