This image released bu Jordan Tyler shows Tyler, right, with his wife Brittany in New Orleans on July 18, 2020. The couple signed up for Match.com, started texting March 18 and were wed by July.
( Jordan Tyler via AP
Matt Katz: Back in the early 2000s, you might be surprised to learn that I now a news reporter at WNYC had a popular nationally syndicated dating column based out of the newspaper I worked at in New Jersey. There were even three billboards, maybe four in Southern New Jersey with my oversized face advertising the column which was called the Bachelor Pad. The pad being my notepads, get it, as a cover the seismic changes in dating at the turn of the century, particularly due to the internet.
The billboard read, get a date with Matt Katz.
13 years of blissful marriage and two kids later, I still think about how relationships and sex and technology intersect. Now this retired dating columnist wonders, what has the pandemic meant for our romantic relationships and sex lives? What's going to change in all of that as the number of fully vaccinated people continues to rise? Will the coming months be a hot vax summer or summer of love, like social media might have you believe, or are people are more interested in finding a partner instead of hooking up? Let's talk about it. With me is Dr. Amanda Gesselman, associate director for research at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute. The Kinsey Institute recently unveiled the results of a national survey looking at the impact of COVID-19 on people's relationships and sex lives. Amanda, glad to have you with us.
Dr. Amanda Gesselman: Hi, thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here.
Matt Katz: I'm curious because there's been so many jokes and memes about "shot girl summer," but your research shows that people aren't exactly looking for hookups this summer, right? Why is commitment actually caught right now?
Dr. Amanda Gesselman: Well, people have been stuck in their house for over a year, and a lot of people have been socially isolated, which is has evolutionarily and historically been very hard for us to psychologically tolerate. People are really very much looking for connection, for that emotional connection, that intimate connection, and our survey showed that. We did survey 2000 people at the end of January. This was in collaboration with the magazines, Cosmo and Esquire.
We surveyed people about what they're looking for in terms of love and sex for the pandemic, which is what everyone wants to know, basically. We're really interested in especially whether or not people would be, like you said, once the pandemic, the threat fades out or abates, are people just going to go out and have lots of sex? Are people looking for hat whole wax and vax thing? Are people looking for lots of sex, but no real commitment? We didn't find that at all.
Of our sample, 44% of people, so almost half of people said that committed relationships are more important to them now than they were before the pandemic and these are singles. These are what people are seeking out. Almost half of them said that they're even more important to them now than they used to be. Only 14% said that they're less important to them than they used to be. On the flip side, we also asked, of course, about seeking out a variety of sex partners, and only 15% of people said that that idea that sexual variety, going out and finding the casual sex, only 15% of people said that that was more important to them now than it was before the pandemic and only about 20% of people said that it was equally important.
Matt Katz: Interesting. What about how comfortable people are feeling dating right now? What does your research show about that? Is the comfort level trending upward as more and more people get vaccinated?
Dr. Amanda Gesselman: Yes. It seems that more and more people are definitely ready to date. People are sort of, "We've all had enough of this," Especially people who were trying to date before or were trying to find a partner or connection before then had that completely just destroyed with the pandemic. People are ready to get out there. The majority of our participants are telling us that they're ready to date, that they've already been scoping out the online apps that they've been chatting with partners, video chatting, and they're definitely ready to get back into the in-person dating. I think that we're probably going to see a big rush of that once it's safe to do so.
Matt Katz: Are people worried about social anxiety or exposure to COVID? The fears might be a little bit different than normally. You don't get the same butterflies that you might on a first date. There's all kinds of other worries maybe circling in the back of your head.
Dr. Amanda Gesselman: Yes. There's a lot of competition for what to worry about now, I think, which isn't great. This is an unprecedented time. We're all struggling with it. I think a lot of people are struggling with their own concerns without thinking about how everyone is also struggling with this. Of course, we ask them what they're worried about when they go back to the dating market or they get back out there. We found that the number one concern for all age groups, men and women, all sexual orientations, et cetera, the number one was finding someone who wants commitment.
That was over 1 in 10 people so that was their number one concern. Just being able to find someone who wants what they want. That is a big concern because, before the pandemic, we know that most people weren't telling other people what kind of relationship they wanted, especially in online dating, which is the primary way to meet partners for basically all demographics now. People were using these online dating services, but no one was ever telling anyone what kind of relationship they wanted. Do you want casual sex? Do you want to hook up? Do you want just a date a few times, are you looking for a relationship?
This is now people's number one concern, finding someone who wants that commitment. That seems to be the concern for everyone. With the second one being, figuring out how to protect my own mental health. I think that might come from the idea of being isolated for a year and now we have to think about possibly being rejected, getting our hopes up, trying to make those connections, and just having people not want that with us, not accept us, or just generally setting ourselves up for disappointment. I think a lot of people are also a bit concerned about that as well.
Matt Katz: New trends popped up during the pandemic when it comes to dating. Online dating sites offered video dates. You found that a third of women reported sexting during the pandemic and a majority intend to continue. Are there trends that we saw during the pandemic when it comes to dating that are here to stay?
Dr. Amanda Gesselman: Yes. I know that a lot of people have told me in passing that they think video dating is very awkward. Actually, a lot of people have tried it during the pandemic. Over one in five people who are doing online dating were also trying to do some video dates. Of those, over 70% of them said that they want to continue doing them after the pandemic. From our data that I collected with my colleague, Justin Garcia, we do this every year with Match the dating company. It's called Singles in America. It's a huge survey every year and we actually asked them in August, what is it about the video date? What happened and what was the good part?
People said that it actually provides a really good vibe check or compatibility check. It's like the intermediate step between the text-based messaging and whether or not you want to meet them in-person. People are actually reporting that they liked this for that. I think it probably saves a lot of time. I think it might also relieve a lot of those worries, those anxieties about whether or not you might find that connection or whether or not you might be compatible.
Matt Katz: Dr. Amanda Gesselman is the associate director for research at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute. Amanda thanks for sharing your research with us, really interesting stuff.
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