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Can vaccination status limit your love life?

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Bumble
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The COVID-19 pandemic paused having a social life as we know it. Now, after two years, things seem to be returning to some semblance of normal with restaurants, bars, gyms and malls, and more up and running again.

But the pandemic’s lingering impact is still felt in some subtle ways, including an impact on dating life that may be more significant than people realize. Delaware Public Media intern Gabrielle Wuensch has the story.

Delaware Public Media intern Gabrielle Wuensch reports on COVID vaccination status and dating

Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are popular among young adults – and their popularity is fast-growing. According to Techjury, Tinder’s revenue increased by 18% in 2020. When you ask college students if they use these dating apps, their answer will be an overwhelming “yes.”

Though mindless swiping is a habit many are guilty of, online dating more often causes stress and anxiety than marks the beginning of a happily ever after. According to LendEDU, a staggering 70.8% of users have never met up with someone from Tinder, but rather use the app as “confidence-boosting procrastination.”

“I usually use dating apps for fun. Usually when me and my friends are bored, we’ll go and swipe on them together,” said University of Delaware student, Emily Andriano.

Dating app users who do actively seek romance have more to worry about than what to wear when meeting someone from the internet – things like stranger danger or getting catfished. This 21st century, too, is adding a new potential obstacle to finding love – Covid-19 vaccinations.

Nine dating sites, in collaboration with the Biden Administration, have developed features that allow users to display if they’ve gotten “the jab.” They’ve even gone as far as to offer free premium content to these users, as an incentive for young people to get vaccinated.

These sites – Tinder, Bumble, Match.com, Hinge, BLK, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Chispa, and Badoo – reach over 50 million people in the country, collectively. So, the million-dollar question is, ‘does this new variable affect swiping habits?’ This

“You know, it helps, it definitely helps to confirm that this person is safe," said UD student, James, who chose not to share his last name.

When we use dating apps, we’re forced to make a snap decision – Do we like what we see or not? Do I want to swipe left or right? Adding interests and hobbies to your dating profile helps potential matches get to know you a bit better, that you’re more than a selfie on a screen. For example, if you’re a huge hockey fan and see that hockey is an interest on someone’s profile, you might be more likely to swipe right. The same applies to vaccination status.

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University of Delaware
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Peter Mende-Siedlecki, University of Delaware Assistant Professor and Social Neuroscientist

There is a method to this madness, however, and it’s rooted in psychology. University of Delaware Assistant Professor, and Social Neuroscientist, Peter Mende-Siedlecki explains.

“Similarity is a huge, huge predictor of interpersonal attraction. I think we kind of grow up with these ideas of, oh, opposites attract. The data actually doesn’t suggest that,” said Mende-Siedlecki.

Though we may be more forgiving of a difference as small as favorite color, there are certain core beliefs that could make or break a connection, such as partisanship.

“And there’s work showing that, in a fictional online dating context, when participants learn that a potential match is politically dissimilar to them, so they’re a Democrat but the person is a Republican, or vice versa, they like those people less, they’re less romantically interested in them, and they rate them as less attractive,” said Mende-Siedlecki.

It’s no surprise that we often associate vaccination status with certain political ideologies. Multiple UD students, who were asked whether they associate vaccination status with any particular beliefs, shared that they felt democrats were more likely to get vaccinated and be vocal about their vaccination status than republicans.

There’s a reason we do this – take small slivers of information upon meeting someone and come to conclusions about who they are as a person – it’s called impression formation.

“Impression formation is the process by which we make inferences about other people’s dispositions, their traits, their character, from their behaviors. […] or from their appearance, ya know it could be appearance or behaviors really,” Mende-Siedlecki explains.

“We like people who are like us. We want to be friends with them, we want to affiliate with them, we are willing to trust them, and we want to date them.”
University of Delaware Assistant Professor, and Social Neuroscientist, Peter Mende-Siedlecki

And we see that with vaccination status. For example, UD student Brian Gadbow believes getting vaccinated is more than a medical choice.

“It’s a value set, you know? The reason you get a vaccine isn’t just to protect yourself it’s to protect everyone in your community, everyone that you care about,” Gadbow said, “I think it means you don’t care about other people as much as you do yourself to some degree.”

And for some dating app users – like UD student Cierra Jefferson – protecting others is a real concern they need to consider.

“Just because meeting up with someone, eventually I would want to make sure they’re vaccinated to keep my family safe, because I have older relatives that live in my house,” said Jefferson.

ChristianaCare Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Marci Lynn Drees
ChristianaCare
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ChristianaCare Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Marci Lynn Drees

ChristianaCare Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Marci Lynn Drees supports that approach – saying that getting vaccinated is beneficial, not only to you, but to everyone around you.

“Even if you are willing to take that risk, everyone who is otherwise young and healthy is still around a lot of people every day who may not be," said Dress. "So you may not know that the people you interact with on a regular basis are themselves immunocompromised, or they themselves are high risk, should they get Covid.”

And while some question the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, she assures there is nothing to worry about.

“People should feel very confident in these vaccines, both in terms of their effectiveness as well as their safety," said Dress. "There are a lot of rumors out there about things like infertility and there is absolutely no evidence that these vaccines cause infertility so, especially for younger people who might be worried about that, I think you can put your mind to rest.”

And that peace of mind could come with an added benefit – increasing your chances of finding love.

“We like people who are like us,” says Mende-Siedlecki, “we want to be friends with them, we want to affiliate with them, we are willing to trust them, and we want to date them.”

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Gabrielle Wuensch currently attends the University of Delaware, majoring in Media Communication with minors in French, Journalism, and Theatre Performance.