In December 2019, the height of the Tinder era, women and men were setting up multiple dates on the same day. People were sexually carefree, spinning the digital slot machine in their hands, wondering who they would match with next.
Fast forward to December 2020. People will be more careful about who they date because, now, they have to be more careful.
As I wrote in the recent IFS symposium, new relationships and casual hookups will likely decline during this pandemic because of the difficulty to enter the dating scene as bars, clubs, and restaurants have closed. But even after social distancing practices ease up, many people will continue to be vigilant about their sexual partnerships.
When people feel safe, they are willing to take more risks. But when safety is threatened, such as during a disease outbreak, people become more cautious. Indeed, research led by evolutionary psychologists Mark Schaller and Damian Murray found that in countries where pathogens are more pervasive, people are less extraverted and less open to new experiences. They also more strongly urge one another to adhere to social customs.
Furthermore, experimental evidence by Laith Al-Shawaf at the University of Colorado and his colleagues showed that people who read about a parasitic infection expressed less willingness to sleep with someone they just met compared with a control condition. In the world we lived in until very recently, more people were willing to jump into bed with a stranger. In this widely-read Vanity Fair piece about Tinder, for example, a man tells the author that he slept with “30 to 40 women in the last year.” But a recent study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that people are reporting a decline in the number of sexual partners, as well as a decline in sexual frequency. Additionally, they found that “most individuals with a history of risky sexual experiences had a rapid reduction in risky sexual behaviors.”
In the future, people may be more vigilant about coming into sexual contact with an unknown person. At least for now, Coronavirus has killed the era of ‘Netflix and chill.’
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