When it comes to dating technologies—a topic that we at Screen Shot have always been particularly fond of—different cultures always result in contrasting trends and etiquette. In the UK, dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge dominate the market. But what about other cultures, in other countries? In this three-part series titled Dating in China, created in partnership with cross-cultural agency TONG, we spoke to three Chinese ‘serial daters’ in order to provide you with an insider’s point of view into what dating in China is truly like from a young person’s perspective. First things first, here’s an introduction into the world of digital dating in the country as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted China’s dating culture.
Dating app bios have had a love-hate relationship with the pandemic. From humble toilet paper brags to puns about face masks and Purell gels, it seems as if dating profile bios have arrived at their latest pit-stop: COVID vaccination.
Keywords like “covid vaccinated” and “fully vaccinated” have started dominating bios as Tinder reported a 258 per cent rise in users mentioning the word “vaccine” between September and December 2020. OKCupid, a dating app that matches members based on multiple-choice questions, notes a 137 per cent increase in mentions of the keyword between November 2020 and January 2021.
Conversations about proper sanitation and precautions were already a turn-on for dating app users since the beginning of the pandemic. “Two out of three people are already having the ‘COVID conversation’ before they meet,” a spokesperson for Bumble explained in an interview with Tyla. “Before meeting up, 63 per cent of people had a conversation with their dates about the venue, mask-wearing and physical contact, with 80 per cent of people saying that this helped get to know their date better and feel safer.”
The latest trend of vaccination bios seems to further add on to a user’s ‘oomph’ factor. OKCupid includes a set of questions about vaccinations that users can choose to answer in order to match with potential suitors. The question “will you get the COVID-19 vaccine?” has gotten 45,000 correspondents with over 70 per cent positive responses. According to Tyla, these users are getting 2.3 times more ‘likes’ and 1.8 times more matches than those who said no.
“Not only is the vaccine becoming the biggest talking point on dating apps, it’s actually becoming a huge deal-breaker,” Michael Kaye, a spokesperson for OKCupid tells Insider. Further data collected by the app suggests that 40 per cent of millennials and gen Z users would cancel a date with someone who refuses to take the vaccine with the figure 18 per cent higher for women when compared to men.
Though most countries currently prioritise older citizens who are at the highest risk against the virus, majority of these vaccinated-hence-desirable users include key workers like health professionals and those with certain medical conditions who have been given priority in their country. Young vaccine trial participants and US citizens who have been queuing up outside pharmacies for leftover doses are among the dating app users who have been able to get a shot before others.
The trend, despite its seemingly-harmless digital nature, is not free from criticism. One of the downsides pointed out is the lack of verification of the information provided. Users could easily lie about their immunisation status online to engage with their matches who deem their interaction ‘safe’. Dating apps do not verify if someone has been immunised or not from their side either. Insider reports that these apps would not be HIPAA-compliant if they shared health information in the US.
However, the trend might signal the initiation of a greater good: winning the war against COVID-19 itself—and anti-vaxxers too. The desirability quotient related with vaccination statuses on these apps might push more users to get vaccinated, creating new dating norms like ‘vaccinate and chill’ in the process. Eagerness to get back onto the dating market additionally helps push the trend in a positive light. Overall, its ultimate benefits seem to outweigh the immediate negatives. So brace yourselves to spot profile bios in the lines of ‘Let’s rub our anti-bodies together’ soon on your favourite dating apps.