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Should Dating Apps Enforce Social Distancing? This Petition Says Yes

You'd think that people might shy away from going on dates right now, you know, given the global pandemic that has caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recommend social distancing. But no — activity is spiking on some dating apps, and many users report their matches are still inviting them out on dates or suggesting hookups. On March 19, artist Samantha Rothenberg launched a Change.org petition asking dating apps to enforce social distancing. It's racked up nearly 2, 000 signatures, and while Rothenberg says she's received mixed feedback on the petition, dating apps have begun encouraging users to date virtually from home.

Rothenberg first noticed that some dating app users were violating the CDC's best practices for public health when several of her Instagram followers sent her screenshots of their matches trying to meet up for dates. (She regularly creates screenshot-inspired art under the name Violet Clair.) "Most of them were around men's behavior during this pandemic — not only how men are disregarding social distancing, but also mocking women for saying, 'I'm going to practice social distancing,'" Rothenberg tells Elite Daily.

After she posted some of the screenshots on her Instagram Story, one of her followers suggested that dating apps should take action to hold their users accountable. Inspired, Rothenberg created the petition, which recommends apps and sites "make it possible to report users for irresponsible behavior... send a warning to anyone who attempts to violate social distancing... [and] ban users who are reported multiple times."

"Fifty percent of my followers have been very supportive of this and see where I'm coming from and why I think this needs to happen, but I'm also sadly getting a lot of people who are saying things like, 'You can't control people like that,' 'This is so intense,' and, 'You're such a wet blanket," Rothenberg says. On her latest Instagram post, a drawing of a red flag printed with the words, "If they're trying to hook up during social distancing, it's a giant red flag," one comment reads, "Idgaf I’m a shawty dropping it low I have needs."

When asked about Rothenberg's petition, reps for Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge declined to comment, but they did share other responses to the pandemic.

On March 20, Bumble sent a message to its users asking them to avoid meeting their matches in person for now. As alternatives, the company suggested using the in-app video chat and voice call features. (A Bumble spokesperson says this message was not a direct response to Rothenberg's petition.)

Bumble

But the message apparently didn't get through to everyone. "People still aren’t taking things seriously," says Devon, 26, a Bumble user. "Some guy invited me to his house and didn’t understand when I was like, '... I'm not going to your house for so many reasons?'"

Still, Bumble activity is on the rise. A spokesperson for the app reports a 21% increase in messages sent this past week and a 21% increase in video calls.

Devon

Tinder also reports a rise in activity. According to the app's spokesperson, the number of messages sent per day is up 10-15% compared to last week in the United States. Newly common terms used in bios include references to social distancing, washing hands, and the phrase, "How are you?"

Tinder has also run in-app messaging since March 2 that encourages users to follow the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for social distancing. In addition, it has rolled out a feature that makes dating easier for college students who have been displaced by the closure of their campuses and has made its Passport feature (which allows users to swipe anywhere in the world) free through April 30.

These efforts might not be enough to slow the passion of some of its users. Prior to these updates, one Tinder user in New York was temporarily quarantining at home in early March after a vacation included a layover in Tokyo (Japan was considered a higher-risk area than the United States at the time). "It took literally one day for me to be overcome with chaotic extroverted energy. So, I logged onto Tinder, started swiping like crazy, changed my bio to 'seeking my coronavirus quarantine cuff,' and told a bunch of dudes that I was quarantined," says Julia, 26. "Honestly, I was just doing a bit — I was not going to meet anyone during my quarantine! But you would not believe the number of guys who genuinely offered to come over anyway. Part of me was horrified that millennial men’s horniness could drive them to such stupidity, but it was also sort of flattering."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Hinge reports that 70% of its users would be open to a "digital date." The app has updated its Help Center with information from the WHO on best practices during the coronavirus outbreak.

It's likely that dating apps will continue to roll out new features to address this crisis as it develops. In the meantime, though, users should take precautions. As Julia, the Tinder user, bleakly jokes, "End-times horniness: the true pandemic."

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.