Coronavirus lockdown orders have resulted in some new pandemic-themed trends in online dating.
Michael Kaye, the global communications manager for the dating site OkCupid, says romantic get-togethers didn't disappear during the pandemic, they just moved online.
"Dating never stopped, it just adapted," says Kaye. "Nine in 10 people on OkCupid actually continued to date during the pandemic, they're just doing so digitally."
That means dates that would normally happen at a restaurant or movie theater are now taking place over a phone call, text, or video chat. But as many have realized while working remotely, Kaye says dating remotely can get stale quickly.
"People got pretty bored early on with the typical FaceTime chat, or Zoom chat," he says. "So they started ordering meal kits to each other's homes and creating dinner together."
Other dates they've observed have included virtual book clubs or socially distant hiking excursions. But regardless of the activity, the move toward digital dating does present some unique risks.
"Essentially, you're putting yourself out there to connect with someone you may have never met before, you may have never even seen before, and you're giving them a little bit of your personal information," says Jelisa Campbell, a reporter with the review site Safety.com.
Campbell says it's important to be mindful about sharing your address or your birthday with a new person. And if you're thinking about setting up a date over Zoom, make sure to keep the meeting password generic.
"Don't give them your personal Zoom meeting ID. I would create a separate Zoom meeting that has a generated ID, meaning that it will expire," says Campbell.
Despite the risks, Campbell thinks online dating is only going to become more prominent after the pandemic is over.
"The pandemic seems to have sped up our adoption and use of technology in our everyday lives. So I'm pretty sure that online, or virtual dating won't fade," says Campbell.
Kaye agrees, noting that he "think[s] the next few months in dating, especially online dating, is going to be the most important probably ever."
He adds that after the challenges of the past year, people are more interested in getting into a relationship.
"Moving into 2021, we saw a lot of daters who did not want to go through another year alone."
If you land a virtual date, odds are the conversation is going to be a little different too. Kaye said the coronavirus is dominating the discussion on the website.
"It's no longer 'do you want to go on a coffee date?' Some intro lines now are, 'Have you been taking the pandemic seriously? Are you wearing a mask when you go outside?'"
He says one of the biggest topics right now is the vaccine rollout. According to OkCupid data, mentions of the vaccine on users' profiles jumped 137% between November and January. Almost 70% of users surveyed said they planned to get vaccinated when they're able. And it turns out getting vaccinated is good for more than just your physical health.
"What's really interesting is that people who said yes [to the question of getting vaccinated], are getting more likes than people who said no," says Kaye. "Being open to taking the vaccine is actually the hottest thing you can do on a dating app right now."