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How has pandemic dating impacted our love lives?

There’s no question about it – the ramifications of the pandemic have reached into every element of people’s lives – including pandemic dating. From the early advice that “You are your safest partner”, to countless dates taking place over Zoom, dating apps recording their highest ever number of swipes.

Yet as we eagerly near the light at the end of the tunnel, many people are sitting at a crossroad between starting new lockdown relationships, going back on real-life dates and navigating the heartache of relationships that have broken down during lockdown. I couldn’t help but wonder: Has this global health crisis changed how we approach romance and intimate interactions in the long run?

Our audience analysis tool uses comparative text analysis to understand how the conversation on dating has changed as a result of the pandemic. To do this, I downloaded forum conversations about dating over the past two years and split this data by timestamp to create two distinct periods: prior to and during the pandemic. 

Time-based comparisons can help us track how the discourse around a particular topic ebbs and flows. By understanding how a conversation changes, brands can ensure their messaging is reflective of up-to-date opinions. Audience analysis tools have the power to develop a deeper understanding of target demographics, in turn shaping resonant marketing and product strategies.


February 2019 to February 2020

Casual dating
When discussing dating pre-pandemic, people were 2.5x more likely to debate the topic of causal dating. Some people saw the benefits of dating others whereas others weren’t too interested. The point being: casual dating was a completely tangible possibility before the pandemic. A time when it didn’t matter how many ‘households’ you interacted with. Now, people are more cognisant of their social contacts resulting in a higher degree of commitment.

insight card of showing people debating casual dating.

Nerves are part and parcel of dating. However, the fact that people were 3x more likely to convey their worry pre-pandemic in a key insight. Phrases such as super anxious, worrying and insecurity were more prevalent in this time period. Is this because an in-person rendezvous is more intimidating than dating behind a screen? Probably!

insight card of showing people are more likely to worry about dates before coronavirus.

Getting the ick
We’ve all been victims of “getting the ick” – the act of dating someone only to be suddenly and unintentionally cringed out by their entire existence. Pre-pandemic, this seemed to be a lot more common, with words such as needy and ignore appearing 3.5x more in forum conversations. But since we were spending a lot more time with dates in person, is it really a surprise?

insight card of research showing daters more likely to get the ick.

Pandemic dating

March 2020 to Present

Less likely to play games
While the pandemic isn’t over yet, we can use comparison to judge the differences in the current conversation on dating to the conversation before coronavirus.

An interesting insight we discovered was that, since the pandemic began, forum users were 3.9x more likely to talk about games. This was often in the context of people being reluctant to play games while dating. This insight stood out because it shows clearly that the sentiment around dating has shifted. After over a year of lockdowns, quarantining and isolation, people now seem ready for commitment rather than casual flings.

insight card of people discussing dating and that they are less likely to play games.

The effect of COVID restrictions
Masked, sanitised and vaccinated is everyone’s new “type on paper”. However, navigating COVID restrictions is a common theme in the current conversation about dating. Some feel that social distanced dates, such as walks, create a physical chasm. One user claiming: “Socially distanced dating can’t replace the thrill of holding someone’s hand for the first time.” As we approach normal, it will be interesting to see whether dating continues at this slower pace or whether it resumes at full-passionate speed ahead.

insight card of people discussing pandemic dating, talking about socially distanced dates.

Quality of dating apps
If you’re newly single and not sure where to begin, dating apps and sites are the go-to. However, since the pandemic, people are 4.7x more likely to speak about the quality of these apps. Now that people are more likely to heavily scrutinise the services these apps provide, brands should aim to highlight what makes their dating apps unique.

insight card of people discussing the quality of dating apps.

For better or for worse, the landscape of dating has seen an enormous transformation over the past year. These qualitative insights highlight how audiences’ values and opinions have evolved throughout the chaos and underline the behaviours that are here to stay.

Relative Insight’s audience analysis tool is the key to unlocking value from your text data. We can help you discover audience insights you didn’t know to look for.