Spare a thought for the single people currently sitting out a third strict UK lockdown. Yes, relationships have been tested, and yes, home schooling is hard, but the pandemic has also put paid to pretty much all of the perks that once came with being unattached. Being answerable only to yourself is less enjoyable when you can’t take advantage of your independence with, say, a spontaneous European city break. The best opportunities to flirt with attractive strangers (the post-work crush at the pub, intimate gigs, the office Christmas party) have all been eliminated by social distancing. As for me time… who really needs much more of that, at this point?
In 2020, dates went from lingering until last orders to coffee in the park, and candlelit dinners à deux to picnics in the harsh light of day. And now that the UK is in lockdown for a third time, it’s back to meeting potential partners over Zoom – a prospect that could make a plastic cup of flat Prosecco and olives from the M&S deli section seem, in hindsight, like the height of romance.
But according to Logan Ury, director of relationship science at the dating app Hinge, not only are a significant number of single people on board with the remote meeting, video dates actually look set to outlive social distancing. “Before the pandemic, almost no one had tried it and now 64 per cent of Hinge users in the UK have been on a virtual date,” Ury says. “While users initially feared video dates would be awkward, 61 per cent of Hinge users who have tried them say they will continue to use these types of dates even after the pandemic. That’s because video dates are a safe, low-pressure vibe check that helps you assess chemistry. It helps you to confidently decide who you want to take the next step with and meet in person.” Not only that, Ury says video chatting actually lends itself to more meaningful conversations. “Users told us they enjoyed deep, rich connections with people they met through virtual conversations,” she says. “In fact, a third of our users said they were open to entering into an exclusive relationship with someone they’d only dated virtually, and that number is even higher for men – 43 per cent of men said they’d become exclusive with a person they’d only met on video chat.”
Not all interactions will require a reliable wi-fi connection, though. Ury confidently predicts an impending “relationship boom” in 2021, citing the “chaos” of the past year as having dramatically impacted people’s mindset when it comes to finding love. “The top 2021 dating resolution for more than half of Hinge users is to not overthink dating and live more ‘in the moment’ as they embark on their dating journey,” she points out. “Two out of three of our users say they are feeling optimistic that their dating lives will be better this year than in 2020, and almost half are planning to go on more dates. We think this positive outlook is going to inspire a new wave of relationships.” According to Ury, one in three Hinge users say they feel ready for a long-term relationship, and more urgently feel the need to find a partner.
Ury is careful to point out that the carpe diem attitude the stats reflect does not mean people will be any less selective about who they choose to spend their time with. Quite the opposite, in fact. “After having spent 2020 using the time to reflect, and adopting new and healthier dating habits, more than half of users are being more honest with their feelings, and 84 per cent of users have said they are going to be more selective because they don’t want to waste their time,” she says.
Ury says one silver lining of the pandemic is that it is forcing fledgeling couples to have hard conversations earlier on. “There is a new relationship milestone that happens earlier, in which you discuss how you’re approaching Covid safety precautions,” she says. “In fact, 38 per cent of users plan to discuss their feelings about physical touch with a date prior to meeting in person once it is safe.” The past year has also thrown up some brand new relationship deal-breakers. Where once someone might have been put off a potential romantic prospect because they fundamentally disagreed with their politics, now, 42 per cent of Hinge users would cancel a date if their match did not agree to wear a mask.
The most encouraging of all the imminent shifts in the nation’s dating habits? The steady demise of ghosting. Yes, according to Ury, the practice of abruptly cutting off all communication with someone you’re seeing with no explanation is happily on its way out. “Ghosting is down 27 per cent. People have become more intentional and empathetic in their dating lives.”
If you’re preparing to plunge headfirst into the dating pool in 2021, Ury has shared some tips on making your dating profile stand out in a sea of singles.
What to do
- Mix it up. The best profiles include a mixture of vulnerability and humour. (Three out of four Hinge users are looking for humour on their match’s profile.)
- Include a variety of photos that feature your face, full body and favourite hobbies. And take the shades off! We want to see what you actually look like.
What not to do
- Tempted to include a photo of you at the gym? Only three per cent of successful Hinge daters say their profiles include these, so keep them for your camera roll only.
- Don’t include predictable answers to your prompts. The key to an interesting profile is to think of unique, personal answers. You need to stand out from the crowd. So stop talking about your love for The Office, and start telling us about your secret hobby as an herbal tea connoisseur.