Marston, H.R1,2, Morgan, D.J2,1
1Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education, Languages, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK, MK7 6AA. Hannah.Marston@open.ac.uk / https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8018-4166
2Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University, Singleton Park, West Glamorgan, SA2 8PP, UK.
“Was that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?” – Ilsa Lund, Casablanca
“Take me to bed or lose me forever.” – Carole, Top Gun
We are in the third decade of the 21st century, its June 2021 and for the last 15-months members of society have had their movements restricted at various levels – nationally, regionally and on a local basis.
Society has changed considerably since Marston, Musselwhite & Hadley (2020) pontificated on the 18th March 2020 about the unravelling pandemic in their piece ‘COVID-19 vs Social Isolation: the Impact Technology can have on Communities, Social Connections and Citizens’.
While there have been many people in society who have being able to connect with friends and family members, educational providers and their employers, for some people this has not been the case. Data poverty in areas of high deprivation and/or having limited or no digital skills, lack of access to the Internet, and respective devices or lack of digital confidence (ATAT research Project, 2020). Furthermore, limited social connections, (sexual) intimacy was documented by Marston and Morgan (2020) who discussed on the 2nd November 2020 the impending effects of a digital Christmas, social isolation and not being with loved ones in their blog piece ‘Lockdown 2.0: Gunpowder Plot, Digital Christmas, Sex and Relationships.’
The year of 2021 started very well overall given what members of society have been enduring throughout 2020. We were informed that there was at least one vaccine signed off by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and we have since seen the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being rolled out also. This has enabled 42.4% of the UK population to be vaccinated, with 28.2 million receiving two jabs, and a total of 68.8 million doses given out (Our World in Data, 2021).
In the Spring of 2021, the UK Government and respective Devolved Governments had their own strategies and rollout plans for the easing of lockdown measures. At present steps 1-3 of the route map have been rolled out across England, with step 4 due to take place on the 21st June 2021. As a result many shops on the high street have been able to open, in addition to various pubs and restaurants being allowed to open once again, just in time of us all to enjoy the great British summer.
Members of society have also been able to meet their friends with benefits (FWB), partners/boyfriends/girlfriends or even a person they have spent the pandemic chatting to via their chosen dating app for a cheeky snog or some nooky. For many people, the opportunity to stay overnight and spend quality time with their loved one, who they may have been geographically displaced from, and only communicating via online platforms, social media platforms and WhatsApp will have been a great relief to some people. While for other people the opportunity to actually get back into the dating scene will also be a great temptation.
In the winter of 2020 the ‘Covid-19: Dating Apps, Social Connections, Loneliness & Mental Health in a Pandemic’ research project rolled out an online survey and preliminary findings will be presented at the annual British Society of Gerontology conference in July 2021.
Led by Marston the research fellow in the Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area (H&W SRA) at The Open University in collaboration with colleagues from the SRA and Morgan at the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University they have conducted a mixed methods project to explore the role and impact of dating app use during the pandemic.
Although more findings will be presented at the BSG annual conference, Marston and Morgan wanted to share with you some interesting pieces as we start to analyse the data. The data below is an overview based on some of the data collected:
Table 1 Reasons why people use social media
|Connect with friends||44.9 (62)|
|Connect with family||38.4 (53)|
|Keep up to date with news||34.1 (47)|
|Share photos||29.0 (40)|
|Follow/participate in events/groups||26.8 (37)|
|Share information||26.1 (36)|
|Express opinions/views||18.8 (26)|
|Organise events||10.1 (14)|
|Professional discussion with peers||0.7 (1)|
|Singles groups||0.7 (1)|
|Connect with other single people & even if for a moment to feel less alone||0.7 (1)|
Table 2 Reasons for uninstalling or not using Dating Apps during the Pandemic
|I did not see the point of using Dating Apps during the pandemic||5.1 (7)|
|Mental health||4.3 (6)|
|I was no longer looking to date||4.3 (6)|
|Because I was not able to meet anyone||3.6 (5)|
|I could not be bothered||2.9 (4)|
Table 3 Motivations for using Dating Apps
|Finding love||42.0 (58)|
|Connect with someone||32.6 (45)|
|Communication with someone/people||26.1 (36)|
|For fun||23.9 (33)|
|To pass the time||22.5 (31)|
|I am lonely||18.1 (25)|
|Because it is entertaining||15.2 (21)|
|Having a 1-night stand||8.7 (12)|
|To relax||6.5 (9)|
|To get over my ex||5.8 (8)|
|Connect with people of the same sexual orientation||4.3 (6)|
|I have fetishes/kinks||4.3 (6)|
|I want to find a younger woman||3.6 (5)|
|A break from work/study||3.6 (5)|
|Peer pressure because my friends suggested I use them||2.9 (4)|
|I am into BDSM||2.9 (4)|
|To experience anal||2.2 (3)|
|I am interested in group sex||1.4 (2)|
|I am a swinger||1.4 (2)|
|I am addicted to sex||1.4 (2)|
|I am trying to understand my sexuality||1.4 (2)|
|I want to find an older woman||1.4 (2)|
|I want to find an older man||0.7 (1)|
|To have sex more regular than a 1-night stand||0.7 (1)|
Additionally, Marston and colleagues also conducted several online interviews between February and April 2021 and are illustrated in the following quotes:
“Mainly nowadays Bumble. I for a while used OK Cupid before all of this. That’s where I met one of my partners. But I hadn’t really been on it for a while anyway and also it started to get a bit weird and hard to understand, so I gave up. Whereas Bumble yes, I’m on Bumble and I fairly regularly go onto it. But it’s been window shopping for want of a better phrase. Because it’s partly to do with the quarantine rules really, is that I don’t see the point in doing much active on it, because I could, as I see at the moment I could at most be forming new online only connections. And I have two really good online only connections, I’m not sure I would be gaining from pursuing anything. But it is nice to use the app to see who’s there and what kind of people are out there and what they’re saying about themselves and what they’re looking for, is anyone looking for someone who might fit my description, even if I am not going to be that person if you see what I mean in any foreseeable future nearby. And yes, getting validation from people swiping right on me.” [Bernadette, 42 years]
“through my employer, they, when I returned to work in February they got me some counselling sessions, online counselling sessions set up through Access to Work. And so I’ve just finished those. And they got me onto things like there’s a listening book about stress from one of those TV celebrity doctors that I’ve been listening to which has been really useful, you know, different strategies for that. And then I’ve been like using the app Headspace and doing guided meditations and that sort of thing. And those have been really really useful for me. They’ve made a lot of difference. In terms of the sex stuff then, you know, we’ve used online porn, Grindr, those sorts of things really. And whilst we don’t have an open relationship but we’ll play together outside the relationship if you follow me. And of course because of COVID we’ve not even done that either. So we almost feel like we’re missing out.” [Stuart, 52 years]
“I was using dating apps up until before December. I felt I was ready for a relationship, so I started using dating apps. I used Bumble, because I seem to have, I tend to have more success, more chats on Bumble than I did on the others. I did meet social distanced dates with a couple of ladies and one’s ignored me. Well both ghosted me basically. We got on all right, but one said yeah we’ll meet up again. Tried to talk to her afterwards and nothing.” [Noah, 40 years]
“I want the right person. At the end of the day hopefully this is the person I’m going to spending, all going well, the next 40 years of my life with. And these are going to be the best 40 years as well. So I’ve got one opportunity here. So that’s why I was quite pragmatic when life changed and I said OK, I didn’t want this to happen but it has. I can’t change anything going back. And even if I could actually the person I was with, she’s the person that I was in love with from the age of 17, 18 years old. Is she the person now that if I said right these are all the qualities that I find most desirable and attractive that would get the most out of me and I would be able to get the most out of them and we will achieve great things, she would not be that person. I would not choose to be in a relationship with her. So this is a chance for me to reset that and to find that person who, I say, my life is a 10 out of 10. With the right person it’s going to be an 11 out of 10.” [Harry, 54 years]
“I used the apps quite a lot during the first lockdown and a bit in the second lockdown. I barely even looked at them in this lockdown to be honest with you. But I used them a lot in the summer one. I would never pay for them. It’s not worth it.” [Rachel, 44]”
“I think I’m quite level-headed about them. I don’t think oh my god, this is the one, this is the one right, this person here, you are the one. I know that some people do that, they go down like a rabbit hole with somebody, and they’re just like that’s it, we’re going to get married next year. I’m very down to earth, I have very low expectations of anybody I meet. And I think well if you turn out to be a half nice person and we can be friends, that’s a bonus. I don’t expect to meet the love of my life on Tinder. So I think I’m very grounded about the whole thing. And I’m there for me to potentially meet somebody, but I don’t certainly put all my eggs in that basket.”[Diane, 51 years]
The English vaccination program has now been extended to include people over the age of 25- years (Roberts, 2021; NHS England, 2021) and as of the 7th June, media outlets were reporting on how dating apps were going to enable users to ‘badge’ their profiles to display to other users that they had received the vaccine (Kleinman, 2021; Walker, 2021).
As noted by Kleinman in her article, there is no appropriate way to identify whether a user of dating apps (i.e., Tinder, Match, Hinge, Bumble, Badoo, Plenty of Fish, OurTime and Muzmatch) who has ‘badged’ the vaccine on their profile have actually received their two vaccinations or not. Furthermore, Walker (2021) notes how the different apps are offering incentives to users such as extra ‘boosts’. Furthermore, a similar approach has also been rolled out in May 2021 through the collaboration of dating app companies and the White House in the USA to enable users to badge their respective dating app profiles.
On Twitter there is a community of users who share their dating app experiences and you can find their handles and respective blogs and podcasts via Marston and Morgan (2020a) blog piece from the 2nd November ‘Lockdown 2.0: Gunpowder Plot, Digital Christmas, Sex and Relationships.’
Marston publicly reached out to this community to ask for their thoughts and opinions given our rapid the world of dating apps can be, and how quickly the vaccination program is progressing to garner thoughts on having their respective profiles ‘badged’. Below are some responses from followers of Marston on Twitter:
“I’m not on them and haven’t been for a while but I don’t think I’d highlight it if I was. If there was an option in the profile section that you could tick then I would do but I wouldn’t add it” (@itsmymatepaddy)
“I’m also staying app-free. I’m fully vaccinated but not sure if I’d put it on my profile, unless I could think of a witty sentence to spin it with.” (@BumblingD)
These comments from users of dating apps and who share their dating experiences online through various outputs have shown a mix of positive and adverse opinions about presenting one’s vaccination status on their dating app profile.
As we are aware, respective Governments are seeking solutions to identify tourists to show/present their vaccination status as a means of travelling abroad, via a digital passport or similar (BBC News, 2021; Rawlinson & Geddes, 2021; Proctor and Devlin, 2021; Henley, 2021; Lawrie, 2021). However, while the notion of displaying one’s vaccination status on one’s dating app profile might prove innovative especially to younger generations and as a means of continuing with the take-up of the vaccine rollout by younger people, there is still the issue of knowing whether a person has actually had their 1 or 2 vaccines or not.
Trust is major factor in life, employment, relationships and the world of dating apps and as presented by Marston Niles-Yokum, Earle, et al., (2020) there can be negative behaviours and experiences conducted between and by dating apps users.
Therefore, should dating app users really trust the ‘badged’ profile stating that a person has been vaccinated or not? For some users, they will still take the risk to meet a person for a quickie, a drink and a meal or even a stroll by the canal, while for others they will not.
Preliminary data from the ‘Covid-19: Dating Apps, Social Connections, Loneliness & Mental Health in a Pandemic’ research project is showing that for some users their use of dating apps during the pandemic was a means of connecting and communicating with others, to fill the void of possibly feeling lonely, being geographically displaced from loved ones, partners, FWBs and from conducting various (sexual) experiences.
Updates and outputs from this research project will be available via the following areas:
- Twitter @sex_Monday
- Project website: https://healthwellbeing.kmi.open.ac.uk/covid-19/sex-social-connection-on-a-monday/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialConnectionsonaMONDAY
Adapt Tech, Accessible Technology (ATAT). (2020). Research project. https://healthwellbeing.kmi.open.ac.uk/related-projects/adjust-tech-accessible-technology-atat/
BBC News. (2021). Covid-19: PM promises review on issues of vaccine passports. 24th February 2021, retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56169616. Accessed 25th February 2021.
Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area (H&W SRA). The Open University. https://healthwellbeing.kmi.open.ac.uk/
Henley, J. (2021). Covid: EU unveils ‘digital green certificate’ to allow citizens to travel. The Guardian, 17.03.21. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/17/covid-eu-unveils-digital-green-certificate-to-allow-citizens-to-travel. Accessed 25th May 2021.
Kelinman, Z. (2021). Covid vaccine stickers come to dating apps in UK. BBC News, 7th June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-57379034. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Lawrie, E. (2021). ‘Vaccine passports’: Will I need one for going out, work and travel? BBC News, 24th February 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-55718553. Accessed 25th February 2021.
Marston, H.R., & Morgan, D.J. (2020a). Lockdown 2.0: Gunpowder Plot, Digital Christmas, Sex and Relationships. Ageing Issues Blog, 2nd November 2020. Retrieved from https://ageingissues.wordpress.com/2020/11/02/lockdown-2-0-gunpowder-plot-digital-christmas-sex-and-relationships/. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Marston, H.R., Musselwhite, C., & Hadley, R.A. (2020). COVID-19 vs Social Isolation: the Impact Technology can have on Communities, Social Connections and Citizens. Ageing Issues, 18th March, 2020. The British Society of Gerontology. Retrieved from https://ageingissues.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-vs-social-isolation-the-impact-technology-can-have-on-communities-social-connections-and-citizens/?fbclid=IwAR1sUsffKNd_G5u6d_oc0Z56u4Es7HyoCJYKr0qSnqFxX68pD3PY5JaSl7g. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Marston, H.R., Niles-Yokum, K., Earle, S., Gomez, B., & Lee, D. M. (2020). OK Cupid, Stop Bumbling around and Match Me Tinder: Using Dating Apps Across the Life Course. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/2333721420947498
NHS England and NHS Improvement Midlands (2021). 25 to 29-year olds to be invited to receive life-saving Covid vaccine. Published 7th June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.england.nhs.uk/midlands/2021/06/07/25-to-29-year-olds-to-be-invited-to-receive-life-saving-covid-vaccine/. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Our World in Data. (2021). UK Statistics – current number of vaccinations in the UK. Last updated 4th June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=current+number+of+vaccinations+uk&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB747GB748&sxsrf=ALeKk030dKKy9FItC6n8sHlHyp1EC8Mptw%3A1623238186195&ei=KqbAYOq6C6LIgwfqv5jADw&oq=current+numbers+of+&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAMYADIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIHCAAQyQMQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjIECAAQCjoHCAAQRxCwAzoECCMQJzoHCAAQsQMQQzoFCAAQkQI6BAgAEEM6CggAELEDEIMBEEM6DQguELEDEMcBEKMCEEM6DQgAEIcCELEDEMkDEBQ6CAgAELEDEMkDOgUIABCSAzoHCAAQhwIQFDoFCAAQsQM6AggAOggIABCxAxCDAToFCAAQyQNQg6MDWNa6A2DlzANoA3ACeACAAWKIAaILkgECMjCYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6yAEIwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Proctor, K., & Devlin, H. (2021). Coronavirus UK: health passport ‘possible in month’. The Guardian, 04.05.20. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/03/coronavirus-health-passports-for-uk-possible-in-months. Accessed 25th May 2021.
Rawlinson, K., Geddes, L. (2021). NHS app will be used as Covid ‘vaccine passport’ for foreign travel. The Guardian, 28.04.21. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/28/covid-nhs-app-will-be-used-as-vaccine-passport-for-foreign-travel. Accessed 25th May 2021.
Roberts, M. (2021). Covid vaccine: 25 to 29-year-olds in England invited. BBC News, Published 7th June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57384099. Accessed 9th June 2021.
Walker, P. (2021). Cupid’s needle? UK under-30s wooed with dating app vaccine bonus. The Guardian, published 7th June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/07/cupid-needle-uk-under-30s-courted-dating-app-vaccine-bonus. Accessed 9th June 2021.