Time to look for love online: dating sites, apps see January surge

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- If one of your resolutions for the new year is to find that special someone, now may be the time to log onto a dating app or website. Major dating platforms see an increase in users during January, which means you're more likely to find a person who's looking for the same type of connection you are.

"January [sees] a huge peak in people getting on dating apps," explained Melissa Hobley, chief marketing officer for dating website OkCupid. She explained that OkCupid sees a nearly 40 percent increase in people getting on the app or re-engaging with their accounts in January.

She explained that during the holidays, many people are too busy with traveling or family to date. Not to mention, dating someone new in December can be complicated if it stirs up questions about whether to introduce them to family or buy them a holiday gift.

"So people get on dating apps because they want to find love in the new year, the kind of craziness of the holidays is over," Hobley explained. She added that another factor may be what's commonly referred to as "cuffing season," the notion that many people desire someone to snuggle up with during the cold winter months.

"That's the beauty of the dating apps is it makes it easier for you to go find that person, whether it's for Saturday night or whether it's for Saturday night for the rest of your life," Hobley explained.

Other platforms see this dating increase at the start of the year, including Austin-based dating and connection app Bumble.

"January is a great time to use Bumble, as we definitely see user activity increase during the beginning of the year. That means more opportunities for more matches in the new year - whether it's in dating, friendship or networking," said Alex el-Effendi, head of brand at Bumble.

Dating site Match.com predicts that Sunday, Jan. 7, will be online dating's busiest day of the year (they call it "Dating Sunday") on which Match.com plans to see a 42 percent increase in new singles logging in. Match.com describes "peak season" for dating as the time between Dec. 26 through Valentine's Day.

According to Match.com, Austin was the fourth most active city in the country for singles on Dating Sunday in 2017.

Modern love stories

As more people turn to online dating for romance, you don't have to look far to find love stories that may not have existed without these new platforms.

Take Lisa DeSpain and Jared Adams of Round Rock. They were in high school band together but never felt a romantic spark. They even went to Adams' senior prom together in the early 2000s, but even then they were just friends. They moved away for college, lost touch and when they both moved back to Round Rock -- living just a few blocks away-- they didn't run into each other.

They both tried several platforms but ultimately met on Christian Mingle in 2016. The two reconnected for a coffee date and hit it off.

They will be getting married this weekend and feel grateful the site brought them together.

"I think what worked out for me was it forced a re-connection and it really helped me find that person that I kind of already knew," said Adams. "Since we knew each other before online made it easier to dive back into our friendship."

Austinites Alex Woolston and Juliana Ross are yet another success story of these modern dating platforms.

They found each other on Tinder which they joined mostly "for the entertainment value," Woolston explained.

"Neither one of us were 'looking for love' or anyone to seriously date but I of course found her amazingly beautiful and she liked me (and my cute dog) so we both 'swiped right,'" Woolston said in an email.

He added that Ross was both more reserved and more genuine than anyone else he'd spoken to on the app -- they bonded over a common interest in the show "Orange is the New Black."

Woolston said that neither of them went to bars often or did cliche "people meeting activities." He feels they never would have met otherwise.

Words of Advice

"We're so glad we just happened to be on there and encourage anyone who feels too timid to go ahead and give it a shot," said Woolston.

He acknowledged that some people on the dating apps may occasionally make creepy comments, he advises not to engage with them and instead focus your energy on being genuine and honest with the people you relate to on the apps.

Based on data from 2017, the app Bumble notes that people spend the most amount of time on their app on Sundays and the least on Friday. They found that the users who had the "magic number" of six photos were more likely to get matches with potential dates. They recommend sending those messages between 8 and 10 p.m., noting that short messages of 10 to 15 words have the most success at getting responses.

Melissa Hobley with OkCupid recommends not overthinking the dating process. She suggests meeting with your friends over a glass of wine to help design your profile. If coming up with a bio sounds too daunting, Hobley suggests just making a simple list of things you like -- anything from places, to food, to sports teams.

When adding photos to your account, Hobley recommends selecting ones that tell a story about your life and display activities you enjoy.

"You have a huge chance at finding love in the new year," she noted.

Hobley added that Austin is one of the top five cities in the world for Match.com.

"That's straight [people], that's LGBTQ people, we're really proud that OkCupid is an experience for a number of sexual orientations," Hobley said.

Austin is a target market for OkCupid and other dating sites, in part because of the large number of young active people in town. Austinites will see a new ad campaign from OkCupid in the next three months, featuring billboards with a different twist on the DTF acronym with variations like "Down to fly the red eye." Hobley said this campaign is about reclaiming a term that has been used often by men in a derogatory way.

Hobley added that in cities like Austin, the online dating world has been changing in many ways to give women and the LGBTQ community more power and to help people cross social and economic boundaries. She says it's all part of the changing face of the digital dating world.

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