Dating apps, pre and post-lockdown – and a tribute to 1991

Sydney single mum Mel W has something to say about dating apps. File photo.

After a break from dating apps, Mel W puts her toe back in the water – and finds a surprising change in the men online. 

Ahhhh, 1991. From memory, it was all about the ‘Good Vibrations’ with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, six-packs (I’m talking the abdominal variety, not alcoholic drinks) and Calvin Klein. 

It was the year Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC; the Balkan Wars kicked off when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia; Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the highest-grossing movie; and TV shows like RoseanneMurphy Brown and Cheers had us glued to the small screen.

So what does 1991 have to do with lockdown and dating apps? Well, apart from my love of retro, 1991 had some great hits and a fair few misses for the Dating App Gladiator.

Lockdown was a great hit in terms of slowing down the day-to-day grind, re-evaluating life and work, and saving money on Ubers. However, a humungous miss would have to be my sons’ daily 15-minute online classroom.

‘Dating App Gladiator’ … what is this term? Well, it refers to me; it means I know how to navigate the online jungle and all its thirsty and hungry inhabitants. Yes, EMF, it seems ‘Unbelievable’, but I could now write a biography on a man based on his dating profile. Channelling my inner Napoleon Bonaparte, I too can say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. The only thing is, these days men are using multiple photo filters that would make most Instagram influencers proud.

It seems ‘Unbelievable’ – but you’d better believe Mel W can write a biography of a man based on his dating profile. Video: EMFtheband/YouTube.

Before I go further, let me take you down Mel W memory lane. I was in a relationship from the ages of 18 to around 39. I had never really heard much about dating apps. Then, just shy of turning 41, after a stint of self-induced celibacy to focus on my kids, I joined the world of dating apps. I was definitely as ‘Dizzy’ as Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff, to take things back to 1991.

Now, as 2 Unlimited asked in their power dance tune, “Y’all ready for this?”

Online jungle, pre-Covid 

A couple of years ago, before we had even heard of Covid, I was on dating apps here and there. I noticed that quite a lot of men were behaving peculiarly. Like untamed and unhinged sexually aroused beings. Interestingly, it was not just the young colts, it was the older gents too who were sending messages with emojis of an eggplant (possibly to resemble a penis), water drops (possibly to resemble ejaculation) or a purple devilish face (Merve the Perve right there!). 

It was like dealing with hormonal adolescents whose parents went away for a weekend … yep,  to paraphrase Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, it was smelling like teen spirit. 

I asked one guy, “Can I have your parents’ phone number so I can congratulate them for raising a first-class creep?”

These jacked up keyboard warriors must have had ‘Cream’ by Prince as their anthem! They were using terms like ‘NSA’. I wondered if they had forgot the ‘A’ in ‘NASA’.

‘Cream’ … get on top. Video: Prince/YouTube.  

Numerous messages contained questions like, “Feel like hooking up?”, “Wanna come over?”, “Can you send me a pic of your boobs?”, “Want a dick pic?”, “Looking for fun?”, etc.

It got to a stage where I was humming R.E.M’s ‘Losing My Religion’ at the thought of meeting someone half-decent.

Online jungle, post-Covid 

As research for this article, I thought, “Why not download a few dating apps and see what’s happening out there?”

Scrolling through my photo gallery, I select photos that show I’m a busy woman with creative hobbies, and that I have a sense of style and some class. Possibly the type of class and style to give you whiplash, as proffered by C+C Music Factory in ‘Things That Make You Go Hmm …’.

I put together my profiles on Bumble, Hinge and Badoo. I thought to myself, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” I did the mental push-ups in anticipation of the smut similar to one of those dodgy adult magazines you used to see wrapped in plastic at service stations. 

I started matching and chatting with people. And was instantly struck by a change.

It seems really different now.



Has lockdown tamed the majority of men online? Every single message I have received has been lovely and polite. Has Covid made men think, “If we have another lockdown I don’t want to spend it alone?”

Perhaps having a plus one beyond a night has become appealing amidst the social isolation?

I have been asked if I’m interested in post-lockdown dates over picnics, dinners, swims and drinks. The only emojis involve smiley faces and wine or champagne glasses. I have always had the same type of profiles on dating apps but this time around, the interaction and engagement is of high quality. Men are competing for your attention to engage in an intellectually stimulating way and in a way that makes them very attractive and datable. 

Yes, Seal, it feels a little ‘Crazy’.

The change in the dating scene seems a little ‘Crazy’ – but Mel W approves. Video: ohnoitisnathan59/YouTube.

At the time of writing this article, I have decided to remain on the dating apps to see what happens. I’ll loiter without expectation or commitment. Right now I am on the beach with Daryl Braithwaite singing our duet to ‘The Horses’ with perfect post-lockdown locks.

So on that note, lovely people, I will return to my apps, which – at least for now –  seem like a civilised community.

Mel W is a Sydney-based writer. She is the author of The Single Mother Trying Not to F*ck Up Life and host of the podcast The Single Mother’s Guide to the Galaxy. Her website is located at