Love in the Time of Corona: Locked Down Indians are Taking to Online Dating
With social distancing rules and the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown situation restricting normal dating activities, online dating is rescuing Indian singles from loneliness.
The COVID-19 lockdown might be bringing us closer to our families and friends, but what about all the singles out there? Being single during a quarantine can’t be easy. Online dating has come to the rescue of all those by providing a means of connecting with new people with romantic interests. Around the world, online dating is experiencing a sharp rise, and India is no exception.
To find out how online dating has become the messiah for locked-down singles, The Tech Panda spoke to Zach Schleien, Co-Founder of Filter Off, a video speed dating app that’s helping Indian singles maintain their romantic lives.
This (video chatting) really allowed me to see who that person was and vice versa. It allowed them to see who I was about and see if we connected. I wanted to make this the norm and that’s what inspired me to create Filter Off
“During this time people are, given that they are locked down, completely isolated. They’re lacking connection and can be extremely lonely. Online dating allows for that ability to connect with other people and allows you to really be able to share what you’re going through,” he says.
In India, online dating has been made popular by international apps like Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, and Badoo, as well as local apps like Happn. Filter Off has come to India with the aim of helping singles find meaningful connections through its video chatting approach.
According to OkCupid data, ever since the lockdown, the app has seen a 26% rise in conversations in India and a 12% spike in matches. That is second only to Italy at 29% and equal to the UK. Schleien says Filter Off, which was launched in India before the pandemic hit, has already seen a four-fold rise in numbers since.
Filter Off’s Video-first Approach
While there is a slew of dating apps available in the Indian market, Schleien explains that the value of Filter Off lies in its video-chat initiation. He believes a short video chat helps in knowing a person better than just looking at someone.
“You’re really able to connect in an authentic manner versus swiping or just texting back and forth. So you could actually get to know the person. So the core of Filter Off is video first. Our goal is to create authentic, romantic, connections,” he says.
According to OkCupid data, video chatting is one of the popular activities Indian millennials would choose for an online date. Others include sharing meals and drinks, watching movies or TV together, and shared online gaming.
Filter Off is a video speed-dating app. The user chooses a date night event that he/she would like to attend. For example, a date night event in Mumbai could be an interest-based event around cricket or Bollywood. The user RSVPs to these events and can meet other singles who are either equally interested in these types of topics or are close from a proximity matter.
After RSVP, the user can schedule dates, but can’t see the other person, because the photo remains blurred. Instead, the user can see some fun facts about the person they’re interested in.
Since it’s speed dating, the user can schedule a number of dates within a short time. For example, if a user has scheduled dates from 7.00 pm, he/she clicks on ‘start video date,’ initiating 90-second long video chats with the selected dates.
Within the 90 seconds, the user can either decide to match or pass. If it’s mutual and both say match, they enter into a date and can send in-app messages or video messages to each other.
A Visual Experience
Schleien was inspired to create an app with a video experience when he felt a lack of connection in his own dating.
“I would go on dates and I would meet them in person and quickly realize two minutes in that we just didn’t vibe. So I started asking women if they would be okay with jumping on a video chat before meeting them in person,” he says.
He realized that not only did a short video chat allow him an insight into the person, it also allowed him to save time and find romantic partners quickly and in an efficient manner.
“This really allowed me to see who that person was and vice versa. It allowed them to see who I was about and see if we connected. I wanted to make this the norm and that’s what inspired me to create Filter Off,” he explains.
Interest Based Speed Dating
Going ahead, Filter Off aims to see brands running their own interest-based speed dating events with the app. For example, if a health brand sponsored an event on Filter Off, people passionate about health can join the event.
“So it goes beyond just your ethnicity, it goes down to your values and your interests. You can meet potential partners that have similar interests to your own,” says Schleien.
A Digital Romance
Dating has no choice but to go digital in these times of social distancing. At the same time, it has never been easier to connect with people because of online dating. Online dating apps provide every avenue to people of all ages to find common interests with complete strangers and eventually make a special connection.
To all the singles out there, don’t despair. Your grand romance might be just a video chat away.