Pre-COVID, the state of modern dating felt passionless, confusing, and at times even pointless. Prior to matching with my current partner, I’d open apps almost on a lark, thinking, “What fresh hell will I experience this evening?” If men weren’t boring drolls, completely inept at basic conversation, then they’d be full of bravado or ego, shamelessly showing off photos of themselves shirtless, holding up fish, or posing with exotic animals. At one point I even had a folder on my phone titled “Tinder Guys Holding Monkeys.”
In fact, there are Instagram accounts entirely devoted to the online dating struggle, like the to-the-point @tindernightmares. But nothing like a global pandemic to shake things up, right?
Over the summer, Tinder introduced an opt-in feature called Global Mode which allowed members to potentially match with anyone in the world also using the feature. I’d seen mentions of it on social media and imagined it to be gimmicky or fruitless, until I realized friends were actually using the feature successfully.
I was bewildered and amazed when a friend who lives in Australia found an actual boyfriend this way. Another friend remarked that once she turned Global Mode on, international matches came pouring in, with men dying to get to know an American.
“Global Mode is a bridge to the outside world, in a time where we can’t access it physically.”
Before the pandemic, the idea of long-distance dating seemed like an unnecessary heartache, particularly in a world where you could open an app, start a conversation, and meet a new person within hours. But these days we’re lucky if we catch a glimpse of our neighbor across the hall once a week. Add to that, the social stigma of having a “long-distance boyfriend” a.k.a. a Catfish episode waiting to happen.
Now, an international romancé seems daring, exciting, and above all things, something new.
I had to know if my friends’ Global Mode successes were mere anomalies or part of a bigger trend. I joined Tinder-specific message boards, blasted my social media asking for interviews, and, most excitingly, reactivated my Tinder account. This time though, blessedly, I wasn’t the one looking for love.
“Several Tinder users mentioned not feeling comfortable meeting people in person, making Global Mode an exciting option.”
I found very willing participants, eager to relay their experiences with the vast majority of them being positive.
Most had the attitude of “why not?” After all, meeting up with someone you like is daunting enough without a highly contagious, possibly deadly virus running rampant. Several Tinder users mentioned not feeling comfortable meeting people in person, making Global Mode an exciting option.
Users like “Hunter T” told me, “For me, it’s mostly [about] their personality…plus there isn’t any beating around the bush of ‘are we meeting, or not?”
But my most hopeful and surprising discovery was the stories of women unexpectedly finding the real deal. In a world where single women are regularly subjected to the horrors of online dating, going global gave them a space where they could be more earnestly wooed and fawned over.
Neha S. told me about her Italian partner, saying, “I was just so over American boys and I’ve been to Italy and I know the men there are super respectful and family-minded.”
COVID thwarted a meet-up planned for earlier this year, but the two text every day and call frequently. “I feel really comfortable with him….he’s so, so wonderful.”
A friend of a friend had major success after turning on Global Mode while out of the country. The wild twist? Her match was just miles from her hometown in Peru, just across the border in Ecuador. Mariella L. told me that the distance apart meant an emphasis on their emotional connection.
“In the end, it’s about the connection and good communication, and you can’t tell that from a picture or texting a couple of times.”
Mariella and her boyfriend have been dating for six months, with plans to meet up. They’ve also taken major relationship first steps, like drinks with each other’s best friends (over Skype, of course).
“Eventually, I think you can find someone that’s looking for something very similar to what you’re looking for, if you’re patient and open-minded enough,” she told me.
It seemed there was a common consensus between users that can resonate with anyone—hopefulness. Global Mode is a bridge to the outside world, in a time where we can’t access it physically. For many, it’s bigger than just the standard roulette game of Tinder.
It also gives an edge to American women, who are often subjected to lackluster pursuals.
But most importantly, Global Mode proves romance ain’t dead.