Back to the Future: Is Video Dating Here to Stay?

We may be entering a new era of online dating.

Posted Sep 13, 2020

Source: Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock

One of the most noticeable changes to communication brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the use of Zoom and similar applications as substitutes for in-person conversations. For many of us, Zoom has become our primary vehicle for interacting with others: From learning to working, it’s how we stay connected during times of social distance. Increasingly, it’s also how we date. 

Video dating first gained popularity in the 80s, but by the time online dating went mainstream with the launch of in the mid-1990s, it had mostly disappeared. However, the unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19 seem to have created just the right conditions for video dating to make a comeback. Since stay-at-home orders first went into effect, there has been a surge in the number of people using online dating. On OkCupid, matches and conversations have spiked since the pandemic began. This uptick in online dating at a time when people are being advised to stay at home has made video dating an appealing option for many. In response, apps and sites have been rolling out video features to help circumvent the risks involved in sending people on in-person dates. 

So, after months of social distancing, what has been the reaction to video dating so far?

People have complained about Zoom fatigue, so there are plenty of online daters who probably still cringe at the thought of another virtual meeting. In our own research, we’ve been finding that although not everyone is using video dating yet, some have started to give it a try. And compared to the old way of doing things, video dating has a lot to offer. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of video is that it creates a sense of social presence, which is theoretically important for making people feel close and connected. When you have a video conversation, it can feel more like there’s a real person on the other side of the screen.

Video dating also extends the process of getting to know someone in what biological anthropologist Helen Fisher calls “slow love.” With virtual dates, there is the opportunity to spend more time talking before rushing into a physical relationship. This kind of “pre-date” may even save you time in the long run by helping to rule out people you’re unlikely to click with face-to-face. And it can give you a better sense of the experiential qualities that make someone attractive in person – like their sense of humor – which means fewer surprises later on.

Given its history and benefits, it would seem that in many ways the move to video has been a long time coming in the online dating world. We were willing to give video dating a try because the pandemic left us with little choice, but in doing so, we may have also helped usher in a new phase in online dating. When COVID-19 ends, virtual dating just might be here to stay.


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