Published August 5th, 2020 at 12:13 PM
When government leaders instituted stay-at-home orders and other quarantine rules in the spring, more than just hairstylists and restaurants were suddenly shuttered. People’s love lives were instantly shelved, too, as the lack of places to go and concerns about the virus overshadowed the desire to couple.
Still, humans crave interaction, so online dating exploded in popularity.
The numbers tell the tale.
In research conducted April 22-24, 2020 by Morning Consult, a data intelligence firm, 31% of the 2,200 American singles surveyed who use a dating app reported “somewhat more” use of online dating apps during quarantine. And 22% revealed they were utilizing dating apps “much more” than they had pre-pandemic. Nearly half of those who use a dating app said they logged on every day.
Jane (not her real name), 59, who lives in Ohio, found herself single when her 37-year marriage ended in 2017. She lived alone for the 18 months prior to her divorce, giving her time to adjust to her new and strange reality. She began online dating six months after her divorce was finalized.
“I was thinking ‘where does a fifty-six-year-old go to meet people?’ Online dating seemed like the only viable option,” said Jane.
Over the past three years, Jane has tried five dating apps and has met more than 100 men in person. She was in a relationship when Ohio issued its coronavirus quarantine orders on March 29, so the new rules didn’t affect her life much. However, when that relationship ended, “it was back to the drawing board” of online dating, she said.
Ohio lifted its stay-at-home orders on May 29. Since then, Jane has met five dates at either a park or outdoors at a restaurant. Sparks did not fly during any of those socially distanced meetings, but Jane said if they had, COVID-19 would not have kept her from kissing.
Kate Kaufmann, 68, likes to say her divorce was “completed” in 2016 following a 34-year-marriage. Soon thereafter, the Oregonian joined, then quit, Match.com, thinking it was too soon to start dating. In 2018, she spent three months on eHarmony, where she was emotionally misled by a would-be suitor.
In June 2019, Kaufmann returned to online dating. She joined OkCupid, where she met a man she dated for six months. She rejoined the site in January 2020 when the two of them broke up.
Despite her reliance on the internet for assistance finding a partner, Kaufmann has not been on a virtual date during the pandemic. “I don’t even know what that means,” she admitted. Since quarantining became the norm, she has met two men face-to-face.
“Everyone wore masks, which feels odd. It adds another layer. No one knows the protocols nowadays. I can’t even picture how it works to get to (becoming close),” she said. For her, kissing during COVID-19 is an absolute no-no.
While she does not find dating during the pandemic satisfying, Kaufmann has no plans of quitting.
Still, not every dating boomer agrees that physical interaction during COVID-19 is wrong, despite overall concerns about contracting the virus.
Tim (who asked that his last name not to be used), who has been divorced four years, has taken two women out since Ohio’s stay-at-home orders were lifted.
The 55-year-old Columbus resident said despite regularly donning a mask when he can’t social distance outside or in a store, he would consider having sex with a woman he met online. “If I trusted her, and knew she wore a mask in public regularly, I would even sleep with her,” he said.
Norma Bryant Howard, 73, is a Louisville divorcee. She began hosting a weekly podcast on her Facebook page about boomers and dating in January 2020 because “I discovered there were so many women who had totally given up on the sanctity of having a loving connection with a high quality man,” she said. Her program, ‘The Princess Secrets: Dating Advice and More for Today’s Baby Boomers” is presented live on Fridays at 7 p.m. ET.
On a personal level, Howard has been in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend for nearly nine years. Due to concerns about the virus, the couple has only seen each other twice since March.
They keep their love alive in a variety of ways appropriate for a pandemic. For example, they enjoy a dinner date over Skype every Saturday night. They each sit at their respective dining room tables and eat the same menu. Thursday nights are reserved for Netflix movies, which they watch simultaneously, then discuss afterwards. Virtual tours of museums throughout the world and virtual cooking classes have also proven enjoyable.
Eric Resnick fields dozens of questions from clients about dating every day. As owner of Profilehelper.com, Resnick has been helping singles write their dating profiles since 2005. That adds up to over 25,000 profiles on every dating site imaginable (unless the site promotes adultery).
Dating sites appeal to a wide range of audiences, from the general (like Bumble) to the niche (like Farmers Only). Still, “90% of the dating market is probably on 10” sites, namely Match, Bumble, Hinge and OkCupid, said Resnick.
However, there is a nefarious side to the online experience. As dating apps gain in popularity, so do the opportunities for schemers to ply their craft.
Resnick cautioned daters aged 50 and older to be mindful of would-be partners who might be frauds because singles in that demographic are “the most regularly targeted markets for scammers.”
He urged boomers to stick to locals when it comes to online dating. That’s because distance is an excuse a scammer often uses to delay an initial meeting, pandemic notwithstanding. Meet face-to-face in a public venue within a week of an initial online encounter, said Resnick, “so the fantasy doesn’t keep building.”
According to Resnick, scammers prey on men and women differently. Widows over 60 are prime targets, with a popular ruse being the “hero scam.” In that scenario, which usually occurs early in an online interaction, the scammer claims to have experienced a small emergency that can be resolved with less than $200 worth of assistance from the victim.
“You solve their problem, you feel like a hero and they know they’ve got you,” Resnick said.
Female scammers usually take longer to percolate. A favored scheme is less about a crisis and more about a “large opportunity, like property development. It’s a scam of opportunity and emotional blackmail,” said Resnick.
Despite the inherent risks associated with online dating, it is COVID-19-resistant.
Resnick said, “Now is a great time to try it because it gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people without” the additional pressures of sexualizing the relationship.
This article is from Next Avenue, a public media site produced by Twin Cities PBS. Tami Kamin Meyer is an attorney and freelance writer based in Columbus. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, MarketWatch, Better Homes and Gardens and Cannabis & Tech Today. She is the Social Media Chair of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.@girlwithapen