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It’s a ‘hot girl summer’ for post-pandemic singles. What does that mean for dating apps?

June 5, 2021, 1:00 AM UTC

The post-pandemic mating season has begun.

Like birds chirping at a certain pitch, cries of “Vaxxed and Waxxed, Baby” and “Hot Girl Summer” can be heard from London to New York. With restrictions easing in much of Europe and North America, the single population is focused on a singular goal: getting back out there.

Swipes on dating apps are surging—and so is revenue, bringing a record-breaking first quarter for the world’s largest dating company, Match Group. For veterans on the apps, the surge of new profiles is no surprise.

“One hundred percent, people are going to be using it way more now,” Matt, a London-based auditor who is active on Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, tells Fortune. “People have been locked away for 15 months.”

Do you come here often?”

Every app on the market has seen an uptick in swipes as singletons prepare for a sweltering, mask-free summer.

Dating app market leader Match Group, which owns Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid, Hinge, and others, has seen global revenue jump by 23% this year in the first quarter, compared to the same month in 2020, to $667.6 million. The group noted that activity and engagement across all brands have been high since the COVID-19 outbreak, as users swiped from their couch, with few other opportunities to meet new people. A Tinder spokesperson told Fortune that during the pandemic, users were sending more messages, while the length of messages also increased.

The rise in engagement led up to a record-breaking first quarter in 2021. In those three months, the average subscriber base across all dating apps under the Match Group increased by 12%. Tinder alone saw the daily swipe average of users increase by 15%. The app says the bump was due to the pace of the vaccine rollout in many countries, with direct revenues increasing 18%.

That surge is seen whether the app is more hookup friendly, or branded as a way to start serious relationships. Hinge, which positions itself as an app “designed to be deleted,” has become the third most downloaded dating app in the U.S. over the course of the pandemic. Revenue for the app tripled in 2020 compared with the previous year, Match Group results showed.

A spokesperson for LGBTQ dating app Grindr, which is owned by another investment group, declined to provide specific user metrics to Fortune but said the app has seen increased usage recently, pointing toward a feeling of “palpable optimism” that many parts of the world will reopen soon.

“We believe that Grindr members are extremely excited to get back to normal and connect in-person soon,” the spokesperson said.

What was your last relationship like?

During the pandemic, people turned to dating apps because they didn’t have a choice: Stuck at home, it was often the only way to find a new connection, partner, hookup, friend, or just a lockdown distraction from a lingering ex. But now that lockdowns are finally over, at least in the U.S., will online dating still be the default route to a date?

Logan Ury, the director of relationship science at Hinge, says the company believes dating apps will continue to be the most popular way to meet someone.

“Dating apps empower people to connect with others outside of their immediate social circles, in a safe and easy way,” she says.

Part of the appeal dates from before the pandemic. Dating apps provide this “initial unspoken thing” that both parties find each other attractive before meeting, says Emily, an elementary school teacher in London who uses Tinder and HER, a lesbian dating app. This vetting process is especially useful for people who might have anxiety surrounding meeting new people, she says.

But over the course of the pandemic, the apps also served a deeper purpose. Of Hinge users, 59% said they combated feelings of loneliness or isolation by messaging people on the app, Match Group said.

Post-lockdown, dating apps also offer options for easing into the dating pool more slowly, given more than half of the Americans polled may be “uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction,” according to the American Psychological Association.

Do you want to come back to mine?

That doesn’t mean everyone is looking for the same thing. In a survey conducted by Hinge, 46% of users in the U.K. said they were more ready to commit to a serious relationship than before the pandemic. But this could be the inclination to head to Hinge if you’re looking for love or a steady relationship.

Tinder, meanwhile, saw an uptick in phrases like “no pressure,” “no strings attached,” “go with the flow,” “whatever happens” in bio mentions. And Hinge also found that more people said they were looking to stop overthinking their dating life—and instead live in the moment.

Either way, they’re swiping more.

“It is an addiction. It’s like a dopamine rush every time you swipe right—and you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a match!” says Phoebe, a development assistant in the film industry in London. “DING DING DING! I’ve got validation!”

“I’m just not that into you.”

For some veteran daters, however, the pandemic didn’t offer a chance just to swipe more—but perhaps to swipe differently.

“One silver lining of the pandemic is that the lockdown restrictions gave people an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on their dating patterns,” says Ury from Match. “We’ve heard many stories about people shifting their behavior and breaking bad habits.”

That self-awareness means “they have a greater sense of who they are and what they really want,” she said.

Still, the “quantity over quality” approach, according to London auditor Matt, doesn’t lend itself well to love. It is easy to dismiss potential options; there are scammers; and the prevalence of so-called ghosting hasn’t gone away. On Hinge, 91% of users polled said they have been ghosted, and 63% of users say they’ve ghosted someone.

Some apps, including the woman-focused app Bumble, have tried to correct the ghosting in particular with regular reminders to users to either reply to messages—or politely end the conversation.

But every rose has its thorns. For post-lockdown daters, the summer of 2021 may offer the chance to swipe, hook up, and date more than ever before. Some may form real connections. Other 2021 connections may be, well, not so real.

After breaking up with his girlfriend and going on Tinder to seek validation, Matt was excited to match with an attractive girl—and to see that she had messaged him.

“I’ve just started a cryptocurrency portfolio,” it read. “I would love for you to be an early investor.”

June 7, 2021: This article has been updated to correct Logan Ury’s gender and title. She is the Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, not Match Group.

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