“Let’s be like Covid and catch each other”: How Indians romanced on Tinder this year

Let’s quarantine & chill?
Let’s quarantine & chill?
Image: REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade
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The pandemic will perhaps be remembered as one of the most complex, near-operatic times in modern history. And true to an opera, young hearts found a way to meet, talk, and maybe even find love.

For Indian users of Tinder, it became a platform to talk about everything happening IRL, but not IRL. At least not without masks.

Not only was the mask emoji among the most used, but masks were also an essential part of Tinder bios in India between January and November. Since Covid-19 began its spread in India in March, mentions of masks in Tinder bios were up 2.5 times by April. For lovers of brevity, the mask emoji was used five times more in April than it was before that.

Cheesy pick-up lines were laced with the wry awareness of the pandemic, according to Tinder’s data. For instance, Indian Tinder users wanted to “be like Covid and catch each other,” or urge their matches to wash their hands so they could hold hands. The Netflix and chill euphemism was replaced with quarantine and chill. And much like the world, banana bread, Dalgona coffee, and “Bored in The House” could be seen in pun-filled bios.

Indian Gen Z also seemed to be resigned to its fate of staying indoors and not being able to meet their virtual matches IRL. The shrug emoji was the most used in 2020, often accompanied by grand statements of uncertain times.

Tinder bios and the mystery of “rasode mein kaun tha”

Climate change and the environment had Indian Tinder users agitated in 2019—and that only increased in 2020. Mentions of climate change in user bios were twice as much as it was in 2019.

But it wasn’t just worldly phenomena that Indian Gen Z used as conversation starters. Viral videos, such as the parody video “Rasode Mein Kaun Tha” (Who Was in The Kitchen) by musician Yashraj Mukhate, had users talk about possible plot twists.

The video, which parodies a scene from an Indian television soap opera, talks about a mysterious person who took chickpeas out of a pressure cooker and placed the empty cooker on the stove. Eventually, it is discovered that it was the character named Rashi. And Rashis on Tinder didn’t hesitate a moment to own up to their crime—and sass.

Prateek Kuhad, a Gen Z-favourite Indian musician, also featured on Tinder bios for his latest single, “Kasoor.”

Another pandemic phenomenon users caught on to was how a small dhaba (informal eatery) in Delhi and its elderly owners suffering for lack of customers because of Covid-19 saw a near-miraculous turnaround. Baba Ka Dhaba found its way into Tinder bios in India after his plight, and subsequent success, went viral on social media.