Bumble State of Dating: Experts Weigh in on How to Meet Safely as Lockdowns Ease

With more than half the country’s states at least partially easing out of lockdown this week, a significant proportion of Bumble’s community is ready to date ‘IRL’ again. In fact, according to a recent user sentiment survey, a full 80% of Bumble users in the U.S. are now open to meeting a match in person versus dating virtually via video chats and voice calls. 

But news of the pandemic’s effect worldwide evolves daily, if not hourly — and legislators have warned they’ll mandate stay-at-home orders again if necessary. Bumble’s community reported feeling particularly motivated to find a compatible partner as a result: 60% of the app’s users said they’re seeking a companion to hunker down with, should shelter-in-place restrictions resume. 

Still, over 44% expressed uncertainty about what’s acceptable and safe in what some experts suggest could be a ‘new normal’ when it comes to dating. The results of Bumble’s user sentiment analysis come on the heels of research out of China that confirms transmission of covid-19 almost always happens indoors. This could mean tried and true spots to meet for dates — restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and concert venues, for instance — are off the table for now, for safety’s sake.

For Dr. Michael Angarone, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, this climate means those looking to meet their Bumble matches in person should start getting creative.

“This offers a way to start rethinking,” he said. “How can you date differently? How can you get to know someone without having to go to a restaurant, or having to go to a movie, or hugging, or holding hands?”

His recommendation? Probably don’t go to a date’s apartment, given the relative likelihood of indoor versus outdoor transmission. Get a takeout meal and head to a park bench or picnic table, Dr. Angarone suggested. Or go for a walk, maintaining the recommended 6-foot distance, for now at least. 

While you’re certainly better off picnicking than going to a house party together, you should understand the risks associated with each activity — and accept the reality that this virus isn’t going anywhere just yet.

“The virus is going to be in our daily lives until there’s a vaccine,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted an 18-month timeline is the best-case scenario. “People have to decide what their risk tolerance is. I wouldn’t dissuade people from dating altogether, but obviously if you’re immunosuppressed because you’ve had a lung transplant, then you shouldn’t.”

Even if your state is preparing to open for business, you should follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the public health nonprofits on the front lines of coronavirus tracking and prevention.

“There are three important factors here: responsibility, respect, and exercising common sense,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy and Practice at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. Dr. Wolfson has been running a federally-funded HIV and AIDS care system in Florida since 1992, so witnessed the height of that devastating epidemic firsthand.

“It’s fine to get back out there, but look at this as an exciting new way of experiencing things,” he said, noting that ‘old-fashioned’ means of communication like phone calls or even writing snail mail letters to a match can build anticipation for a real date once it’s safer. “Savor the moment, and the expectation,” he said. “Really get to know somebody.”

If you do decide to date ‘IRL’, you could take the precaution of discussing your exposure to covid-19, if any. Think of the conversation as akin to one you might have with a new partner about their sexual history. 

“We ask people now about the last time they were checked for an STI, or checked for HIV,” said Dr. Angarone. “You could ask, have your family members been diagnosed with covid? Have you been tested, or had an antibody test? What type of work do you do? Do you put yourself at risk?”

Even if your state has relaxed or ended social distancing guidelines, don’t hesitate to wear a mask, wherever you meet your date. A new study shows that if 80% of Americans wore masks, infections would drop drastically, to one twelfth of current rates. 

“You can transmit this by talking to somebody,” Dr. Wolfson reminded Bumble users, adding that coughing or sneezing near your date is likely riskier than sex

If you aren’t ready to meet a match or indeed anyone new right now, that’s perfectly understandable. You can stick with Bumble’s virtual dating tools, and look forward to the future, even if the dating landscape involves more outdoor meetups and fewer music festivals. Above all, don’t despair.

“As the cases go down, we can become more open, and interact with each other again — just not the same ways we were doing it before,” said Dr. Angarone. “These infections are going to decrease at some point. Right now, you might be video dating, or sitting separated outdoors and having takeout. But in a few months when those numbers go down, that may change.”