Back on Dating Apps, Singles Are Fully Vaccinated and Ready To Mingle
“Hot Vax Summer” is coming, but it might not be as wild as you think.
When COVID-19 hit the United States in March 2020, Maya Knell, a 26-year-old actor living in Los Angeles, figured her love life was over. “Well, that’s it for me,” she recalls herself thinking. She deleted her dating apps, sat back and waited. In June, Knell cautiously dipped her toe back into the world of online dating. She re-downloaded Tinder, Bumble and Hinge and, after vetting matches, met up outdoors with those who had recently tested negative. Knell’s experience is an unprecedented turn of events shared by many unnerved by pandemic-era health risks that accompany meeting — and possibly swapping spit with — someone you’ve only spoken to online.
But as more Americans get vaccinated and officials loosen social distancing guidelines, singles are getting bolder, preparing for what some are calling “Hot Vax Summer.” According to a report by CNN, condom sales are up for the first time in months. After months of quarantine and limited social contact, vaccinated people are primed to let out their pent-up sexual frustration. “People are single and ready to mingle in a big way,” Knell proclaims, adding that “literally everyone” is adding their vaccine status to their dating app profiles: “‘I’m half-vaxxed’ or ‘I’m a Pfizer bae’ or whatever the fuck,” she laughs.
“I don’t want to just fuck you; I want to hang out, too.” – Maya, 26, Los Angeles
Though Knell and other singles like her are looking forward to hooking up, dating and generally being social again, they’re not inclined to meet up with just anyone. Though Knell isn’t looking for a serious relationship, she’s being more selective with who she spends time with. When asked what she hopes to get out of her love life in the near future, she describes the ideal partner: “I don’t want to just fuck you; I want to hang out, too. I’m always looking for that balance,” she says, emphasizing that transparency and honesty are especially important. “I don’t fuck with ghosting or anything like that. The first time we message, I’m like, ‘What are you looking for?’ Whatever you say is fine, but let’s just get that out out of the way.”
Tyler Noel also finds herself reevaluating her standards. Though the 25-year-old is fully vaccinated and open to meeting IRL, she’s continuing to use video chat dates to feel out her matches. “I’m still vetting everyone…I just think it’s more efficient,” she states of the virtual medium, which flourished during the height of the pandemic. “We still don’t know what’s happening with the virus,” she points out, an apt observation amidst a wave of second-dose enthusiasm. “We still don’t know what these mutations are going to become. I’m not going to be in a packed bar looking to pick anyone up.”
“I’ve had the chance to redefine my standards and figure out what I want for the future.” – Em, 23, New York City
Noel isn’t the only one who will continue taking COVID-safe dating measures once things go back to “normal” (whatever that even means). According to Logan Ury, Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, 65 percent of users who have been on a video date plan to keep using the remote format as a way to gauge compatibility before meeting in-person. 40 percent of Tinder users report the same, according to a spokesperson for the app. Of course, some are thrilled to put an end to Facetime dates and start meeting face-to-face. “I know a lot of people have had success with that, but I think it’s super awkward,” says Elise Bang. The 23-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn, is looking forward to getting back to her dating app modus operandi: “Dating a lot of people at once and seeing who sticks,” she sums up.
By forcing people to slow down and reflect, the pandemic seems to have created a new breed of intentional online daters. “I was moving so fast-paced,” notes Em Odesser, a 20-year-old student in New York City. “I didn’t have time to spend a week or two weeks imagining and manifesting what I could want in a relationship. I’ve had the chance to redefine my standards and figure out what I want for the future,” she remarks. In the wake of reflection, Odesser has changed what she calls her “swiping strategies.” Instead of matching with anyone who looks attractive or interesting, she now asks herself, “Do I actually think this person and I would have a conversation?” “It’s interesting to be more mindful about dating apps,” she muses.
“It’s creating a new form of intimacy…I can hear your work calls; I get hear your work voice.” – Tyler, 25, South Jersey
Though Noel and Knell aren’t seeking out long-term relationships, they’re more open to the idea of something serious developing. It’s a shift that seems to be playing out on the wider dating landscape — it’s even permeating Tinder, the dating app formerly regarded as a one-stop-shop for casual hookups. “Mentions of phrases like ‘see where things go’ and ‘open to’ reached all time highs in Tinder bios, indicating that members are showing a greater openness to possibility,” a spokesperson for the app reveals.
For Noel, this newfound openness is the direct result of quarantine loneliness. “If the right person were to come around, I think I would be more willing to take them on than before,” she says, adding that the pandemic has created new forms of intimacy conducive to discovering — and falling in love with — a person’s many facets. “I’ve gone to guys’ houses and we just work from home together,” she recounts, describing how listening to someone’s work calls and hearing their “work voice” is a strangely intimate act. And on a purely practical front, remote working has freed up Noel’s schedule, giving her time to entertain the idea of a serious relationship and its many commitments.
Though post-COVID life is expected to mirror the hedonism of the roaring ’20s, Hot Vax Summer might turn out to be tamer than we thought. Absolutely, people will let loose and indulge in carefree pleasure (as they should). Still, it seems online dating has become more thoughtful throughout the course of the pandemic, as the grim reality of mortality pushed us to cherish our time and loved ones. “I guess it kind of contradicts the fact that I’m ready to date a lot of people, but I have higher standards. I’m trying not to settle,” Bang declares, explaining how her views on love and dating have evolved since March 2020. “It’s taught me how important the people around you are, and who you choose to give time to.”