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Dating apps expect to feel more pandemic love as COVID surges

Tinder use soared alongside other popular dating apps during the pandemic and is expected to continue to grow.

It may not come as a surprise that dating app use surged during the pandemic when many had to swap the benefits of in-person dating for on-screen connections. Bumble revenue swelled to $337.2 million in 2020 compared to $275.5 million, Hinge revenue tripled in the same period and Tinder users broke two records from January to March of 2021.

What may be more intriguing, however, is that many apps anticipate more growth into 2022. Hinge expects to double its revenue by the end of 2021, while Tinder has announced several new features to meet new demands in time for what some are calling a "third surge" of COVID-19.

Vaccinated Austinites who had been eager for "Shot Girl Summer"—a season of in-person dating, going out and making up for time lost—may have to get back on the apps, at least partially, as cases rise higher than they've been since February and mask recommendations reenter the picture.

Austin-area resident Chloe Mohr, a 22-year-old recent college graduate, had sometimes used Tinder before the pandemic. While the app wasn't a supplemental replacement for deeper connections during stay-at-home orders, it did help her stay in the dating game and continue meeting new people.

"Using dating apps during the pandemic was easy when wanting something casual or entertaining," Mohr, who now works in marketing, said.

Chloe Mohr turned to Tinder more during the pandemic to stay connected to people. (Chloe Mohr)

Sixty percent of members came to Tinder because they felt lonely and wanted to connect with people, a Tinder study revealed, and chats were 32% longer during the pandemic.

But dating during a pandemic is no walk in the park when there's fear about contracting COVID, Mohr said. She had fears at the beginning

Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and OkCupid have responded to the new dating criteria, adding vaccination badges to profiles in partnership with U.S. and British governments.

In order to meet the demand for a stricter screening process and the superficial nature of swiping, Tinder has also introduced new features that allow users to add videos to their profiles and chat with others before they've even matched.

The new add-ons could be beneficial for the app as interest continues to swell—Google searches for "dating" have hit a five-year high, according to NPR.

But the future of dating could be vastly different—and stay different—even well into the next decade.

According to a Ypulse study, 43% of dating app users said the apps made them feel less lonely in the pandemic. Even post-pandemic, 40% of Tinder users say they plan on video-chatting with their matches before they meet, and being honest, authentic and respecting boundaries have become big talk on the app in the past year.

While it's unclear how the pandemic will shape dating for good, signs show that Austin residents and those nationwide may lean on dating apps once again if social distancing returns to the norm.

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