One of the most heartbreaking effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the lack of face-to-face interactions with family and friends. While phone calls and video chat services like FaceTime, Zoom and HouseParty have helped us maintain relationships during this period, some may be looking to build a few relationships of their own, because love isn’t always on lockdown.
Accordingly, the dating app Bumble has implemented new innovations in order to help people find potential partners, such as the expansion of their distance filters to allow matches nationwide, new audio notes and voice messaging, and their “Virtual Date” badge for those who can’t wait until the quarantine ends to possibly meet that special someone.
To showcase how a “Virtual Date” works, Bumble teamed up with musician and actor Common and comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish for a campaign that not only encourages virtual connections in order to combat loneliness but to give back to medical workers, hospitality workers and small businesses that have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus due to the lack of in-person service.
The rumored celebrity couple donated $50,000 in grants to businesses in the food industry across America through Bumble’s Community Grants Program, which is part of their business initiative, “Bumble Bizz.” The app’s users can nominate small businesses in need to be selected by Bumble for monetary support. Through the program, the company is also offering nearly $1 million to small businesses in 11 countries, and for every ‘Virtual Date’ badge added to a Bumble user’s profile, the service is donating $1 to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, to which Bumble previously donated $100,000.
In a chat with The Root, Common explained that he initially signed on for the campaign because he thought it would be fun to have a date entirely over video chat. However, after seeing the social and financial devastation caused by COVID-19, he knew it was even more important to spread some love.
“I felt like if [Tiffany and I] brought our authentic selves to the date, then maybe we could bring some joy and happiness to others,” the Oscar winner said of his initial thoughts regarding the campaign. “But there’s some suffering going on. I’m really praying for the world to be better...I recognized that this can help heal people and inspire people, and get them to smile and bring some love to their hearts and spirit. I saw a lot of just positive energy around doing [the campaign].”
Obviously, establishing connections is Bumble’s M.O. While rumors have swirled that Common and Haddish have been an in-person item for quite some time, the twosome are encouraging healthy virtual ties during these trying times.
In the days leading up to her virtual date with Common, the Girls Trip star asked her fans and social media followers to help her figure out how to prepare, from picking out her dress to what lipstick shade she should rock. Common delivered a bouquet of flowers to Haddish, and they ate a meal, danced together and watched a movie all within the app. They also sent meals from small businesses in their hometowns––2 Cents LA and D’s Original Take Out Grill in Tiffany’s native Los Angeles and Virtue Restaurant in Common’s home of Chicago—to healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.
“[Tiffany] has a beautiful heart, and [I could] feel that even through Bumble,” Common says of his date, whom he praises for her depth, sense of humor and genuine spirit. “She was all into anime films, and she was also talking about supporting community businesses and black businesses...I got that fun, but I also got an intimacy and a quietness out of the virtual date that I liked.” And yes, when things open up again, he says he is going to take her on a *proper* date.
According to a press release, Bumble’s in-app video chat feature has seen a 56 percent increase globally during the week ending March 27, compared to the week ending March 13, which shows just how important virtual connections are becoming. This isn’t just for romantic relationships, but platonic ones as well. Common believes that the social distancing regulations are ironically doing wonders to bring people closer together as people are learning about the importance of community, family and healthy relationships during this time indoors.
“I think I’m starting to value other people’s time even more, and I’m grateful for the relationships that I have,” he explains. “I got on a Zoom call with my grandmother, and my cousins, and my mother and my daughter. My grandmother got to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren all at once, and it’s something she hadn’t seen in I don’t know [how long]...I feel like we’re connecting spiritually in different ways, in new ways, and we value each other more.”
While we know that these social distancing precautions won’t last forever, Common believes that humans will take away their own lessons and implement personal changes when a semblance of order is restored worldwide. For instance, he believes that he’s starting to slow down, and instead of rushing to work and get things done, he’s focusing on stillness and the simpler pleasures in his life during this time.
Keeping this fact in mind, it looks like there’s no new music in the pipeline for Common when the quarantine lifts. However, he doesn’t take this downtime for granted, instead taking a moment to reflect on how he’s earned the right to take a breather. (“It’s very new for me because I always gotta be productive,” he laughs.)
His first major-label project Like Water For Chocolate just turned 20 years old, and his 12th studio album Let Love was released in August 2019. During his decades-long career, he’s realized how important it is to be humble regardless of what he’s accomplished—which includes three Grammys, an Academy Award, production and acting credits, and a slew of community-centered projects, such as his nonprofit foundation geared at helping underprivileged youth, Common Ground.
“One of the things I desire most is to learn and to get better,” he explains. “Success is truly a path. It’s not like you reach a certain award, or certain amount of money, or a certain amount of record sale and then stop. If you’re an artist, and you love art, you’ll want to do that until you leave this planet physically, and then hopefully your work will last beyond your physical presence. 20 years. That’s a blessing. You know? All I can say is I feel grateful and blessed.”
With everything going on in the world, it’s important to stay grounded in gratitude and to assist those who need a helping hand. While a little romance by way of Bumble might be added to Common’s hearty list of successes, he’s even more excited to see how interactions as a whole will change for the better as a result of COVID-19.
“We keep saying ‘let’s go back [to life before the quarantine],’” he says. “I’ve been thinking about how this is our new normal. It can be better, but we could be better after this, too. We have the ability and I believe we will, you know? Things might not be as comfortable as they [were] before, but I think we are going to create social connections that [are] going to bring us to higher levels in the way we treat each other.”