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Why swiping right on a 'blizzard boyfriend' could be good for your love life

by Keith Wagstaff /  / Updated  / Source: NBC News

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In the pre-Tinder era, single people would sit at home during snowstorms and maybe read a book or watch "Love Actually" or pickle herring for the long winter ahead.

Now, they swipe. On Hinge, usage was up 47 percent in New York City and Boston during the recent blizzard. OKCupid recorded a 10 percent boost in activity. Online dating activity peaks in January, at least on Match.com, which normally sees a 25 to 30 percent spike in new members between Dec. 26 and Feb. 14. Singles also swipe more on Tinder during the winter, although the company declined to say by how much.

Craigslist is full of people looking for snow buddies who want to cuddle, make out or partake in various adult activities while it's cold outside. Before big snow storms, it's not uncommon for people to look for "blizzard boyfriends" or girlfriends to, um, ride out the bad weather with.

What is going on? Is snow an aphrodisiac? Are doughy, sunlight-deprived bodies the new beach bodies?

"People are stuck at home," Nicole Ellison, an associate professor at the University of Michigan who has studied online dating, told TODAY. "Online dating can be very time-consuming. When the weather is good and it is light outside, you are less likely to be inside on the Internet."

Ah yes, a scenario worthy of the great Romantic poets, if Keats had met Fanny Brawne on Tinder and decided to meet up for a drink or whatever because he had just finished the last season of "Breaking Bad" and had nothing else to do.

Judging from a sample size of myself, this tends to be true, as matches increase during really bad weather without a corresponding increase in my own attractiveness or ability to write a coherent profile.

Jen Ludek, 26, of Calgary, also finds herself swiping more often during snowstorms.

"If I'm bored, I'll go on Tinder," she told TODAY. Not that the cold weather has increased the wit of her online paramours.

"A lot of guys say they want to warm me up," she said. "It's cold all the time here. I mean, it's Canada. I'll buy a heater."

Several winters ago, Taylor Lorenz decided to sign up for Tinder, OKCupid and Hinge. She had broken up with her boyfriend over the summer, but didn't think about finding someone new until the weather got colder and the number of happy hours and outdoor BBQs dwindled.

A couple doesn't let snow stop their romance in Central Park.
A couple doesn't let snow stop their romance in Central Park.CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters

She ended up meeting her fiancé at a party. But she understands the impulse to look for a boyfriend when the snow starts falling.

"I have lots of friends who set up accounts around the holiday season," Lorenz, a writer for Business Insider, told TODAY. That includes one friend who signed up for Tinder the first week of December because it was "going to be a long winter."

"In New York City, where winters are so freezing and miserable and you don't want to go outside to meet people every night, it makes sense to stay inside and swipe on your phone," she said.

Big cities also make it easier to meet during bad weather. In the suburban or rural areas, a winter date could mean driving 20 miles on icy roads. In New York City, you can set your search radius to one mile, and just plan dates at the bar around the corner.

"We weren't surprised by it," Karen Fein, marketing director for Hinge, told TODAY about the spike in blizzard activity. "Most of our users are young professionals in big cities. It's basically an opportunity to set up a snow day playdate. I mean, why not?"

Not only are people bored, but they also feel pressure to kiss someone on New Year's Eve or have a date on Valentine's Day. As Garry Marshall likes to remind us, these are magical days when even beautiful celebrities are capable of finding "the one."

Don't think Ashton Kutcher can convince you that you absolutely need a date for New Year's Eve? Think again.

"All of us have these love stories in our heads, and sometimes we discount what is happening in real life because we want life to match those ideas," Justin Garcia, director of education at the The Kinsey Institute, told TODAY.

He pointed to research from psychologist Robert Sternberg, which said that relationships work best when people's "love stories" — i.e. the narratives they build in their heads about their ideal relationships — match up. Many of those stories are influenced by movies and TV shows, and many of them involve bringing someone home for Christmas.

The holidays make us feel like we should be dating someone, he said, so we take steps online to make it happen.

That does not have to be a bad thing. For all the talk of blizzard boyfriends, Lorenz said, she doesn't know of anyone that has dumped someone they met online in winter once spring started. For singles new to dating apps, winter means more potential matches — even if meeting them involves hiking through the snow.

"If you're considering online dating, this is a great time to do it," Garcia said.

On your wedding day, nobody has to know that you were initially just looking for a warm body. Online dating is losing much of its stigma, so you might as well swipe right. What else are you doing right now?

Keith Wagstaff writes about technology for NBC News. He previously covered technology for TIME's Techland and wrote about politics as a staff writer at TheWeek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @kwagstaff and reach him by email at: Keith.Wagstaff@nbcuni.com

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