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Black Lives Matter and MAGA hats: Activism and politics are flooding dating apps

Female. 29. Runner/Dog mom. Virgo looking for a Scorpio. Swipe left if you voted for Trump.

The latest trend in dating apps isn’t travel pictures or cheeky one-liners, but bios prominently displaying political and social justices stances.

Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, overt political preferences, and profile pictures featuring political swag like MAGA hats have become more prevalent — thanks to a combination of coronavirus isolation, nationwide protests against racism and police, and an upcoming election.

Sharing views on politics and current events in the biography section on a dating app profile is nothing new. Dating apps saw a similar burst of political activity around the divisive 2016 presidential election.

But the proliferation of singles aligning themselves so publicly with issues deemed polarizing while also searching for a match who believes the same has skyrocketed dramatically recently, according to dating experts and users — and they don’t expect the fad to go away anytime soon.

Politics before the first date

“People want to express who they are and what they are passionate about. People are now wanting to have much more real conversations,” Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at Match, told Digital Trends.

DeAlto cited a recent survey from Match that showed “98% of singles want a partner who wants to talk about politics.” She said topics like politics, which used to be brought up much later in the dating process, have come to the forefront.

white men who put acab/blm in ur dating app bio…. who are you trying to attract

— Terry Nguyễn (@terrygtnguyen) August 29, 2020

Like Match, Tinder also found that Gen Z users were more likely to include causes like climate change, social justice, and gun control in their bios compared to millennials, according to a survey the company did earlier this year.

On Hinge, users are specifically asked about their political beliefs and can choose to display it on their profile or not. In 2018, Bumble introduced “badges” — where users can include short blurbs reflecting their personal values and stances on a variety of issues.

“We also saw a large peak in political badge adoption in late May, corresponding with the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests across the nation,” Priti Joshi, Bumble’s vice president of strategy, told Digital Trends. “We’re in a really polarizing time and politics can be a serious deal breaker in dating.”

Some users post photos of themselves at protests or wearing shirts and hats promoting a political cause or politician.

According to Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist, what makes this trend in online dating different than four years ago is the coronavirus pandemic — a public health crisis that has since turned into a matter of political belief, the divisive discourse primarily taking place on social media.

“People are reacting emotionally and initiatively to political differences as if they are a physical threat because they imply different social behaviors [like] taking COVID precautions and that translates into other social issues,” Rutledge said. “The level of stress and anxiety among the population means that these are signals of tribal affiliation. It isn’t just what do you care about, it’s a means of curating out people with unacceptable values where no relationship is possible.”

Keep swiping if you support Trump

For Miya, a clinical science researcher, who preferred to not have her last name published, supporting President Donald Trump is a deal breaker and she explicitly says so in her Hinge profile.

“I don’t have a problem with moderate republicans, depending on their social beliefs, as much as I do Trump supporters,” she said. “If someone is willing to vote in favor of putting women’s health rights at risk, minority rights at risk, and LGBTQ rights at risk, then I am not inclined to hang out with someone who would rather vote for their financial comfort by suppressing and harming the well-being of others.

“But in all honesty, I don’t think I could ever seriously date someone who is a Republican, because even moderates don’t share the same values in the context of voting, that I do,” she added.

Miya, who is 26 and lives in New York City, said she’s been seeing more profiles featuring political positions in the last year, a reflection of the current social climate in the U.S.

Since she’s put her preferences in her bio, she’s received messages from “conservative guys” who harass her about it.

“Sharing your political stance shows where not only you align yourself socially and politically, but where you also align your values and morals,” she said. “I would be more likely to ‘like’ someone who has BLM in their bio, or pictured protesting, expressing their interest [and] work in the cause.”

‘Performative’ swiping

Yonnie Michael, a graduate student living in San Francisco, doesn’t include his political and social beliefs in his profiles on Hinge, Tinder, or Bumble. He’s never felt the need to. But, he said he appreciates when people feel comfortable enough to share theirs.

“These views of yours are part of your identity and sharing who you are upfront is helpful because we could potentially waste our time if we have some irreconcilable differences,” he said. “These current-day issues have impacted internet culture, and it’s pressured everyone to show their stances online. More people are politically charged on the internet at least. Whether that translates into actual civic engagement is another question that I don’t know the answer to.”

Not sure what white person needs to hear this but having BLM in your tinder bio is weird

— 。o°✥✤✣ jester ✣✤✥°o。 (@dykehockeymom) August 30, 2020

The question of whether the increase in social justice activism online is genuine has become a hotly debated topic.

Popular content creators, influencers, and celebrities have come under fire for performative activism — promoting an issue or cause on social media, but doing near-nothing other than sharing a post to advance the work of activists or donate to nonprofit organizations.

For Kaiuna Odogba, an artist and student at New York University, the spillage of social justice allyship over to dating apps is especially off-putting.

“With everything that’s been happening with the recent social unrest, there is a lot of performative activism, and something feels weird to me when people put ‘BLM’ in their Tinder bio,” said Odogba, 21, who uses both Tinder and Bumble. “Because I am a black person, I feel like it takes away the seriousness of the Black Lives Matter movement, even if people are well-intentioned.”

Odogba, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, said they’ve seen an increase of profiles on dating apps with the Black Lives Matter hashtag just in the past month, increasing in popularity by the day — and does tend to swipe left anytime one pops up on their screen.

“It definitely plays into how polarizing everything has become,” they said.

As the election nears, and current event issues become more fraught, Obogba believes more people will adopt social justice monikers in their bios — an identity marker used to connect, communicate, and date people online who share similar world views without the possibility of friction.

However, adding a hashtag or prompting other users to swipe a certain way depending on where they stand on the issues can say more about how someone wants to be seen by potential suitors, rather than the attention they hope to bring to the cause.

“I think a lot of it has to do with people being afraid of not being an ally,” Obogba said. “Are you doing these things because you care? Or because you don’t want to be marked as someone who is indifferent?”

At the end of the day, a long, exhaustive, descriptive bio is still a major reason singles swipe left — no matter the content.

“There is a lot of passion for political parties and positions, and those have come into play much more,” DeAlto said. “It’s more earnest, but people are still going to be looking at your pictures than they are reading your bio.”

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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