Can we be friends? Dating apps say that sex is not everything in a post-pandemic world

dating on social media

The dating app Tinder appears on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken on February 10, 2016. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

I just got out of a lengthy lockdown. Can we be friends?

Amorous windings are not at the top of many people’s minds coming from long periods of pandemic isolation. Instead, they want the friendships and social groups they have been starving over the past year.

It’s the verdict from dating apps like Tinder and Bumble that launches or acquires new services that completely focus on making and maintaining friends.

“There’s a really interesting trend that has taken place in the connection area, which is this desire to have platonic relationships,” said Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.

“People are seeking friendship in ways they would only have done offline before the pandemic.”

Her company is investing in its Bumble BFF feature (best friends forever), which it said amounted to approx. 9% of Bumble’s total monthly active users in September 2020 and “have room to grow as we increase our focus on this space”.

Meanwhile, its archived Match Group – owner of a number of apps including Tinder and Hinge – is also pushing beyond love and desire. It paid 1.7 billion. Dollars this year for South Korean social media company Hyperconnect, whose apps let people chat from around the world using real-time translation.

Hyperconnect’s revenue increased by 50% last year, while Meetup, which helps you meet people with similar interests at local or online events, has seen a 22% increase in new members since January.

Meetup’s most searched words this year were “friends”.

‘Friends for more than a year’

Such friendship services have seen increased user engagement as COVID-19 restrictions have been gradually lifted around the world, allowing people to meet in person, according to Evercore analyst Shweta Kharjuria, who said it made sound business sense. to judge more customers.

“This opens up the overall available market from only targeting singles to singles and married people,” she said.

The importance of physical contact was reiterated by Amos, a 22-year-old French au pair using the Bumble BFF in London.

“It’s hard to get started online and if all IRL (in real life) is closed,” he said. “You never really connect until you meet in person.”

Rosie, a 24-year-old dentist living in the town of Bristol in the south-west of England, struggled to connect with her older colleagues during the shutdown and started using Bumble BFF three weeks ago to meet new people.

“I am a very sociable person and like to meet new people, but have never found the opportunities. I have gone from just Vodafone texting me to this app buzzing a lot, which is nice, it seems like a lot of girls are in my position. ”

Nupur, a 25-year-old teacher from the western Indian city of Pune who uses both Tinder and Bumble, said apps’ efforts to promote themselves as a way to find friends rather than just connections and love “could work very well. “.

“I’ve met a few people online and we’ve met each other and been friends for over a year now.”

In fact, networking networks like MeetMe and Yubo have even surpassed some popular dating apps in terms of daily engagement over the last few months, according to market research firm Apptopia.

Jess Carbino, an online dating expert and former sociologist for Tinder and Bumble, told Reuters that social isolation had been “dizzying” because of the pandemic, especially for singles living alone.

“(This) has inspired people to use the tools at their disposal, namely technology, to find friendship and connection.”

‘Trends have come to stay’

LGBTQ + dating apps have done a lot to push the social aspect of dating, according to brokerage firm Canaccord Genuity, with China’s Blued offering e.g. Surrogate services, and Taimi provides live streaming.

Gay dating app Hornet, meanwhile, aims to be more of a social network focused on users’ personal interests, rather than solely a dating service centered on physical appearance and closeness.

Hornet founder and CEO Christof Wittig said it was unlikely people would return to the “old ways” of connecting to their community exclusively offline, such as through nightlife, activism or LGBTQ sporting events.

Witting said the number of users tapping news feeds, comments and videos increased 37% in the year to May.

He said the number of people looking for friendship and community online had increased during shutdowns as people turned to digital platforms to get a sense of belonging when bars, gyms and pride events were closed.

“These trends have come to stay,” he added. “Like video conferencing and telecommuting.”

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