Online dating helps youngsters cope with lockdown loneliness

By Dang Khoa, Long NguyenAugust 26, 2021 | 07:06 pm PT
Cooped up at home for long, young Vietnamese hope dating apps will help overcome lockdown stress and find new relationships.

Nguyen Dang Khanh, 29, always used to wrap up his work by eating out with friends and sometimes drinking at a beer place before returning to his apartment in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2.

But the social distancing to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in the last few months means that is no longer possible and he has instead acquired a new habit: speaking with new people on dating apps. Hanoi, HCMC and many other places in Vietnam now have month-long social distancing to contain the fourth outbreak that began in April and has infected more than 388,000 people.

He says: "I cannot stand being at home all day ...It makes me feel lonely. So I have begun to go to dating apps to find new people to speak with and go on a date when the lockdown ends."

He says he has "never had dinner alone before the pandemic."

"It has been months since the last time I has physical contact with a human being."

He is not alone in using dating apps as the latest coronavirus outbreak has forced many localities to impose prolonged lockdowns.

Many single youngsters, dealing with loneliness and anxiety since socializing and dating can be risky, have resorted to this.

An online dating app on iPhone. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

An online dating app on iPhone. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

"Tinder" was one of the most popular words searched on Google, according to Google Trend.

On App Store and Play Store, Tinder has always been one of the most downloaded apps in the last few months.

A report by a domestic media company said 51 percent of GenZ (anyone born from 1997 onward and) users used online dating apps between June 2020 and June 2021 and 93 percent of them met new people and stayed connected during the pandemic.

Last year, when there was nationwide social distancing in April, the number of hits on Tinder increased by 36 percent from March. "Tinder" was one of the most popular words searched on Google during the period, according to Google Trend.

Last August, when the country faced another outbreak, the number of searches for the dating app jumped 25 percent. Social distancing has become an occasion for global online dating, Tinder said.

According to most users, communicating with new people on dating apps helps them overcome loneliness caused by the prolonged lockdown.

Being cooped up indoors has taken a mental toll on many people, especially in urban areas like Hanoi and Saigon, who often have a lot of communal activities with family, friends and colleagues.

"At first it was okay, then I started feeling loneliness and despair every night before going to bed," Dang Thi Thu Thao of Da Nang City who now lives in HCMC’s District 1 says.

Many of her friends are married or have children, so "they do not share the same concerns or have time to talk to me."

A Harvard research found that feelings of social isolation are on the rise amid Covid lockdowns, and the worst affected are older teens and young adults.

Thao, 28, and many people her age now visit dating apps regularly. More than just finding love or hooking up, they have become a place for them to hang out with other humans and feel less lonely.

With the Internet and TV flooded with news about the pandemic and deaths, many people find online dating apps a less stressful place.

Another study by the International Labor Organization last year in 112 countries including Vietnam found that two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds could be subject to anxiety and depression amid the pandemic.

Nguyen Thuy Nhi of Saigon’s Go Vap District said she uses dating apps.

"No cafes, no bars, no cinemas ... So online dating is the only place to socialize."

She is currently in touch with two male friends.

The 25-year-old says she realizes there is always the risk of catfishing and sexual harassment by strangers on the Internet, and so is very careful.

But the dating apps too bring their share of anxiety to some, who fret about not getting a match, waiting for a reply or not seeing their new contact until the lockdown is over.

Khanh says: "I want to have a walking date with my new match, which is next to impossible at the moment. I am worried that we will get bored of each other if we keep talking online without a personal meeting."

Enjoying single life

There are also those that enjoy their newfound singlehood.

Le Hoang Kieu Phong, 27, of HCMC’s District 8 does not mind putting his love life on hold amid the pandemic. While some of his friends are already married, he feels lucky he does not need to be cooped up at home with a partner.

"I think loving oneself is more important than dating," he says.

Other young people have taken the opportunity to play online games, learn new skills or simply interact more with their families.

A survey by market research firm Q&Me found that, besides spending time on the Internet and social media, people have also spent time cooking, watching movies, connecting with their family, and acquiring more knowledge during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, Khanh is still hopeful his future girlfriend will show up on Tinder and they can go on a date right soon the lockdown is lifted.

"Or at least a friend with benefits, but we will have to overcome this Covid-19 ordeal first."

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