Lockdown love: online dating demonstrates ‘remarkable resilience’ as Brits become more polite and creative

  • A quarter of daters ‘more polite’ since coronavirus crisis begun
  • Would-be courters less pushy and more inventive about building a relationship
  • 64% see dating apps as a ‘lifeline’ to those living alone

Recent weeks have changed the way we live beyond recognition. But according to new research, the game of love has proved remarkably resilient.

A new survey for the Online Dating Association found that 2.3 million of us have used online dating in the past month.

According to dating companies, would-be courters are using their imagination to create “dates at a distance”. Online canoe trips, Netflix watch dates and virtual wine tasting are among the most popular expressions of remote romance.

Top 10 ‘dates at a distance’

  1. Take a hike – thanks to the wonders of technology, many first daters feel no need to be confined to their living room during lockdown. Through the website Muddy Matches, couples can canoe through rivers, hike national peaks and fly together over the English countryside.
  2. Truth or dare – if small talk is stifled, take inspiration from the daters who are plunging straight to honest questions. Dares can be as basic as ‘show me the contents of your cupboard’. But probably best to agree the parameters of the game before you begin.
  3. Strictly dancing – dancing would be some people’s idea of a first-date nightmare. But if you’re confident with your moves there’s no need to let the current crisis stop you. Some couples are performing non-contact routines over video chats and others are challenging each other to dance-offs.
  4. Tinkling the ivories – some romantics have taken to serenading their date with a piano performance. Some musical ability is strongly recommended.
  5. Order in – sharing a meal adds a bit of structure to the date. Going for the same cuisine or a similar dish could help you serve up a conversation starter or two.
  6. Ready, steady, cook – you may not be able to prepare a meal for your date, but you can still impress with your cooking skills. Cooking the same meal at the same time will give you a chance to see whether you’ve got the right ingredients for romance.
  7. Virtual vineyard –pick up a bottle or two of the same wines, download some tasting notes and impress your date with your knowledge of the grape. You can make this a structured tasting session or simply enjoy the same wine together as the conversation starts to flow.
  8. Movie night – cinemas may be closed but there’s no need to do away with this first-date classic. Put a bag of popcorn in the microwave and stream the movie at the same time as your date. The subtle hand touching may have to wait, but you’ll still have a film to talk about after.
  9. Meet the pets – cats have long been an internet meme, so it’s perhaps not surprising that online daters have tried to share their softer sides by bringing their household pets with them to their virtual dates.
  10. Get competitive – if you’re hyper-competitive then kicking off your courtship with an online quiz or game of trivial pursuit might be a winning idea. But if you can keep your ego under wraps, this can be a great way of easing into conversation and creating a laugh or two.

Covid dating is more polite, inventive and an important part of social fabric

The research also suggests that the current crisis has been accompanied by a revival of gallantry. Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) felt that daters are more polite than before. Just under a fifth (18%) noticed people being less pushy.

Perhaps most importantly, a third (35%) of daters believed that those they were speaking to are being more inventive about building a relationship. Half (53%) report that during the lockdown, they are having longer conversations on dating services.

The survey found that online dating was serving a wider benefit than just the quest for love. Two-thirds (64%) of respondents felt that dating sites and apps were a lifeline for those living alone. People also felt they had become an intricate part of a social life (55%) and that they could provide moments of light-hearted entertainment during a difficult time (48%).

George Kidd, CEO of the Online Dating Association, said: “Under lockdown Britain, online dating is helping fulfil a basic human need for company and companionship. Not only is it keeping romance alive, but it is also fulfilling a very important social need, to bring people together.

“Daters themselves are becoming ever more ingenious in how to make the most of their time apart. In some cases, this is by hand gliding together over a 360-degree virtual landscape of England. In others, it is by wine-tasting and watching a film.”

The data has revealed that the rise in gallantry has been most pronounced in the south of England. Thirty-three percent of respondents in the capital felt that people had been dating more politely since lockdown began.

While the lockdown has encouraged people to be more inventive in finding ways to date, the ODA’s survey also reinforced the importance of dating safely and having fun.

When asked what advice they would have for new online daters, half respondents (47%) said daters should “use credible services committed to user safety”. A third (30%) felt that novices should “take your time, begin to get to know the real person, not just the profile”.

But those experienced in digital dating did not think those exploring it should overthink the process. “Give it a go” the most popular piece of advice (59%).