For many, the COVID-19 pandemic reads like the script of a horror movie or twisted romance novel. Every day the world is waking up to new developments regarding the virus that scare people to go home. This basically forced people to start thinking outside the box in terms of socializing and even finding a date. Virtual meetings, virtual workouts, virtual concerts and now, virtual dates have now become a thing thanks to the pandemic. As the world finds different ways to socialize, dating apps have seen their popularity increase among lonely singles looking for companionship.
Online dating emerged in the 1960s when a curious college student used quizzes and a computer to match potentials to dances. In 1994, the first modern dating site was launched called Kiss.com. In 1995, two entrepreneurs, namely Gary Kremen and Peng T. Ong, launched Match.com. Being among the industry pioneers worked in Match.com’s favor so that in 2004 it was called the world’s largest dating site by Guinness World Records thanks to the fact that they were over 29, 6 million unique visitors at the time. Since then, many other dating sites have sprung up including eHarmony, OKCupid and Christian Mingle, a Christian dating site.
Dating apps were certainly frowned upon in some parts of the world, especially in African countries, as they were seen as an odd way to meet a potential partner. However, people are discovering the many benefits that dating apps have to offer. What seemed strange and even frightening to some people before the coronavirus pandemic has now become a saving grace of social isolation.
Over the past decade, dating apps have strived to reduce the stigma associated with their use by those looking to find a partner. Their efforts seem to have paid off as new dating apps like Tinder and Bumble paved the way for the next generation of online dating that has led to a now $ 9 billion industry.
Kenyans caught the wave earlier and now there are several local dating sites and apps that have attracted a substantial number of users. They understand Afrointroductions.com, KenyanCupid.com, DateMeKenya.com and Dating.co.ke. Although there are no statistics on online dating in Kenya, the emergence of these sites is enough proof that Kenyans have embraced online dating.
Tinder, one of the largest dating apps in the world, has reported an increase in user activity during this pandemic. The CEO said they saw the conversations flourish and last longer after most countries imposed mandatory closures and curfews. When the pandemic first hit, Tinder reported a spike in usage in hard-hit countries like Italy, Spain and the United States. Bumble, another popular dating app, reportedly saw a 26% increase in messages sent in the last week of March 2020 compared to the first week of the same month. This indicates that people are looking for convenience in online platforms, especially dating apps, to counter the effects of confinement and social distancing. As a result, many dating apps have added new features like video chat to adapt to the new dating habits of their users.
While dating apps were created for face-to-face interactions, most of them now encourage their users to stay home and keep their interactions on the platform. Tinder sent out a series of public service announcements through its official Twitter account and on the app, also informing users of WHO’s social distancing guidelines with a fun twist.
After the outbreak, people quickly embraced the new way of dating and some even preferred it over the traditional date. This is because when using dating apps, the couple doesn’t have to worry about bills, unsolicited contact, annoying silence, and the nerves that come with physical dates. As to whether dating apps work or if they’re just a way to pass the time, they do depending on the app. For example, Tinder can be a miss for serious relationships, as it is best known for casual dating. Generally, people who have used dating apps tend to like them and express confidence in their success.
As the country and the rest of the world slowly open up, people are still skeptical about dating one-on-one. Dating apps may remain a popular alternative for social interactions even after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, as more people have experienced more friendly and enjoyable interactions compared to traditional dating.
So if you are single and ready to mingle, don’t let this Nairobi chill end you, just log into one of the Kenyan dating apps and find yourself a partner.