Aug 30, 2021 - Economy

The future of dating is hybrid

 Illustration of a zoom icon with a heart.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Social distancing popularized video dates — and they'll outlast the pandemic.

The big picture: Dating is expensive, and many people are deciding they'd rather meet virtually first in case it doesn't work out.

By the numbers: The average American spends a total of about $700 annually on dates, according to a 2019 LendingTree study.

"But the pandemic was a jolt to our systems," says Logan Ury, a behavioral scientist and the director of relationship science at Hinge.

  • "Video chat was normalized, and it's only natural that it would extend to dating, because dates can be really costly and time-consuming."

So just as people are now saving time and money on commuting and eating out with hybrid work, they're saving money on those first-impression drinks and dinners via hybrid dating.

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, almost no Hinge users had been on a virtual date, per a survey conducted by the dating app. Now, close to half of them (44%) have been on a video date, and 65% of those people say they'll incorporate virtual dating into their routines even when it is safe to meet in person.
  • 37% of Hinge users say they're open to being exclusive with someone before ever meeting in person.

On top of that, 44% of Hinge users say they're nervous about dating again because they worry their social skills may have atrophied during the pandemic.

  • Virtual dating — at least for the first date — can be a smooth way to ease back into the process, because the stakes are lower than in person, says Ury.

But, but, but: In the age of Zoom fatigue, it's important for people to think of ways to separate video dates from work meetings, experts say.

  • Martine, a 29-year-old New York woman, told the New Yorker she meditates beforehand and picks a festive Zoom background or sits in front of her paintings as a conversation-starter.

What's next: The pandemic may be turning more people away from hook-up culture and toward serious dating. About 75% of Hinge users say they're looking for a relationship.

  • "During the pandemic, people had a lot of time alone to think about who they are, what kind of relationships they’ve been in in the past, and what they want in the future," Ury says. "Now there is really this feeling of, 'I’m not going to wait around.'"
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