Saying that Donald Trump has affected millions of people since he took office in January is the understatement of 2017, and it’s only February. (UGH, right?) But there are millions of Americans that he’s influencing who may not even realize it — us single folk looking to couple up before cuffing season comes to an end.
You'd think we'd be holed up at home, too depressed, too exhausted from marching, or (in the case of my fellow straight women) too pissed off at the male population to even consider opening our dating apps. But it turns out the opposite is true. Our pussy-grabber-in-chief is actually causing major spikes in online dating membership and activity — numbers some folks haven't seen in over a decade.
“I was actually here [at eHarmony] when September 11 happened, and some of the things that we saw then are similar to the things we see now,” says Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony, explaining that after the 9/11 attacks there was a major spike in membership, connections, and communications. People don't want to be home alone with the news. They're seeking companionship. "It's just unstable times," Langston adds.
That’s right. People are reacting to the Trump presidency with the same intensity as they did after 9/11 — and haven't since.
Langston notes that he’s seen those same upticks since the election on November 8 (about a 35% increase) during what are typically some of the slowest months in online dating. And, it's the first time he’s seen numbers like this in 15 years. The elections and re-elections of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama didn’t influence membership in any discernible way.
Now, before we write this off as a phenomenon unique to eHarmony users — who we tend to think of as the more marriage-minded of online daters — consider this: These numbers are across the board. From OkCupid to lesbian dating app Her, people are swiping and messaging more, not less. Whether it’s a booty call or something more serious, people are looking to connect in any way they can.
Bernadette Libonate, the director of brand partnerships over at OkCupid, reports that between January 20 and 31 this year, the number of photo uploads on the site increased 37% from the same time period in 2016. “There’s also been an uptick in messaging,” she says.
Robyn Exton, founder of Her, the largest app for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women worldwide, has also noted a big increase in traffic. “We had one of our largest weeks for new user sign-ups of the past six months between January 22 and January 29, as well as a growth in usage,” she says. The overall time in the app has gone up 5%, and she notes dramatic growth in the amount of time spent messaging — about 9%.
Langston from eHarmony believes the number of messages going back and forth is the most significant finding, as it shows that people are taking their searches more seriously. “We saw a real spike in two-way communication starting after the inauguration,” he says. “That was a real kick in the pants to people who were already on the site, and [that timing] is not something you’d usually see.”
Exton from Her hypothesizes that the need to reach out stems from our increasing desire to connect with like-minded people. “In times like this, you want to find solidarity within your community,” she says. In fact, she’s seen a big increase in the number of posts to her app’s feed — a similar concept to a Facebook newsfeed where members share events and news pertaining to the lesbian community — to the tune of 15 times the normal rate.
“One in two posts contain the phrase ‘fuck’ or ‘fucked,’” Exton notes. Yeah, that sounds about right.
And while discussing politics with romantic prospects tends to be gauche in “regular” times, everyone we spoke to claimed that the man in the White House is occupying people’s minds — and dating profiles.
Dawoon Kang, founder and COO of Coffee Meets Bagel, polled 1,000 users and found that 60% of them said that current political events are impacting their dating life. “Of that group, 76% of people said that it’s become more important that their matches’ political views are similar to their own,” she says.
Libonate of OkCupid has found the same thing. “OkCupid users are skipping political questions less in 2017,” she says, referring to the survey members fill out in order to be matched with compatible people. She’s seen a 10% decrease in the number of people skipping the question, “Could you date someone who has strong political opinions that are the exact opposite of yours?
“In this response, we noticed that men were answering this question evenly balanced between a yes and a no, whereas the women who had been skipping have shifted to a ‘no,’” Libonate says.
Traditional matchmakers are seeing similar activity but note that it’s less about conservative vs. liberal than it is about Donald Trump specifically. Erika Kaplan, a senior matchmaker in Philadelphia for the company Three Day Rule, notes that there are nuances to what her clients are looking for. “You have to remember that a Republican is not necessarily a Trump supporter,” she says. “I have clients who have said to me, ‘I will gladly meet someone who is conservative but not a Trump supporter.’”
Sorry, Donny. Seems like you’re the dating equivalent to bad breath — a major deal breaker. And while Kaplan will typically tell her clients to stay away from discussing politics on a first date, she does realize the importance current events have on peoples' lives.
It’s true that people do tend to couple up during times of stress and confusion, says Samantha Boardman, MD, psychiatrist and founder of Positive Prescription. "We know that during hurricanes and snow storms people gravitate to dating apps,” she says. “It’s certainly possible that people are trying to weather the emotional storm since the inauguration by coupling up."
While we’d describe the “emotional storm” as more of a “shit storm,” the numbers don’t lie — people are swiping more and ghosting less. “It’s kind of like that movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” Libonate quips.
And if a Trump presidency does mean the end of times, then the least we can do is find someone to ride it out with — and on.