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online dating- A motivated behaviour during pandemic

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Abstract

Online dating received a recent upsurge since the outbreak of pandemic with most people confining themselves to virtual dating. This paper conceptualizes and draws conclusion from the existing literature stating the factors responsible for an increase in online dating. Owing to home restrictions and social distancing, people turned to online dating apps mainly to maintain the social connection and interaction, get introduced to potential suitors and also worked as a stress buster. Besides these factors, abundant time at hand and the chance to be true and comfortable in one's own space, such factors served to cope with the threat faced on safety and belongingness through use of online dating. Consequently, online dating applications are seen favorable by the majority due to its accessibility, anonymity and lesser emotional exhaustion because of perceived behavioral control.
Keywords: online dating,
pandemic, social connectedness,
perceived behavioral control
Date of Submission :
Date of Acceptance :
15 September 2020
04 November 2020
Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture
Volume (6), Issue (2), December 2020
ISSN 2581-575X
https://www.iisb.org./
22
Introduction
With COVID-19 our everyday activities and
errands have witnessed shift to the online
mode. From accessing information online,
online transactions, online purchase, virtual
learning, running businesses online, work
online from home to finding potential
Review Article
Online dating: A motivated behavior during pandemic
1 2 3 4
Gunjan Joshi , Sadaf Rais , Mary Ann , Ishangi Mishra
1King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2Shree Guru Govind Singh Tricentenary University, Gurugram, Haryana, India
3Dr. MGR Educational and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
4Independent Researcher, Clinical Psychologist, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Abstract
Online dating received a recent upsurge since the outbreak
of pandemic with most people confining themselves to
virtual dating. This paper conceptualizes and draws
conclusion from the existing literature stating the factors
responsible for an increase in online dating. Owing to home
restrictions and social distancing, people turned to online
dating apps mainly to maintain the social connection and
interaction, get introduced to potential suitors and also
worked as a stress buster. Besides these factors, abundant
time at hand and the chance to be true and comfortable in
one's own space, such factors served to cope with the threat
faced on safety and belongingness through use of online
dating. Consequently, online dating applications are seen
favorable by the majority due to its accessibility, anonymity
and lesser emotional exhaustion because of perceived
behavioral control.
partners online, the internet has transformed
lives of individuals drastically. Earlier, the e-
mode was a choice as people could always go
back to the offline or the manual mode for
carrying out their chores. However, owing to
the present pandemic times, people are left to
stick to the e-mode only. As people were
home confined due to strict lockdowns in
and around the globe, the internet observed a
surge in online dating in several countries,
including India (Rodgers, 2020).
A few of the prominent dating applications
include, Zoosk, OkCupid, eHarmony,
Corresponding Author :
How to cite the article :
DOI :
Gunjan Joshi
E Mail: gunjanj051011@gmail.com
10.5281/zenodo.4295667
Joshi, G., Rais, S., Ann,
M., Mishra, I. (2020). Online dating: A motivated
behavior during pandemic. Indian Journal of
Health, Sexuality & Culture, 6(2), 22-32.
23
Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
Tinder, Bumble among others which serve to
both heterosexual and homosexual
populations. These dating applications
present to the interested audience a precisely
put combination of three aspects which
further increase their likeability, usage and
popularity. These three features are, firstly,
providing access to potential romantic
partners, i.e., being exposed to potential
partners whom users will be unlikely to meet
in person had they not been on the platform;
secondly, allowing communication with
potential romantic partners, i.e., using
various computer mediated communication
to know the suitor/suitress before meeting in
person and lastly, matching with compatible
romantic partner, i.e., websites employ an
algorithm to match two people based on a
number of selection criteria rather than a
random matching of individuals (Finkel et
al., 2012). These aspects pose as the benefits
of ‘online’ in the phenomenon of dating.
Advantages of online dating
There is a considerable positive side to online
dating. They serve as platforms with the
provision of services and tools to people to
find partners online, beginning with dating
and perhaps culminating into a long-term
relationship of marriage (Finkel et al., 2012;
Golbeck, 2015). A study by Couch and
Liamputtong (2008) on the use of internet to
meet sexual partners interviewed and did an
in-depth analysis with 15 such users. The
study revealed several potential benefits
including no or minimal deceit. Anonymity
can be maintained unless both the sides want
to meet face-to-face; ability to filter identity;
allows opportunity for better connectivity
and enhanced social as well as sexual
network; gives access to not only like-minded
people but also a better geographical
connectivity and that online dating allows
opportunities to manage online contacts and
plan prospective meetings before sexual
interactions. As such, online dating can offer
valuable health protection, as "it allows users
to predetermine safer sex".
Besides, online dating is also promising in
offering access to partners who otherwise
might lack it, providing computer-mediated
communication to promote greater
engagement with each other and the
matching algorithm may help in deducting
those individuals who might not turn out to
be potential romantic/relationship partners
(Finkel etal., 2012).
Disadvantages of online dating
While there are many advantages and
increases of online dating. Online dating has
its own disadvantages or harm.Online
romance scam has become a new fraud since
2008 (Whitty & Buchanan, 2012). A study
estimates 230,000 citizens in Britain may
have fallen victim to online dating scam and
the UK National Fraud Authority reports an
estimation of over £38 it takes into account
of fraud cost in the United Kingdom in 2011
(Whitty & Buchanan, 2012).
Fake accounts - Individuals over the web
are not genuine about what their identity is,
so you may get feline fished. To abstain from
being defrauded by a phony profile, have a go
at downloading the profile image of the
individual and doing a Google picture search.
On the off chance that the individual is using
another person's image, you'll have the
option to see by the outcomes you find. It's
additionally a warning if you've been ‘dating’
somebody for quite a while, and they will not
meet face to face - it could imply that they are
not who they state they are.
Scams- Online well-being and security aren't
constantly ensured in the digital world. As
much as feel you confide in your online
accomplice, you may likewise be a casualty
ofdefrauding and fraud. Regardless of how
hard you succumb to somebody on the web,
don't give them your own subtleties like
financial balance subtleties, place of
residence, ID number, individual pictures or
whatever else that gives somebody individual
admittance to your life particularly if you've
never met them and fabricated trust after
some time.
Danger of getting explicitly attacked
You won't have a clue about an individual's
actual aims, particularly on the off chance
that you met them on the web, so it's simple
for you to succumb to any wrongdoing,
including rape. Many sex wrongdoers look
for their next casualties on the web and
frequently profess to be youthful all together,
draw individuals a lot more youthful than
them. In case you're underage, don't meet
somebody you met online alone, under any
condition.
Increase in online dating during
COVID-19
When an individual is faced with a threat
upon their basic needs, there is a motivated
behaviour to reduce resultant distress.
Pandemic opens new challenges to human
connection and the perceived control over
these goal-directed behaviour (Baumeister &
Leary, 1995). Individuals are faced by a
constant flux at this pandemic wherein the
need for safety, need for belongingness and
need for esteem is threatened. Therefore the
sudden surge from 0 to 15% rise between the
months of Febraury and June in usage of
dating application questions the motive of
individuals to seek solace in an online dating
forum (Nabity-Grover Cheung & Thatcher,
2020). With the imposition of countrywide
lockdown, there has been a rise in frequency,
amount of usage of online dating apps and
an increase in number of users of such
applications. It has been observed based on
the latest statistics that 30% young Indians
have admitted themselves to be frequent
users of OkCupid, a dating application (Roy,
2020). The application observed a boom in
subscription after the first week of lockdown
in March, 2020, with subscriptions increased
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
by 70% in India alone. OkCupid witnessed
26% increase in online conversation and
12% increase in matches. Quackpack,
another dating platform observed a daily user
signup up to 80%. Similarly, on Bumble,
there was upsurge in messages with a 29%
increase with two in five turned meaningful.
In addition, the application also observed
17% increase in video calls since the initiation
of the lockdown (Roy, 2020; Majumdar,
2020; Sharma, 2020). Viewing such
mounting interest in and usage of dating
application or websites, the applications'
developers also came up with new features to
further increase their profits and make online
dating a rather pleasant process. For instance,
Bumble, a dating app put forth a new feature
of "Virtual Dating", which refers to a badge
that appears in profiles of users who are
open to date via video chat. Likewise, Tinder
not being far behind, launched a "Global
Mode", wherein users are served potential
partners from all over the world regardless of
where they live, whereas earlier the location
was restricted to only a few miles (Jennings,
2020). An online survey found that 8% men
and 23% females would actually date after
the pandemic is over (John, 2020).
A huge outpouring of users of online dating
application led to increased online dating
during COVID-19, indicating that majority
of the people benefitted from their
engagement in online dating as it might have
allowed them to remain connected, maintain
the zeal, look forward to new meetings and
potential suitors with the ease of being at
home. With more time at hand to learn about
each other rather than rushing into meeting
within the first month of initiating
conversation and sparing the anxiety of
rushed physical intimacy, online dating also
worked as a de-stressor to many during this
period of pandemic.
Nonetheless, to have been home restrained
for nearly more than half a year for now, the
current pandemic might bring about a
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
change in how people usually used to date. A
research found that participants with high
perceived vulnerability to disease (PVD)
scores displayed decreased level of interest in
prospective online dating partners, even
when partners were attractive as compared to
people with low perceived vulnerability to
disease (PVD) scores (Graff, 2020). Besides,
users will continue to do video chats more
often relative to previous scenario before
meeting the potential date (Sigalos, 2020).
For instance, OkCupid reported that 91%
Indians will continue dating post lockdown
(Business Insider, 2020).
Factors responsible for increase in online
dating
Safety: Pandemic poses challenges in the
form of threat to safety especially health
factors and the environmental factors which
restrains physical contact. At this pandemic,
the research posits factors that drive fear in
an individual which are fear of threat to
physical health, fear of threat to the
significant other, fear of the unknown and
fear of inaction. At this broad spectrum of
mental distress, the fear of uncertainty and
appraisal of future outcomes leads to a sense
of loss in interpersonal forum among
individuals. This safety risk has forced
individuals to distance from their loved ones
and the perception of 'closeness' is no longer
present which therefore has increased usage
of dating applications (Schimmenti Billieux
& Starcevic, 2020).
Social connectedness and increased
sense of loneliness: As a means of
overcoming loneliness, an individual seeks to
form emotional bonds with people. Dating
and relationships are one such area which
had been crucial for health and well-being.
While romantic relationships had always
been a basic need for individuals as they fulfil
the need to be loved and accepted. The single
most factor that drives people to decreased
quality of life is the inability to fulfil
interpersonal needs (Pietromonaco &
Overall, 2020). Individuals when deprived of
social contact face significant amounts of
negative emotions as being subjected to
loneliness and perceived isolation. Online
dating application is one such application
that has experienced a rapid surge during this
COVID-19 as a means attaining the ends to
the global social isolation. The perceived
loneliness during the lockdown has led to
scan for affection on the web to reduce
loneliness and to connect with others.
Research points out that text messaging and
virtual contact with a person reduces
perceived loneliness (Marston et al., 2020). A
study conducted by Roberts and David
discusses on the belonginess hypothesis and
information foraging theor y which
emphasizes on a phenomenon called as 'Fear
of missing out' which has been perceived as
pervasive apprehension of losing out on
things which others supposedly possess. This
FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) behavior is
increased with an increase of social
deprivation and when the basic need is
threatened. Narendra Klinger, a senior
clinical therapist and psychotherapist from
Mumbai talked about the essential need to
meet with distinct people was intensified
after lockdown, as many people were not
happy with their connections or everyday
exercises during the lockdown period.
“Limited by a wide range of limitations
during lockdown, dating applications picked
up notoriety as they went with the
opportunity to ‘be’ and ‘collaborate’ with
others”, he said ( Kinger, 2020). Therefore,
individuals find an outlet to decrease
perceived loneliness through the use of
dating apps (Roberts & David, 2020).
Lack of positive reinforcement: In light of
the nationwide lockdown and lives of people
coming to a halt, majority of them
ex pe rie nc ed r em ov al of po si t ive
reinforcement from their immediate
environment. Applications like Tinder create
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
an intermittent reinforcing reward system.
Matches act as periodic rewards. Based on
variable ratio (sometimes it takes two swipes,
sometimes it takes 20, the anticipation of an
eventual match combined with unpredictability
of reinforcement leads to continued
swiping).Perceived satisfaction then
continuously reinforces an individual to use
online dating app. In addition, these dating
applications require less investment, hence,
low stakes, but the subsequent pleasantness
and enjoyment these return to the users may
also serve as positive rewards lasting till the
next swipe or action taken on the apps
(Schachter, 2015).
Entertainment and playfulness: With the
imposed nationwide lockdown, monotony
was a contextual factor which drove people
towards entertainment. To reduce boredom,
online dating apps provide individuals a
platform to seek novelty. Due to being home-
bound and work from home lifestyle, people
mostly have spare hours at hand. Besides,
developing new hobbies like reading books,
cooking, gardening, art and craft, people
regardless being young or middle-aged
turned to dating apps for fun purpose.
Owing to current social distancing times,
with no compulsion to meet in-person, users
preferred to spend time knowing potential
partners and in the process dating a few with
mutual discretion to keep it light and slow
(Chakraborty, 2020; Mohan, 2020).
Marital conflicts/discords: The compulsion
to stay at home during the pandemic while no
connection with the outer world can lead to
turmoil in the family. The kind of turmoil
leading to domestic violence as well as
divorces. Thus, due to increased marital
conflicts during lockdown, use of dating
applications has seen an upsurge. According
to Kolkata-based clinical psychologist
Anindita Chowdhury, the lockdown has
turned into an ordeal for many couples.
"There are no external factors at play. There
are no escapes " (Chakraborty, 2020). With
the lockdown, the "me space" has fallen. As
couples are telecommuting and going
throughout the day together, they are feeling
the heaviness of their connections. The
repressed feelings of hatred towards one
another and other relatives, and more
prominent open doors for expected clashes
can disturb family elements. In most
pessimistic scenarios, it might lead couples to
re-examine their similarity. Online and digital
technologies continue to both shape and be
shaped by social practices (Dutton &Peltu
1996), and the ways in which people engage
in romantic and sexual relationships have
been especially impacted by the proliferation
of the Internet.
In search of commitment: Shackled inside
a box like structure, the lockdown has made
the urge among individuals to be with
someone to share their emotional well-being
as well as other turmoil they are going
through. The search for commitment has led
to increase use dating applications. Rusbult's
investment model of responsibility (1980,
1983) is a hypothesis of sentimental
connections that clarified why a few people
may stay in a relationship while others may
not (Le & Angnew, 2003). It depends on four
components: fulfilment, investment, comparison
with alternatives and commitment. The
current pandemic rectifies the investment
model with the urgent need to be emotionally
connected, need to be satisfied, no comparison
with alternatives, and commitment over calls
or messages.
Emo tion al int imac y: Dur ing th e
lockdown, the individuals are lacking an
aspect of interpersonal relationships that
varies in intensity from one relationship to
another and varies from one time to another,
much like physical intimacy. The need to seek
love, care and acceptance from a close
partner called as emotional intimacy. The
construct of loneliness evolves from two
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
kinds of loneliness: Social loneliness and
emotional loneliness. Most of the online
platform might address social loneliness
through video chats, audio calls and other
social media platforms but the emotional
loneliness during the pandemic is more
subjective as people feel alienated without
emotional support (Odekerken-Schr€ et al.,
2020). Pandemic poses a threat in the form
of emotional alienation as individuals long
for emotional intimacy from a potential
partner which also explains the surge in
online dating.
Interplay of online dating and socio-
economic status
Age
India has seen an increasing number of
online dating among the millennials as young
as 18 who are finding partners using this
platform (Jha, 2020). There is difference in
the age range across different countries as
U.S users are between the middle 20s and late
40s and Indian users are young as late teens to
late 20s (Kats, 2020). Other than the
millennials, adults between 40s and 60s also
have made use of the dating platforms
during these times..
Marital status
Apart from the millennials, there are also
individuals who are married had reached out
for online dating platforms since the
outbreak of covid-19. As growing evidence
suggesting that partners during lockdown are
even intolerable to the current isolation has
wanting to seek dependency through online
extra-marital affairs USA online dating
statistics indicates there has been 17,000 new
users every day since the pandemic and
continues to rise. The current distance
between couples is also difficult to be
resolved due to the inability to seek a
marriage counselor or therapist and most of
it in the verge of divorce after a pandemic
(Sparks, 2020).
Gender
Among the countries with highest users, Italy
marks the most and, in every country, there
are higher number of female users (Marston
et al., 2020). Most of the Indian users
comprise of male populations until 2018 and
the shift has changed recently to females as
growing number younger generations in
India and other Asian countries (Jha, 2020).
Millennials are well-aware of the needs and
expect a socially balanced life due to many
females being a working professional. Due to
these commitments, many females are
finding an accessible forum to explore dating
opportunities and it serves as a secure
platform for female users. Its been noted that
female users are very careful on the swipes
and choose very carefully compared to the
male users. While a message length of a male
to a female is in the ratio of 1:10 and the time
gap of male users to get matched is 2 minutes
while for females its 38 minutes. These
statistics show significantly different
approach among the males and females in
dating behavior (Iqbal, 2020).
Urban vs Rural
Despite of widespread use of dating
applications across the world, India
continues to fight the taboo related to finding
partners through an online forum. This
approach has long been condemned by
Indian Society. Even in the western societies,
dating in a small town imposed its own
challenges of finding a partner appropriate
to their interests (Vasquez, 2020). Since, its
seen as a favorable option, smaller towns are
also making use of the modality. With
current statistics indicating that most of the
users in India come from the major metro
cities and fewer rural towns compose 20-
30% of the total users. Worldwide statistics
indicating that their users are mostly of the
major influential cities and significant
number of users from smaller towns. This
shift can be attributed to the growing western
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
influence, online forum posing less perceived
risk and for greater convenience (Jha, 2020).
Occupation
Social distancing has led to many individuals
face problems with perceived loneliness and
most of the individuals trying to bridge the
romantic distance in their dating life. Initially,
cultural orientations tend to influence the
choice of partner profession in the online
dating platform but recently women
preferring more technology and creativity
filled jobs among their male partners
(Broster, 2019). While, men preferring
women from the science or professional
domain. With higher number of student
population, there is a significant distinction
in the choice of professional courses
prefer red. With creative field and
professional science areas being pre-
dominantly favored (Reynolds, 2016).
Model of online dating behavior
The current model of online dating brings in
factors related to human connectedness
through online dating platforms at the time
of COVID-19 outbreak through the
literature stated. The process is seen as a
distress reduction model to supposedly
decrease the threat faced on the two primary
areas of human needs: safety and
belongingness. An individual experiences
enhanced negative emotions when primary
needs are deprived and hence motivated to
reduce the distress. The distress is either
faced on the physical health such as safety
related to COVID-19 infection, mental
health such as distress and depression from
deprivation of normal functioning or social
factors such as rejection, isolation and
longing due to loss of close relationships
(Schimmenti Billieux & Starcevic, 2020).
While the threat is processed, individuals
form goal directed intentions as explained
through the theory of planned behavior
(TPB) given by Icek Ajzen in 1985 wherein
he brings up three main components such as
the attitude, subjective norm and perceived
behavioral control. The resultant behavior is
coping to the threat using some form of
modality that decreases the threat on their
primary needs and reduces distress (Bonilla-
Zorita Griffiths & Kuss, 2020).
The theory of planned behavior in the light
of pandemic, online dating application is
used by forming an intention to form
emotional bonds with a person who could be
depended upon and the subjective norm is
considered through the positive word of
mouth about online application through
friends and internet serving as a reference
(Han et al., 2020). The reference if given
through trustworthy sources such as a user,
close friend and trustable news articles
increases compliance. And finally, the
individual need to have perceived behavioral
Figure 1: Model of online dating behaviour during pandemic
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
control such as the practicality of the use of
dating applications and the affordability
which leads to a decision. Since reality dating
is not possible at this pandemic, the
perceived behavioral control is decreased for
seeking real-life connections. Because of it,
online dating application serves as a modality
to cope to the threat of connection (Bonilla-
Zorita Griffiths & Kuss, 2020).
Online dating application: A harmless
venture
Most of the advantages of online dating
platforms during the COVID-19 situation is
favourable for people because of three main
factors: accessibility, anonymity and less
emotional exhaustion (Seidman, 2013;
Marston et al., 2020). The accessibility is one
of the rewarding advantages of digital
platforms as it provides perceived
behavioural control despite of the pandemic
outbreak for individuals as mentioned in the
theory of planned behaviour (TPB)
(Lieberman & Schroeder, 2020). Individuals
are confined to their homes and accessibility
is attained through digital medium such as
online shopping, food ordering, google meet
sessions and even dating is taken to a whole
new light (Clement, 2020). The anonymity is
the second rewarding platform as the danger
of being exposed or being vulnerable is lesser
as most individual have a sense of safety over
the use of online dating application. When
an individual is self-disclosing through some
form of online forum, the perceived risk
sensed by individuals is lesser compared to
the physical presence (Andreassen, 2015).
The third aspect talks about the rejection
sensitivity faced by the online dating
application. Research conducted on the
emotional well-being of individuals in an
online dating platform showed that
individuals had reduced rejection sensitivity
compared to real-dating experience as the
amount of emotional investment and
expectation is lesser due to a more casual
approach in online dating (Mahdavifar, 2020).
Future prospectus of online dating
Given the current literature on online dating,
prospective future studies can aim to
robustly understand online dating as a social
phenomenon, with crucial emphasis on
which and how psychological theories or
models may explain this trend to find
partners online. Apart from the quantitative
evidence, qualitative analysis should be taken
up by conducting in-depth interviews or
focused-group discussions with users of
dating apps to gauge subjective insight on the
pros and cons of online dating. Also,
longitudinal researches can aid in illustrating
what psychological factors play an important
role in continuing or declining from such
services. This way, it may illustrate the
potential perils of withdrawing from online
dating as well as the maintenance factors. A
cross-cultural study may help in delineating
the culture specific along with the common
aspects posing either as likely positives or
negatives in online dating and applications.
Conclusion
With the lockdown and easy accessibility to
internet, online dating has shown an upsurge.
Factors responsible for increase in usage of
dating applications amongst people include
safety, social connectedness and increased
loneliness, lack of positive reinforcement,
entertainment and playfulness, marital
conflicts/discords, in search of commitment
and emotional intimacy. Moreover,
individual's use of dating application can be
understood from a view point of Maslow's
need hierarchy theory. Threat to basic needs
like health safety and belongingness will
motivate people to cope using dating
applications, which in a way is makes it
convenient and feasible given the situation
amid pandemic. Due to the uncertainty about
the duration of this pandemic, dating apps
will see substantial increase in its usage as
more people will resort to it.
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Indian Journal of Health, Sexuality & Culture Volume (6), Issue (2)
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