If there’s one thing that doesn’t change about humans, it’s our need to connect. Humans are social creatures, so we defy expectations and assumptions sometimes. You’d think in a global pandemic that makes physical closeness and intimacy dangerous our love lives would suffer, but for many, that’s not the case.

Studies show dating apps are surging, and increased daily conversation and connection on these online services show people are not only connecting more, but more deeply. Love isn’t over at all; in fact, COVID-19 has highlighted our need to remain social, maintain mental health throughout changing seasons and feel loved in the face of great difficulty.

Dating Is More Online Than Ever

We wrote about the need to maintain physical distance, not social distance, when the pandemic first started and that semantic difference is important. The good news is dating apps are a great way to connect and stay social even while physically distant, and studies show people are doing just that. It looks like dating and romance are increasingly digital, and for good reason.

A recent Fast Company article said studies are finding huge surges in dating app activity. Tinder, the most famous dating app on the market, reported that daily conversations between users have risen by 20 percent, and OkCupid has seen an overall 30 percent increase in messages sent since March 2020. The surge made headlines in other places, too, like Business Insider, which noted that apps like Hinge introduced new video chat options to help singles connect face-to-face.

The bump in messages and video calls is due to the general pandemic but also because people were more open to dating people who lived farther away, according to this article by The Atlantic. It seems the rationale is, if we can’t see each other in person anyways, why not invest in a relationship with someone farther away who may be a better match? Why settle for someone just because they’re closer? That trend also makes sense given that reporting shows people want to connect with compassionate, kind partners more than ever.

“More dramatic, mentions of donating increased 29 percent from April to June, and another 10 percent from October to November. People may be prioritizing giving because of the pandemic or the national reckoning on racism, but being charitable also may have a nice side effect when it comes to dating,” The Atlantic article reads.

In short, people aren’t just looking for more romance. They’re looking for deeper, more meaningful connections. Given that all our priorities have changed since the coronavirus pandemic began, it makes sense. Many of us are questioning what really matters, and looking for partners who share the same goals and are willing to be supportive when times are tough.

Dating Has Changed For Different Age Groups

When we say dating apps, you may think of people in their 20s and 30s, but that’s not exclusively the case. In fact, dating app usage is up among almost all age groups, including those 50 and older.

According to previous AARP reporting, coronavirus has “changed the entire format” of dating, meaning more digital connection, but not the need for romance, including for singles over 50. In March 2020 a dating app for wealthy singles, called Luxy Partners, found that 87 percent of senior singles wanted to wait to meet in person until the pandemic was over. But by June of 2020, many had changed their minds. By then, only 43 percent wanted to wait, and it’s possible the numbers have gone down even more as time has passed. Another survey by TheSeniorList.com found that 62 percent of seniors said COVID-19 has altered the way they date, and found more romance-seekers relying on online dating.

Love, romance and intimacy are important at any age, so never count yourself out just because you may be a dating app newbie. The concept is still the same: be yourself, communicate your expectations and make sure you and your partner are on the same page about testing and masking before meeting up. In fact, AARP also recently listed the best dating apps for singles over 50, but if you’re new to online dating the list will be helpful no matter what your age is.

Safe Sex Is More Important Than Ever

It wouldn’t be a conversation about romance if we didn’t talk about sex, too, and experts have given plenty of guidance on how to safely navigate intimacy during the pandemic. The New York City Health Department released a helpful statement that “you are your safest sex partner,”. Masturbation has so many health benefits, including emotional wellness, body confidence, and even migraine relief. It’s also the best way to ensure you don’t spread COVID, or contract it from anyone else.

But did we mention? You don’t have to enjoy self-pleasure alone. Take advantage of the new video options in dating apps, or the one you already have on your phone, with a trusted partner. Joint self-pleasure, or an e-masturbate, if you will, is a super sexy, sultry way to orgasm together while apart.

Still, many partners are quarantining together, have been together for a long time or are taking additional precautions to prevent COVID spread. It’s not clear if sex itself spreads the disease, but it IS clear that everything about intimacy—close contact, heavy breathing, not wearing a mask—does. Getting tested multiple times, quarantining upon arrival and upon return home are some options if you must meet in person. Above all, do what you can to stay safe! Reducing COVID spread is a personal responsibility each individual person bears, and your choices matter.

It’s good to know life, and love, goes on. Even during a pandemic. So get out there, singles, because the partner of your dreams may be waiting on a dating app near you! And with long-distance options like never before, you don’t have to limit yourself. Happy dating, and happy loving!