Two years ago, video dating seemed like it was just for those in a long-distance relationship. Only about 6% of daters were corresponding via video pre-pandemic, says Rachel DeAlto, Chief Dating Expert, Match.com. But according to the site’s tenth annual “Singles in America” study (released October 2020), 70% of respondents are now open to video dates — and enjoying them.
“It started during quarantine as a necessity because people couldn’t meet,” DeAlto says, “but we’re finding that people are really connecting on video and having more meaningful conversations.”
Match.com isn’t the only site to see a rise in video dates. Use of the Bumble Voice Call and Video Chat feature increased by nearly 70% in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, says Priti Joshi, the company’s Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Operations.
Not only has video dating become more popular — it’s now downright ubiquitous. Many traditional online dating apps and sites have added interactive capabilities, allowing singles to send video or audio messages or to conduct video calls on their platforms.
Since video dating doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, here’s what researchers and experts have learned about dating over a distance in the past year.
Believe it or not, you can feel a spark over video.
After Kyle Smith messaged Olivia Holmes, a woman he met on Bumble, a few times, he called her over video chat. “We ended up talking for three hours,” he recalls. “Our conversation was so organic and, when we weren't laughing about childhood memories and idiosyncrasies, we would talk about our values and goals in life. I was surprised to feel such great energy between us over video chat because I've always been skeptical about online dating. I didn't realize that people could connect with someone on such a deep level if they had never met in person.” Fast-forward several months (of video and, later, in-person dates), and the couple is engaged.
They’re not alone. According to the Match.com study, 56% of respondents reported feeling chemistry on a video date, and 50% said they fell in love over video.
The medium is effective because it enables the sharing of intimate details, which makes us feel chemistry and connection with others, explains Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and a Lovehoney expert. Plus, although a video date won’t offer as much information as an in-person get-together, it will provide more insights than a phone call or text or email exchange. Since you can see and hear your date, you can experience their facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. By learning so much about your date, you can determine whether it’s worth the time to meet them in person.
Some singles figured out the advantages of video dating way before the pandemic. “Since around 2000, online dating has been the most popular way for same-sex couples to meet,” explains Dr. Lehmiller, citing a 2012 study published in the American Sociological Review. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2019, “Lesbian, gay or bisexual adults are about twice as likely as straight adults to say they have used a dating site or app — 55% versus 28%.” For some, video and other virtual dating offer a safer way to identify others with the same sexual orientation, where you can worry less about encountering homophobia, Dr. Lehmiller notes.
All the positives of video dating don’t add up to an experience that replaces in-person dating, however. Though some can experience chemistry and connection over video, the relationship still has to pass the in-person test.
Connections can fizzle in real life.
In-real-life (IRL) dates can put an end to relationships that started digitally. That’s because, although video dating supplies more information than emails or texts, it’s not comprehensive. There may still be gaps between how someone appears in a profile or on a screen and how they are in real life: According to a Pew Research Study, 70% of online daters believe it’s very common for other users to lie to try to appear more desirable.
Furthermore, “We know from research that attraction is a multi-sensory process,” Dr. Lehmiller says. “It’s about visual appeal, but also the way someone’s voice sounds,, the feeling you get when they put their hand on your shoulder, the scent and taste of their lips when you kiss them. Attraction happens through all of those different senses. And, when you meet people virtually, you can’t fully exercise all of them.”
Perhaps equally important, video dating doesn’t reveal how people interact with others, like bartenders, cashiers or your friends and family. In general, “It’s easier to control what you share about yourself in a virtual environment,” Dr. Lehmiller says. “You can craft a skewed picture of who you are.”
Video dating is slowing down the courtship process.
Makala Gentry and Ben Farris, who also met on Bumble, messaged each other for three weeks before having their first video date. Then, they spent another month speaking on the phone or over video before meeting in person. Such a delay of IRL meetups, thanks in large part to video dating, has become increasingly common. “We are going to see fewer first dates,” Dr. Lehmiller says. “But, the ones we do see will be more meaningful because by then, couples will have decided they like each other.” This “slow love” approach might prove successful because by taking it really slow, you’re building a strong emotional bond that might overpower some of the discrepancies between how someone presents online versus IRL.
In fact, 55% of Bumble daters are taking longer to move a match offline, Joshi says. “Instead of exchanging a few messages and then meeting up for a drink, some people have video dates first and then meet up for a more low-key socially distanced date, such as a walk around the neighborhood. We’re seeing more people video date as a sort of ‘pre-date,’ or virtual date before an ‘IRL’ date.”
Even when cities begin to ease social distancing measures, she adds, “virtual connections are here to stay. In one of Bumble’s internal surveys, we found that one in four daters are open to video dating heading into the new year.” According to Dr. Lehmiller, “We’re likely to see online dating continue to rise in the future, as more parts of our lives go virtual.”
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