Tech

Tinder doesn't want you to be lonely during quarantine

Passport is here for everyone without charge.

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Tinder wants to make things a little bit easier for everyone practicing social distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As of Friday, the company announced that it would let everyone use its otherwise Premium feature, Passport, for free. This means you can still daydream about romance beyond borders in the comfort (and safety) of your home.

Passport lets Tinder users search for, and swipe on, users outside of their location. It's usually billed as a way to do some flirting — and, possibly, date-making — before visiting another city.

What Tinder says — The feature goes live for everyone through April 30. The company says:

Our hope is that you use the Passport feature to virtually transport yourself out of self-quarantine to anywhere in the world. You can check in on folks in their hometown, college town, or sister city, and find those across the world who are going through the same things. If nothing else, you can learn how to say “hey” in another language.

Match now, meet (maybe) later (or never) — Your relationships may be complicated, but Passport isn't. You drop the city or location you want to search or appear in on the virtual map and start swiping. It's that easy. Just go to your profile icon, open settings, select "Location", and add a new location. Remember, though, you can "be" in one city at a time, and should keep in mind that "people you’ve liked while using the Passport feature may see your profile up to 24 hours after you’ve changed your location(s)."

Love in the time of coronavirus — There's no guarantee that you'll find enduring and wholesome companionship once you embark on the Tinder Passport journey. But then, that's just as true of regular, localized Tinder. But it's a helpful feature in expanding your radius, virtually (and thus, safely) exposing you to new people, and increasing your chances of striking up conversations with others... that may even turn into a long-distance crush.

With social distancing understandably sending some people into spirals of anxiety and loneliness, Passport can help make self-isolation a little more tolerable. Assuming you're an extrovert who likes talking to strangers you may never meet, that is. If that it the case, it could also show you how people in other states and cities are handling life under the burden of the coronavirus.

As virality spikes so does desire — While COVID-19 has had a stultifying effect on day-to-day and face-to-face interactions thanks to orders from ever more states to stay at home, dating apps have seen some users turning to them just to talk to others. It makes sense. As both public officials and app companies urge physical distancing, many singles report feeling caged in and lonely.

Pleasingly, the outbreak has compelled people to be more creative than just dropping "sup" or a boring "hey." With Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, OkCupid and others urging people to pause physical dating, some users have used COVID-19 as an icebreaker with their matches. Who knows? It might just land them a date — in the not-so-near future. If not, there's always the option of mail order sex toys.