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The Short Version: SoulSingles has long been a virtual space for Black singles to meet. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black daters are looking to connect even more as they feel the mental health effects of less socialization. SoulSingles offers tools, including video and audio chat, that simplify online dating during the age of social distancing, and the team plans to roll out new features that will make the process even easier.
Erica wanted to make an online connection with someone looking for more than just a hookup. So she visited SoulSingles, a platform for Black daters, to search for a partner. After a few days of browsing the site, she came across David’s profile and was smitten.
“He was smart, handsome, and very, very humorous. He was what I wanted in a mate. We flirted every day and left little notes,” she said in an online testimonial.
David felt the same way, writing: “Since I first saw her, I knew I had to get to know her and make her my wife to be.”
So Erica signed up for a full SoulSingles membership to further develop her relationship with David. The membership gave her more ways to connect on the platform. Neither Erica nor David had ever tried a dating site before, but they found a connection quickly. And they both expressed their appreciation for the SoulSingles platform.
“If it wasn’t for this site, we would have never met,” David wrote.
Erica agreed: “Thank you so much for this site!! The best experience ever. I cannot wait to be his wife and to love my husband until the day I die.”
SoulSingles has helped many Black singles like Erica and David meet one another, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has seen that kind of connection become more critical than ever.
“For SoulSingles, the pandemic has meant a significant increase in people looking for love — especially online,” said SoulSingles Founder Darren Romeo.
The COVID-19 has caused plenty of stress and anxiety for people around the world.
But Black Americans are facing more severe issues than their white counterparts. They are more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic, and they may use up their financial safety nets more quickly. COVID-19 has also impacted the Black community more severely than it has other ethnic groups.
Those challenges can lead to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. Black Americans may face significant mental health struggles, according to the Psychiatric Times.
“Black individuals with preexisting mental illness are among the most vulnerable for a myriad of reasons,” the article reads. “Not only do they experience stigma and marginalization related to their mental illness, but also bias and discrimination related to race and class.”
A lack of physical closeness and other stressors can exacerbate those mental health struggles for daters. That means Black singles may need to feel a sense of community more than ever. And they may want to connect with others who can relate to their struggles.
SoulSingles users reported increased anxiety they had about being unable to pursue relationships — an important goal for many of them.
“Our members, especially in areas with large Black populations, including New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Houston, have heightened anxiety that their life and relationship goals may be on hold or be stalled due to realities caused by the pandemic,” Darren said.
But instead of waiting out the pandemic to find partners, Black singles can continue their searches at SoulSingles, and the platform is working to develop new features to simplify building relationships online.
As more singles turn to online dating, some have never used a virtual platform before. But online relationships have seen a significant uptick this year.
“Online dating sites report record use as lonely singles look for someone to enrich their lives for a day, a month, or even forever,” reads an article on WebMD.
SoulSingles users have also started redefining what it means to date online. Before the pandemic, users usually saw the platform as a way to meet others and get to know them before meeting up in person. But not anymore.
“We’ve seen that love and relationships are an enduring part of what we value as humans; still a priority for many,” Darren said.
Now, users want more features that can help them get to know their partner before meeting face-to-face. Today, it may be more challenging to meet in person, and the idea of a casual first date at a coffee shop is a thing of the past. Daters may want to be more serious before committing to seeing each other face to face.
Staying socially distanced is necessary today, but Darren doesn’t see the trend of virtual dates going anywhere, even after the pandemic is under control.
“Members want to continue the dating process online, and we expect this trend to remain even after the pandemic,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to help our members remain active and get results.”
Catering to the needs of Black daters is nothing new for SoulSingles, and the platform catered to user needs long before the pandemic — and it continues to innovate.
For instance, the platform created the Ask Truman advice section where singles can ask their dating questions to Truman, a young Black man who offers advice. Questions including “Do all men find ambition intimidating?” “Should I Keep Waiting?” and “Does This Sound Shady To You?” resonate with SoulSingles users.
Now that the dating world has changed so much, SoulSingles is working on new resources for members.
“Members will use our tools to schedule virtual dates, creating anticipation and an opportunity to build trust. That means the experience can be less of an interview and more spontaneous,” Darren said.
The team is also developing video and audio chat features that will help members connect more personally with others.
The platform’s new dating app is popular in Black communities around the world, including Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. Users have been flocking to its Android app, which was recently released.
Though 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, SoulSingles has altered its focus to meet Black daters’ needs, and Darren said he is grateful that his team has been excited to continue serving users.
“We appreciate our health and freedom, one another, and our business amid such uncertainty. Your love life can be fun, adventurous, and safe — all at the same time,” he said.