If you’re suddenly finding yourself at home on three consecutive Friday nights and your dating app contacts are not asking you out, don’t take it personally. Blame it on the
outbreak and the scare that has gripped the world. There’s a term for it and that is social distancing.
“Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, people are taking a lot of precautionary measures which in return is limiting personal contact among users. Though it is certainly compelling people to e-connect more often than usual and hence we foresee an increase in traffic and time spent on our web portal,” says Solene Paillet, Marketing Director, Gleeden, the world’s first discreet dating site for women.
“I have used the Coronavirus advisory as a reason to let someone down gently. The conversation was going nowhere,” confesses Swarna Rao (name changed), a 30-something marketing executive, sheepishly. All is fair in
The Coronavirus scare has invaded conversations on
too. When asked if the epidemic will stop them for going out on dates, most people laugh. “I hadn’t thought of that,” says Rohit Iyer (name changed), a 27-year-old sous chef. “I don’t think it will stop people, but yes, there is a drop in people going out. I don’t know what I would do. It depends on who I match with, I guess.”
Sahana Prasad (name changed), a 26-year-old fashion design student, says, “We joke about it while exchanging messages. But I don’t think I will stop meeting people due to the scare. I’m not particularly worried.”
But there’s a silver lining. Some dating apps have reported an increase in user engagement over the last 10 days. This, they say, is because people now have more time on their hands, since they’re socialising less and working from home.
Last week, Able Joseph, founder of the dating app Aisle, says they registered their highest revenue for a weekday on Thursday. “This was the peak of the Coronavirus scare and we were surprised that it happened. A lot of analysts all over the world have confirmed that engagement over dating apps has increased over the last few weeks, probably due to the self-isolation and people are cautious about meeting offline.”
Shalini Singh of andwemet, a matchmaking app, echoes his sentiments. She has seen an increase in sign-ups over the last 10 days. “People are not socialising, they’re working from home and have more time on their hands. How much Netflix can you watch? The upside to this is that people are talking more and that’s always good, because you get to know each other.”
Meeting offline is the last step in the process of searching, matching, short listing and exchanging numbers, says Snehil Khanor, Co-founder and CEO of TrulyMadly, another dating app. “For every 32 chats, there is one meeting. Over the last few weeks, we have not seen a negative impact of the Coronavirus on our app. If the scare continues, then it’s natural for online socialisation to take precedence over offline meets.” In March, during the three days of violence in Delhi, Khanor says they saw a huge dip in engagement.
Siddharth Mangaram of Floh, a dating service and an app, says that they have seen a 25 to 30 per cent rise in messaging activity on their app. “We offer two ways of connecting – one through the Floh app and one through events Floh hosts, which could be wine tastings, cookouts, dance workshops or outdoor activities. While the app engagement has increased, we have taken a pre-emptive decision and exercised caution by decreasing the frequency of events for now. To compensate our users for not being able to attend events, we are offering to extend their memberships by a month.”
Apps are adapting
Apps have adapted to being relevant to the topic du jour. Tinder is advising its users to stay safe, wash hands and avoid touching their faces and follow the World Health Organisation’s advice. A spokesperson from OK Cupid, another dating app, which throws a lot of questions at its users to help them create a profile, says that just two days ago they introduced a question which asks, “Does coronavirus affect your dating life? Answer now and see how people feel about meeting for dates.’’ The data is yet to be compiled but that the question appears on the app shows how the epidemic has impacted the dating scene.
While some app users are cautious, others like Rathi Phadnis (name changed) are playing down the scare. “It’s no different from cholera or dengue,” she says.
However, Jayashree Madhav (name changed ) has prohibited her daughter from meeting her friend, who has returned from Milan. “I told her she has to wait for at least two weeks before she meets her friend. I have two old parents at home and we can’t risk exposing them and all the other people we meet.”
Families too are being cautious. “I told my husband that if he goes to Germany on work, he will have to self-isolate for a month before he returns home. It’s too risky,” said Srirekha Ashok (name changed), a homemaker.
But Pema Rai has the last word on this. “I may go out on a date but I’m not planning to kiss him or take it to the next level.”
Let the emojis do the kissing.
Sex workers throughout the state are a worried lot in the wake of five
testing positive for the Novel Coronavirus. “We are passing on instructions to sex workers to maintain hygiene and look for cold and/or flu symptoms in their clients and refuse service if they have infections. A lot of them are scared and finicky in choosing their clients,” said Nisha Gulur, Treasurer of Karnataka Sex Workers Union. Gulur said that the union does not function in
but, in other rural areas of the state where they have enrolled sex workers. “Clients are being advised to take a bath and also wash hands with soap or sanitizers before availing their services,” Gulur added.
Meanwhile in Bengaluru, a CCB police official on conditions of anonymity said prostitution rackets are thriving as usual even after the Coronavirus epidemic. “Business is as usual as they operate illegally in several pockets of the city depending mostly on their online clients who get in touch from numbers they put up on websites such as Locanto. As and when we get information from our informants we conduct raids and book a case on them,” the officer added.