Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit
Tinder dating app on a device in New York. The use of dating apps in the last 18 months of the pandemic has surged around the globe. Tinder reported 2020 as its busiest year. (AP Photo)
Short Url
Updated 03 August 2021

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit
  • The use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation
  • Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest and this year its users have already set 2 records for usage between January and March

LONDON: Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Jennifer Sherlock went out with a few men she met through dating apps. The dates were “weird,” she said, and not just because they were masked, socially distanced and outdoors.
One occasion, a date remained masked while they were out for a stroll, but soon after invited her back to his place, a move Sherlock saw as reckless.
“It was so off putting, and awkward,” she said. “So we wouldn’t be safe outside without mask(s), but we would be safe back at his place maskless?”
She decided she needed a way to filter people, so she began arranging video chats before agreeing to meet anybody in person. Sherlock, 42, a PR consultant who lives in New Jersey, said it’s a practice she’ll continue post-pandemic.
Sherlock isn’t alone in changing the way she used dating apps during the pandemic, prompting many to roll out new features. Despite the social distancing of the past 18 months, the use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation.
Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest year yet; this year, its users have already set two records for usage between January and March. Hinge tripled its revenue from 2019 to 2020, and the company expects it to double from that this year.
In response to changing demands, Tinder announced new tools last month that will allow users to get to know people better online. People will now be able to add videos to their profile and can chat with others even before matching with them.
“Historically consumers were reluctant to connect via video because they didn’t see the need for it,” said Jess Carbino, an online dating expert and sociologist who has worked for Tinder and Bumble. Post-COVID, however, many people expect a higher degree of screening, she said. “Online dating apps like Tinder are leaning into that.”
The dating apps say their research shows video chats are here to stay, even as life starts to return to normal in some parts of the world.
Almost half of Tinder users had a video chat with a match during the pandemic, with 40 percent of them intending to continue them post-pandemic. Tinder says this is largely driven by Gen Z users in their late teens and early 20s, who now make up more than half of the app’s users. And a majority of Hinge UK users, 69 percent, also say they’ll continue with virtual dates after the pandemic.
Tinder, alongside other popular apps including Hinge, OkCupid and Bumble, has in Britain and the US partnered with the government to add a badge to profiles indicating that users have been vaccinated. (There’s no verification process, though, so matches could be lying.)
Dating app users are also increasingly looking for deeper connections rather than casual encounters, Carbino said.
That’s what happened to Maria del Mar, 29, an aerospace engineer, who wasn’t expecting to end up in a relationship after she matched with someone on Tinder early in the pandemic last year.
She started chatting with her now-boyfriend through the app in April 2020 during a complete lockdown in Spain, where she lives. Having moved back to her parent’s tiny town of León from Barcelona, del Mar was bored when she joined the app, but was surprised to find many things in common with her current partner.
After weeks of chatting, they finally met for a first date — a socially-distanced hike — after restrictions eased slightly in May 2020. Now the two have moved in together. “If it wasn’t for the app, probably our paths wouldn’t have crossed,” she said.
Fernando Rosales, 32, was a frequent user of Grindr, an app popular with gay men looking for more casual encounters, in pre-pandemic times. He turned to Tinder for social connections when coronavirus restrictions prevented people from meeting others in London, where he lives.
“Grindr is like, ‘I like you, you like me, you’re within 100 meters of me, I’m going to come over,’” said Rosales, who works at the popular British coffee chain Pret.
“Tinder is something more social,” he added,. Sometimes he uses the app just to meet others to play online video games or video chat.
Ocean, 26, a drag artist and photographer in Berlin, turned to the live video feature of an app called Taimi to make friends across the world during the pandemic. Having two-to-five minute video chats with strangers from places like the Philippines or parts of the US was “amazing,” she said. Ocean’s given name is Kai Sistemich; she identifies as a woman when in drag.
She said she’ll continue using the feature post-pandemic, especially while she’s doing solo activities like cooking, or getting ready before going out to party.
Sherlock also expects some of her pandemic dating behaviors to carry into the post-pandemic world. She recently asked two men she was texting for Facetime chats before meeting in person, something she would not have done pre-pandemic.
“It’s a crazy dating world out there, so saving time is necessary,” she said.


Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

RIYADH: Search giant Google updated its logo with a doodle to mark Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day on Thursday.
The change featured a fluttering Saudi flag encased in a domed sky.
The mostly green design includes the company name in a slightly italicized font.
Google, the most popular search engine in the world, often changes its distinctive logo to commemorate special occasions.
Last year’s edition of the national day logo was similar in many respects, but there were minor tweaks.
The color of the flagpole went from last year’s gold to black, and the clouds now also have a more clearer outline. The typography was also different a year before, with the site name in a bolder font and without italicization.
This year Arab News is celebrating the Kingdom’s national day with Diriyah Gate Development Authority, and has produced a comprehensive deep dive into one of the most culturally significant landmarks of Saudi Arabia’s past and future.


Did she know? Lebanese diva ignites Twitter storm by posing with Israeli make up artist

A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend. (Screenshot)
Updated 20 September 2021

Did she know? Lebanese diva ignites Twitter storm by posing with Israeli make up artist

A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend. (Screenshot)
  • Some critics predicted the former Miss Lebanon would say she did not know he was from Israel, but others said what difference does it make if he is
  • Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel; the countries have no official ties and Lebanese citizens are forbidden from traveling there

LONDON: A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend.

“Lebanese model and actress Nadine Njeim is pictured with an Israeli make-up artist in UAE. Likely his customer. Is this another case of ‘Oh, I didn’t know’!?” Twitter user Lebanon News and Updates (@LebUpdate) wrote in a message posted on Twitter on Saturday alongside the photograph.

In a subsequent Tweet, he said: “It is confirmed that she was his customer, according to his TikTok video. It is obvious that famous people do not simply choose random makeup artists without some background research on his/her work and experience.”

The messages provoked a number of shocked and angry responses on Twitter.

“Nadine Njeim they are asking for models in Tel Aviv,” a user called Mimo wrote.

Another, called Adam, simply tweeted three puking-face emojis, as others chimed in. Some critics predicted that Njeim, a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Lebanon in 2004, would say she did not know the makeup artist was from Israel. But other people said so what if he is?

“I am so tired of this backward mentality and these people,” a Twitter user called Romy wrote. “When they’re not destroying Lebanon with their foreign allegiance and ideology they spend their time online on their iPhones stalking people to see if an Israeli breathed near them, and then bully them or get them in trouble.”

Another, 961Iceberg, wrote: “Every time you walk into a hairdresser salon or makeup artist studio, make sure you ask them for a full-blown bio including birth certificate, passports, visas issued and associations with other humans on earth.”

Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel. The countries have no official ties and Lebanese citizens are forbidden from traveling there. In March, a Lebanese social-media activist who had served 10 months of a three-year prison sentence for “collaborating” with Israel was granted bail and released after appealing the verdict.

In 1993, just three years after the end of the Lebanese Civil War, and with Israel still occupying the south of a country, a photograph of Lebanese beauty queen Ghada Turk smiling alongside 17-year-old Tamara Porat, Miss Israel, caused public outrage in Lebanon and much criticism in the local media.

In 2015, a selfie taken during a Miss Universe pageant and posted by Miss Israel that included Miss Lebanon, Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia cause a “you do not represent Lebanon” hashtag to go viral. Two years later, Miss Lebanon Amanda Hanna, a dual citizen of Sweden and Lebanon, was stripped of her title a week after winning when it emerged she had previously visited Israel using her Swedish passport.

However, under President Michel Aoun the Lebanese government has engaged in border talks with the Israelis. And in 2020, Lebanon’s prosecutor general decided not to charge fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn over a visit to Israel in 2008.

It is unknown whether Njeim, who obtained a UAE 10-year Golden Visa in May, has any another citizenship or passport, or what consequences she might face should she return to Lebanon.

The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco signed agreements with Israel last year, dubbed the Abraham Accords, to normalize relations with Israel.


California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
Updated 19 September 2021

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
  • Coachella Valley High School rebranded it’s Arab mascot after concerns it promoted stereotypes

CALIFORNIA: One hundred years ago Coachella Valley High School adopted the “Arab” as its school mascot after a link was established between that area of California and the Middle East.

“The Department of Agriculture sent out plant explorers all over the world and they were trying to find crops that would be successful here in the US and one of the crops they found were the dates,” said Lissette Santiago, community engagement manager for the Coachella Valley Unified School District.

“That’s how we wanted to honor everything that we had gained from the date industry and obviously that Middle Eastern community.”

But in 2013, complaints that the mascot was promoting racial stereotypes prompted a redesign.

“With the onset of 9/11 in 2001 that might have prompted many people to view the Arab community in a negative way,” she told us. “It was appropriate for us to have this discussion and we were happy that the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee approached us and we were able to have those discussions.”

A year later, they debuted the new “Mighty Arab” mascot, designed in collaboration with and approved by the Arab community, strengthening that 100 year connection between the Coachella Valley and the Middle East.

“To celebrate the Arab world and the Arab community and every year we have a date festival,” Santiago said.

The festival has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the students and staff are looking forward to next year when they can once again proudly and respectfully wear the symbol of the Mighty Arab and celebrate the date palms they provided.


Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League
Updated 18 September 2021

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal said that she won the election to become the first Arab to serve as president of Yale’s student government by addressing important issues such as health and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), not by shying away from her Arab and Muslim identity.

The 19-year-old was elected as president of Yale College Council in May while her running mate and fellow female student Zoe Hsu was elected as vice president, the first time an Arab had led the YCC in its 320-year history.

Galal pointed out that her focus on health addressed student concerns about COVID-19 and the manner in which the pandemic had impacted teaching and study procedures at the school.

During an interview on Wednesday on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, Galal noted that her campaign slogan, “Building a Healthier Yale,” had resonated with Yale students.

 

 

“It definitely was not an easy task. We basically had one week to campaign. This election took place at the end of the last academic year, so in May of 2021,” Galal added.

“In this campaign, we had a platform of building a healthier Yale, that was our campaign slogan. Within that we had five central pillars of health that we broke our platform down into. And so, it was physical health, mental health, community health, academic health, and financial health.

“So, we broke it down into these different areas of health that we wanted to focus on to show that we would take a holistic approach to health at Yale and really address the wide range of issues that students were facing.”

Election results at Yale show that Galal won 56.4 percent of the vote with Hsu not far behind. The two had previously served on the YCC, Yale’s student government, with Galal previously serving as the health and COVID-19 chair.

Galal, whose parents are Muslim immigrants from Egypt, wears a hijab and believes that the key to success is educating and informing mainstream Americans about Arab culture and concerns.

She said her Arab and Muslim identity did surface in the election but was positive and did not hinder her election, contributing to her being embraced by the majority of student voters.

And she used her Arab identity to also connect with the concerns of students of color at Yale, demonstrating that she would fight for their rights as well as the rights of all students.

 

 

“My identity is something I have not shied away from at all. And I think that because I have been so open about it, and also simultaneously willing to answer the questions that people have; you know, discuss the misconceptions that people will have and things like that.

“I think being willing to consistently have that dialogue and engage with others and just be there as an accessible person to the student body has been an important part of that,” Galal said.

Double majoring in molecular biology and global affairs, and minoring in pre-med, Galal hoped that her tenure would be marked by using her experiences as an Arab Muslim and as a student concerned about the well-being of others to impact other schools that look toward Yale for guidance.

 

 

“I think that in this role, in this institution, Yale is a critical placed institution that has the ability to impact a lot of the decisions that are made, to impact the trajectory of a lot of other schools that look to it as an example.

“I think that when you have a student body president who is now finally Arab, it allows Yale to take this direction where it cannot only impact the trajectory of Yale but also hopefully impact other schools as well,” she added.

Galal said that Yale had a small Arab student population of “a couple of hundred … definitely a small community but also a close-knit one.”

In August last year, she founded the Muslim Affinity Network serving as its director to enhance the representation of Muslims on the YCC.


Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women
Updated 18 September 2021

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women
  • Teresa Xu is suing a hospital in Beijing that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law
  • Her case is getting heard after the latest census data showed that population growth was slowing

BEIJING: After almost two years, an unmarried woman suing for the right to freeze her eggs in Beijing is getting her case heard in court Friday in a rare legal challenge against the country’s restrictions on unmarried women in reproductive health.
Teresa Xu has been waiting since December 2019 for her second hearing at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. She is suing Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital at Capital Medical University, a public hospital that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law.
Xu’s victory could mark an important step for unmarried women in China who want to access public benefits. Unlike in the US, though, court judgments in China do not rely on precedence.
“From 2018 until now, it’s been three years, and my eggs are getting older with me, and the deadline is more and more pressing,” Xu, 33, said.
Her case is getting heard after the latest census data showed that population growth was slowing, while the proportion of elderly people was growing. The number of newborns had fallen every year since 2016. National level statistics showed that 12 million babies were born in 2020, down 18 percent from 14.6 million in 2019.
Beijing has responded by allowing families to have a third child, and said it will revamp policy to help families who want to have children.
For decades, China had instituted a “one-child” policy. It eased the restrictions slightly in 2015 to allow families to have two kids, although that did not change the overall slowing of population growth.
Yet, some aspects of the system, such as tying reproductive health services and things like maternity benefits to a woman’s marriage status, has made it difficult for some. China only allows married couples to access reproductive services and related benefits and they must be able to prove their marriage status with the license.
“I hope that the signal it sends about needing population growth will allow single women the opportunity to be able to make their own choice,” Xu told reporters in front of the court.
Xu visited the hospital in November 2018. When she went to the doctor, she was urged to have a child instead of freezing her eggs. The doctor also requested to see her marriage license.
Xu said her court hearing had been continually pushed back, owing in part to the pandemic.
She had briefly considered going abroad, but the costs — between $15,500 to $31,000 — were not feasible.