Jennifer Sherlock met a few men through dating apps early in the coronavirus epidemic. She said that the dates were “weird” because they were unmasked, distant, and out in nature.

Sherlock found it reckless that a date kept their identities secret while out on a walk. He then invited her back to the house. She said, “It was so off-putting, and awkward.” “So, we wouldn’t feel safe outside without mask(s), but would feel safe back at his house maskless?”

She realized she needed a way of filtering people so she started arranging video chats, before meeting anyone in person. Sherlock, 42, is a New Jersey-based PR consultant. She said that it’s something she will continue after the pandemic.

Sherlock wasn’t the only one to change the way she used dating apps in the pandemic. Many others have since launched new features. Despite the social distancing of the past 18 months, the use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation.

Tinder reported that 2020 was the busiest year it has ever had. This year, Tinder users set two new records in terms of usage between January and March. Hinge has tripled its revenue between 2019 and 2020. The company anticipates that it will double this year.

Tinder recently announced new tools that will enable users to meet people online. Tinder users will be able add videos to their profiles and can chat with other members even before they match with them.

Jess Carbino is an online dating expert and sociologist who worked for Tinder and Bumble. “Historically consumers weren’t willing to connect via video because it wasn’t necessary,” she said. She said that many people now expect higher levels of screening after COVID. Online dating apps such as Tinder are embracing this.

According to dating apps, video chats are here for the long-term.

Nearly half of Tinder users were able to videochat with a match during pandemic. 40% intend to continue these chats after the outbreak. Tinder claims that this is due to Gen Z users in their late teens or early 20s who now account for more than half the users of the app. A majority of Hinge UK users (69%) also stated that they will continue to use virtual dates even after the pandemic.

Tinder, alongside other popular apps including Hinge, OkCupid and Bumble, has in Britain and the U.S. partnered with the government to add a badge to profiles indicating that users have been vaccinated. Matches could lie if there is no verification.

Carbino stated that dating app users are increasingly seeking deeper connections than just casual encounters.

Maria del Mar (29), an aerospace engineer, was surprised to find herself in a relationship when she met someone on Tinder in the pandemic.

In April 2020, she started messaging her boyfriend through the app during a total lockdown in Spain. Del Mar, who had just returned from Barcelona to her small town of Leon, was bored when she first joined the app. However, she was shocked to discover many commonalities with her current partner.

After many weeks of chatting, the two finally met up for their first date. It was a socially-distanced hike. They have now moved in together. She said, “If it weren’t for the app. probably wouldn’t have crossed paths.”

Fernando Rosales, 32 years old, was a regular user of Grindr. This app is popular among gay men who are looking for casual encounters in pre-pandemic periods. When coronavirus restrictions made it impossible to meet others in London, he turned to Tinder to make social connections.

Rosales, who works for the British coffee chain Pret, said that “Grindr is like a relationship. It’s like ‘I like’ you and you like me. You’re within 100m of me. I’m going over.”

He said that Tinder was more social than he thought. He uses Tinder to sometimes meet new people and play online video games, or to chat with them.

Ocean, 26, a Berlin-based drag artist and photographer, used the live video feature on a LGBTQ+ app called Taimi in order to make new friends around the globe during the pandemic. She described how it was “amazing” to be able to chat with strangers in the Philippines and other parts of the U.S. for two to five minutes. Ocean is Kai Sistemich, her given name; when she is in drag, she uses she/her pronouns.

She stated that she will continue to use the feature after the pandemic, particularly while she is doing solo activities such as cooking or getting ready for a party.

Sherlock expects that some of her pandemic-related dating habits will continue into the post-pandemic era. She asked two men she was messaging for Facetime chats to meet in person after she recently met with them. This is something she wouldn’t have done before the pandemic.

She said, “It’s crazy out there in the dating world, so it is important to save time.”