Before the French government imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, Etienne was a fierce critic of dating apps.
Three weeks later, he's particularly proud of his Tinder bio.
"Buongiorno principessa [Hello Princess]! A charming prince locked in his great castle (or rather in a small apartment in the Parisian suburbs) is trying his luck on Tinder. The Macron [French President] dragon is hanging around and you can't get out until he's asleep (the government is talking about another four weeks)… So let's let our imagination and creativity fly."
Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he's had few matches. It's not easy to compete with the ingenuity and creativity of users today.
"It is not that I want to conquer you, but I have masks", "You, me, Netflix, cough and chill ... think about it" or "I am corona-negative" are some of the descriptions now featured on Tinder.
Dating apps: a way to kill boredom?
Like Étienne, many people have decided to give cyber love a chance to make quarantine less difficult.
Maelle is one of them. Not being able to see people she knows doesn't bother her and it seems to her that with the situation, people are taking "more time to get to know each other" and "conversations last longer."
Data in Spain confirms this. Since the beginning of the confinement, some of the applications have reported that conversations between users have become longer and that video calls, available in some of them, have increased.
The use of social networks like Tinder, Bumble and Meetic has also exploded among young people. A study of more than 8,000 people published by Smartme Analytics shows that since the Spanish government declared a state of emergency, the use of Tinder has increased by 94.4% among those under 35. Similar jumps have been observed on Badoo (+ 52.4%), Wapo (+ 34.9%) and Grindr (+ 24%).
For María Carolina Concha, a psychoanalytic doctor, the "search for the other" and the need to create a bond can be accentuated when isolated. "It becomes more relevant, even if you can't have physical contact. Virtual conversation is also valid," she explained.
With the spread of the coronavirus and the implementation of confinement rules, the use of dating apps has also increased in other countries of the world. María Belén, a young woman who lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is taking advantage of the functionality that Tinder has made available to all its users — a "passport" that allows you to meet people from other parts of the world which was previously only accessible to premium accounts.
"Traveling to different places has made everything more interesting. I have gone to Spain, Italy, Budapest, Amsterdam ... It is fun and interesting to see how other people are dealing with the situation, the cultural exchange," she told Euronews.
But not everything is good. María Belén also believes that, with confinement, some men have become more insistent. "They have their hormones super jumbled," she said.
"Why talk to someone you are not going to see?"
Others just don't see the point of using dating apps during confinement.
"It is no use. I would get tired frankly. It is very important for me to see the other person," Audrey, a 25-year-old Parisian, stressed.
"I already have too many friends to talk to, to worry about Tinder," Victoria, also 25, told Euronews.
The young Londoner said that at the beginning of the quarantine, she even received proposals to go on walks, despite the fact that most of the applications have asked their users to stay home, postpone their appointments and opt for virtual meetings.
Olivia (not her real name) lives in Paris and had been dating someone she met on the Bumble dating app for several weeks. The confinement came hastily, too soon to spend it together, but too late not to miss each other.
"Would I describe my situation as romantic? I think so," the 25-year-old said. "Confinement has allowed us to let go of all dating app bias and made us realise that we felt a deeper attraction."
Dr. Concha offers an explanation: "One of the things that this isolation has brought us is to re-value the bond with the other, at all levels. The meeting space is greatly re-valued."
Thus, despite not being able to physically meet, the two young people have opted for virtual dates almost every night and have found a way to relieve stress with a beer or guitar concerts. They've even managed to get intimate, though Olivia admitted she's not used to it yet.
The young woman is convinced that the dynamics of their relationship changed thanks to the quarantine. "I don't know how it would have evolved without this," she confessed.
However, some questions persist. How real is what you feel under extreme situations?
Olivia and her new boyfriend may be living something very different from "real life" and she prefers to take things easy. "I don't want us to decide to formalise the relationship because of this situation. Neither of us can meet someone else right now, but we are not obligated to be together because the situation is like this," she said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty to many relationships, Dr. Concha maintains that the need to be in control, not only in COVID-19 times but in all kinds of situations, can ruin the bond that new couples are building.
It is for this reason that she recommends not putting pressure or worrying about how to maintain a new relationship: "It is time to connect with the spontaneity of affection, without having many expectations for the future, to enjoy the things of the moment and see if it holds in the long term," she explained.