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Dating apps see increase in users, some looking for human connection not just romance

Posted at 10:29 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 10:29:21-05

Dating during the pandemic has been tough for many people, with virus concerns and quarantining. Some dating apps have reported an increase in users, with experts saying the apps are not just being used to form romantic connections.

"COVID has been terrible for the world but as far as the dating industry, it’s been great because people still want to have that connection with other people," said Jonathan Kirkland, Director of Brand Marketing for BLK, Match Group's largest dating app for Black singles with more than 4 million downloads nationwide.

Kirkland says the pandemic has boosted their app's usage, with many people still yearning for that human connection. Specifically, Kirkland says, the Black Lives Matter movement has also made their role especially important in the black community.

"We took it a step further and we’re actually using the app to find different ways to engage with our audience. So, whether that's around timely social issues, political issues, things affecting the community specifically, we create those engaging experiences for people to still sound off in, have those broader conversations. So, it's not just a one-to-one connection but a one-to-many connection and using the platform to really amplify those voices," said Kirkland.

University of Denver psychologist Dr. Howard Markman says dating apps have the potential to play a bigger, more positive role in single people's mental health during the pandemic. Dr. Howard is conducting a study that, so far, shows many people aren't using dating apps for romance.

"They're sometimes connecting with people, very rarely meeting people, very rarely forming a relationship, and I feel, and we feel, my class feels, and other classes, that people can be using dating apps as a way of connecting," said Dr. Markman.

Dr. Markman says virtual friendships are crucial right now. "They can use it to find a friend that they could have a romantic relationship with in the future but they can actually get to know the person first. We call that the counter hook-up culture," said Dr. Markman.

"As we look to 2021, I think the trend that you’ll see a lot is more of these dating apps going beyond just the core of dating," said Kirkland.

In fact, BLK says it is continuing to introduce new features and engagement opportunities on their app to keep people connected on social issues important to them. Helping people maintain a sense of connection and community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering