The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected our social lives in more ways than we could have imagined, as the need for social distancing, restrictions on social gatherings and other safety protocols continue to limit face-to-face interactions.
COVID-19 phobia (fear factor occasioned by the deadly virus) and increasing compliance with health safety protocols, lockdowns and other restrictions are re-organising our lives and impacting relationships.
Nevertheless, technology is providing the silver lining in the face of hopelessness and keeping us in touch and keeping relationships alive even remotely.
While social media is keeping people connected, dating apps (mobile applications) such as Odospice are keeping love relationships alive as their usage have become even more pronounced in such difficult and scary times.
Yes, online dating is fast becoming the new normal in the absence of social gatherings and outings such as parties, lunch or dinner dates and such other rendezvous as weekend getaways.
Online dating is fast becoming the new normal in the absence of social gatherings
Odospice is a free love and relationship mobile App that provides a platform for dating, making friends, learning about love and sexual health. This is not only a Ghanaian invention but also the go-to app for Ghanaians lately as it is literally spicing up many relationships and proving a platform for many to find and maintain a love match, The Mirror has discovered.
Apps such as Odospice have become a fertile ground for matchmaking and a force for breaking conventional social boundaries, according to dating app expert Ms Hilda Dei Tutu, who explains that most people would prefer to stay indoors as a preventive measure from contracting COVID-19 than to go out to search and meet people.
The Mirror understands that Odospice has seen a significant rise in subscription in recent months with major users from Ghana, USA, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, UAE, La Côte d'Ivoire and the UK.
Available on Google Playstore and Apple store, Odospice does not only allow for singles to find people around them but also provides a platform for blind date, love and sexual health information and titbits for couples on how to enhance their relationship, as well as their sexual health.
With several signups to its dating feature, the app has also matched hundreds of blind date requests, making it one of the leading dating apps in the country.
Ms Dei Tutu explained that Odospice was created to allow people to meet so many more people than they could in real life, as well as provide a soft landing for those who might find it a bit overwhelming dating again after a break or coming out of a difficult relationship or a divorce.
“When you are just coming out of a divorce or a long-term relationship, particularly if it was not your choice, you might be feeling a little insecure and uncertain.
“Online dating can help rebuild your confidence. The website or app provides a buffer and a layer between you and the people whose profiles you are looking at, and that can help build your confidence. Knowing they cannot see you as you decide you are interested gives you the comfort you need to make that match,” she explained.
“It is possible to see people on the app who are in your area but you might never cross paths by chance. You can also expand your search radar to meet people outside the area where you spend most of your time,” she added.
She warned that just as real-life dating had its downside, using technology to find love also came with risks, for which reason unsuspecting users ought to tread with caution.
For Ms Dei Tutu, it was not advisable for users of the app or similar matchmaking platforms to include recognisable information such as one’s full name, birthday or place of work on one’s dating profile as they risked exposing themselves to scammers or hackers on the prowl in cyberspace for unsuspecting victims.
Instead, she advised addicts to use the first name or nicknames to minimise the risks.
"You must avoid letting someone know exactly where you live until you know them better. If you must meet your date, meet in a public place and arrange your own transportation to the place. Don’t have your date pick you up or take you home," she warned.
The expert says it is important that people do not get carried away and let down their guard when they meet their match as the risk factors are equally high in real life.
“It is important to be alert and careful when you meet your date. Don’t leave your drink unattended, drink less than you would if you were out with close friends and avoid staying out. Your family and friends must know you are going out with someone new, tell them where you are going and set a time for them to check on you and make sure you are fine and safe,” she added.
Nana Yaa, who loves to engage in online dating, opened up to The Mirror about real-life possibilities and myths when looking for love.
“When you are just waiting for someone to appear in the real world, you might tell yourself you are not dating because there just isn’t anyone around. But when you make use of online dating, you are forced to be active as you have to respond to messages, scroll profiles and make decisions.
“On some sites, they have hundreds of questions that you can answer about all kinds of things. As you answer these questions and rank their importance, you will also learn more about yourself. And that is where online dating has a distinct advantage.
"These days, with so little free time to get out there and meet people, it is easy to forget that there are plenty of other singles in your area, and especially with COVID-19 spreading all over, people are staying indoors. You can start to feel defeated, wiped out like there is no point in even trying. To add to that, many people keep their faces buried in their phones, making it difficult if not impossible to start up a conversation. This is why dating apps have become very crucial," she said.
Interestingly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these dating mobile apps encourage its users not to meet in real life as it used to be, but rather respect social distancing and lockdowns.
According to CNBC News, 62 per cent of dating app users believed relationships where people first met through a dating app were just as successful as those that began in person, compared with those who never used a dating app.
Another study by researchers Josué Ortega and Philipp Hergovich revealed that in the last 20 years, dating apps had become the second most common way to meet spouses (next to meeting through mutual friends).
They added that the number of interracial relationships had increased through the use of dating apps.