Finding love is a fraught endeavor during a pandemic. But as the world slowly opens up and people wade cautiously into dating, advertising one’s vaccination status is increasingly common on apps.
In June, dating app Hinge rolled out a feature that allows users to indicate their vaccination status on their profiles—whether they’re fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, not yet vaccinated, or prefer not to say. According to Hinge, globally, users whose profiles show that they’re vaccinated receive 30 percent more matches.
“While much of the world paused, dating didn’t. In fact, at Hinge, we saw a lot of people invest even more effort into their dating lives during the pandemic,” a Hinge spokesperson told VICE, adding that they launched prompts to facilitate potentially awkward video dates for matches who want to hang out in a COVID-safe virtual space.
Virtual meetings are just one aspect of the general hesitancy pervading the pandemic dating scene.
San Francisco-based dating app Coffee Meets Bagel told VICE that in a survey it conducted in August involving over 2,000 users in Singapore, 40 percent of respondents said that they have become more cautious and selective with in-person dates; 59 percent said that they’re now taking longer to meet someone.
The app is also one of the earliest to recognize the importance of addressing COVID-related concerns among daters, having launched a Vaccine Status feature in March “to help daters make safer decisions during the pandemic,” Coffee Meets Bagel co-founder and Chief Dating Officer Dawoon Kang told VICE.
With this feature, users’ vaccination status will appear on their profiles along with other personal details like their height and occupation.
Meanwhile, Bumble has come up with an “I’m vaccinated” badge for users to add to their profiles, as well as an in-app COVID Preferences Center where users can indicate their preferred date format—virtual, socially distanced, or socially distanced with a mask.
During the pandemic, it’s important for users to feel comfortable and safe on a date, said Bumble’s Asia-Pacific Director Lucille McCart in a statement provided to VICE.
“With our new ‘vaccinated’ badge and other features, you can easily communicate your dating preferences on Bumble,” she said.
The past few months have seen the biggest dating apps stepping up their vaccine advocacy efforts. In late August, Tinder rolled out a feature to display vaccination profile stickers for users in Singapore. Stickers include “Vaccinated,” “Vaxing Soon,” “Immunity Together,” and “Vaccines Save Lives.” The app also has a Vaccine Centre page where users can access local vaccine information.
“The Vaccine Centre is intended to provide a way for our members to advocate and share their support for vaccination via interactive stickers on their profile,” Papri Dev, Tinder’s Asia-Pacific communications lead, told VICE.
When the time comes for online matches to meet up, people’s vaccination statuses can also affect dating itineraries in places with differentiated policies for the vaxxed and unvaxxed. Since August, those in Singapore can only dine in restaurants if they’re fully vaccinated. Couples who are not fully vaccinated would have to opt for outdoor picnic dates or a meal at a hawker center.
There’s also the immediate health concern for people interested in COVID-free intimacy.
Starting in September, Grindr would allow users to indicate their vaccination status and filter other users according to their vaccination status, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Melvyn, who prefers to go by just his first name as he has not come out as queer, is a 35-year-old Grindr user in Singapore who mainly uses the apps for hookups. He is supportive of the ability to show your vaccination status on the app, likening the feature to Grindr’s existing HIV indicator which allows users to indicate their HIV status and latest test date on their profiles.
“Singapore had a whole ass app called SafeEntry,” he said, referencing the phone app that’s part of a nationwide digital check-in system for COVID-19 management. “The Grindr feature kinda serves the same purpose: It lets you know that he’s safe... for entry.”
Meanwhile, some users see dating apps’ vaccination badges as a way to filter their matches along the lines of personal values.
Bernice Ng, a 25-year-old Tinder and Bumble user, said that she added a vaccination sticker on her profile as soon as she saw the feature and appreciates seeing the same stickers on others’ profiles.
The dating apps have noted that vaccination statuses indicated on users’ profiles are self-reported and not independently verified by the platforms but for Ng, its advantage is knowing which users share similar values with her, citing anti-vaxxers as a group that she is not interested in interacting with.
“So the sticker alleviates a bit of that issue by signaling that they don’t belong to that group,” said Ng.
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