Whether you’re happily single, in a healthy relationship, or looking for love, it’s been a challenging time on the dating scene. Between 2020 and the ongoing pandemic, it seems like traditional dating may be a thing of the past. Some elements remain: a romantic night at your favorite restaurant or bar (outside of course) can still pop off with the required face masks. And a “sneaky link” – casual, discreet hookups – may definitely raise eyebrows in the time of quarantining, but is still possible with proper quarantining, temperature checks and testing available.
But it’s clear that online dating is king right now. From the simple swiping of apps like Tinder and Bumble to the more detailed, needle-in-a-haystack sorting options on platforms like Match.com and OkCupid, people are finding love from the comfort of their homes and the reliability of their smartphones. Though anyone who has tried online dating while Black will tell you that there are even more challenges involved, including the eligible dating pools for people of color.
In the hopes of helping you better navigate all this in the new year, and to make 2021 one of your best dating years ever, we called on Jonathan Kirkland, Head of Marketing & Brand at BLK – one of the largest dating apps for Black people, to give us some dating insight. Check out his tips to lead you in the right direction in your love life, and learn why you need to join BLK to make the right connection.
Madame Noire: How has 2020 changed the dating scene?
Jonathan Kirkland: There’s no doubt that the coronavirus changed the way people interacted in 2020. However, what we learned is that although people have been socially distancing, they do not want to be socially isolated. During the first two weeks of lockdown/quarantine (March 2020) – we saw an 18% increase in the daily user activity on BLK with users swiping 39% more and exchanging messages 61% more than they were pre-pandemic. Now here we are, 10 months later and we continue to see these positive trends month over month.
How is dating during a pandemic different than any other time?
People are taking more time to get to know one another on a deeper level and making more authentic connections. People are also finding creative ways to have “date nights” while being in separate homes – such as cooking a dinner together and watching streaming movies together, all while not being physically together.
What advice do you have for people when it comes to navigating dating apps?
Be open-minded. Be real. Understand that the next potential match is only a swipe away; therefore, present yourself in a way that will command attention to your profile page and make people intrigued, engaged, and interested. This means: (1) clear SOLO pics of you (nobody likes a group pic as your main pic and then have to figure out who is who), (2) take time to complete your bio, (3) state your intentions upfront.
What are some of the challenges Black people face with dating apps and how does BLK solve some of them?
Simply put, racism and discrimination. With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice against Black people were on full display for the world to see. Not only do these injustices live in real life, they also show up in the digital world, including dating apps. A study released by OkCupid (also a Match Group company) discovered that Black women were the least desirable group on general market dating apps. On general market dating apps, Black women receive the least amount of message replies, inbound messages, and right swipes amongst any other racial or ethnic group. At BLK, we have created a space where Blackness is celebrated and appreciated in all its forms. We go beyond just dating. We engage our community in conversations around topical cultural and social issues and reclaiming and giving new meaning specific to the Black American experience and Black relationships. BLK is in the business of Black love because Black love is our business – not just during Black History Month, but 24/7/365.
Dating apps have a reputation for hookups and short-term relationships. What is the key to finding long-term happiness or even a marriage partner in these online spaces?
First, we must not shame hookups and short-term relationships as a culture. The beauty of the African diaspora is that it is not monochromatic nor indistinguishable. We are a collection of communities and as such miraculously multifaceted – even in how we define our own personal relationships. Although the majority of BLK users are high intent users, meaning they are looking for serious relationships, we also have users looking for something more casual. And that is 100% okay. As we look at Gen Z young Millennial generations, 75% of BLK users are under 35, this is the age group leading the change in defining their own rules in terms of relationship status, education, employment, and gender “norms.” The key to finding what you are looking for on a dating app – whether that is short or long-term is being open, honest, transparent, and authentic in your intentions upfront. This way you will not waste your time, or anyone else’s.
What does the future of dating look like, from your perspective?
A recent Stanford University study revealed that meeting online has become the most popular way U.S. couples meet – followed by restaurants and bars. So what we are seeing with the popularity of dating apps is not a new trend, it is something we’ve already noticed, just accelerated by COVID-19. As we look to 2021 and beyond, we do not see this trend changing. We will see people turning to dating apps as another social media platform to connect with people who understand who they are and their experiences, which is found on niche apps like BLK. With this will come additional features extending beyond the core dating product, but into more lifestyle and everyday in-app engagements. Dating apps aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!