Single in coronavirus quarantine: Video chat replaces dinner and movie

Tinder, Match, Hinge and The League see uptick in user activity during coronavirus pandemic

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Being in quarantine is motivating some singles to date from a distance. A social distance, that is.

More than half of Americans are stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, so dating apps and websites are making it more convenient for users to connect through video chat rather than meet in person.

“I was initially hesitant because I usually don’t even speak on the phone with someone unless we’ve been dating for a few weeks, let alone FaceTime with someone I’ve never met,” said New York-based Jean, 28, who asked FOX Business not to print her last name for professional reasons.

More singles are locking in virtual dates on apps like Tinder and Hinge. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“But given that seeing each other in person isn’t an option right now, I figured, ‘why not?’" she said.

Jean swiped right on someone she met on Hinge and had chatted with casually. They have had two FaceTime “dates” since they began talking last month and set up a third virtual dinner for next week.

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“He’s funny, and we don’t have awkward conversation, we have a lot of mutual stuff in common,” Jean said.

Remote dating has become the new normal because of COVID-19, which can be transmitted through person-to-person contact or droplets spread in the air when someone coughs or sneezes.

Dating poses a "relative risk," the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Wednesday during an interview with Peter Hamby on Snapchat's "Good Luck America." "If you're willing to take a risk -- and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks -- you could figure out if you want to meet somebody."

The same goes for intimate encounters, Fauci said, explaining many individuals are asymptomatic and may be spreading COVID-19 without knowing it.

As a result, dating apps are seeing an uptick in messaging with the stay-at-home mandates in place, and they're catering to singles in quarantine by launching tools to make it easier to virtually date.

The League, a members-only dating app for professionals, has posted a 41 percent increase in video usage within the app, a significant increase in matches exchanging numbers through the platform and more than double the attendance in its weekly video speed-dating session League Live.

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Match Group, which owns Match.com, Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and other dating sites, increased its users under the age of 30.

On Tinder, the app known for letting you swipe right on profiles of interest, users’ conversations have increased up to 30 percent since the virus broke out.

And many singles are using the app's “Passport” feature, which lets users connect with individuals in different states or countries.

Similarly, Hinge has had a 30 percent increase in messages sent in March compared with January and February. The app plans to launch a live video “Date Ready” feature this month, which will enable users to coordinate a video chat date when there’s mutual interest.

“As nearly every aspect of our lives is now conducted via video, singles are also becoming increasingly comfortable with video dates, and we are integrating video chat into our apps,” Shar Dubey, chief executive officer at Match Group, said in an open letter earlier this month.

A spokesperson for Bumble told FOX Business that there was a 20 percent increase in the app's voice call and video chat usage for the week of March 12, along with a 21 percent increase in messages sent in the United States.

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Dating coaches say that video chats can serve as a better vetting process for deciding whether users want to meet in real life and if there's a strong emotional connection.

Brooklyn-based millennial Rachel, who is in her late 20s and asked FOX Business not to use her last name, said her virtual dating life has made time management easier.

"It's kind of a dream," she added. "You don't need to go somewhere, you're in the comfort of your own space and you can hang up on them and block them if it's going terribly."

Dating at a distance has its financial perks too. The average date, consisting of two dinners, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets, costs up to $102.32 according to a 2018 survey from Match.com. And the average American spends $168.17 a month ($2,018.04 per year), according to a separate survey.

Still, there is one thing that’s difficult to determine from behind a screen -- physical chemistry.

“I just won’t know [if we have it] until we meet in person,” Jean said.

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