Swipe right, swipe left
While dating apps have given more options, on the flipside people do not want to work around the imperfections of their existing partners and prefer to go on a search — yet again. By Team Viva
It’s really interesting to see that among people who are between 25 and 35 years of age, four out of every 10 couples met via the internet. It’s a trend that’s growing, as more and more people realise that it actually works and that you can meet like-minded people on these apps,” observed Sumesh Menon, CEO and Co-Founder, Woo. Getting into the dating space via apps is a trend that seems to be burgeoning in urban India, prompting the entry of newer multinational and home-grown players.
Courtship might have traditionally involved all our senses. One would hear someone’s voice, see their body language, facial symmetry, their unique smell which would invoke the vital senses but gradually there seems to be a shift towards technology. “There have been dozens of studies where voice pitches were important in mate choices as was smell. In an online context, we don’t seem to be using those mechanisms that are highly evolved but other things are becoming more important like teeth in pictures, your hair, cleanliness and grammar in messages. These are part of our evolutionary history and we are just expressing them in a new digital context,” says Justin Garcia, a Ruth Halls Endowed Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Research Director at The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington. He has researched on the rise of singlehood in America and how widespread use of technology is changing what we thought we knew about human courtship. His research interests focusses on the evolutionary foundations of variation in monogamy, intimacy and sexual behavior, with a particular emphasis on biocultural approaches to sex, gender, dating and reproductive strategies.
Interestingly, one of the largest growing demographics of daters who use the internet are people over the age of 50. Older singles in America are using the internet in massive numbers. When one thinks of trans-generational information, we usually assume there will be grandparents influencing parents who in turn influence kids. Transgenerational information moves in a downward direction where one learns from the elders but what has been sighted in the US and around the world is that younger generation is teaching their parents and grandparents how to date. “It is happening because increasingly people are in the dating market later in their lives. It is a huge demographic transition. People are looking to younger generations to understand the current dating norms as the norms have changed. Culturally, in a traditional society, singles who reach a certain age or become a grandparent are expected not to date. But with the exposure, even teenagers are dating,” says Garcia.
And there is a spin-off that Garcia adds. “I think dating sites should be called mating sites. They are helping people find love and connect. It is a way to find out who else is out there. The journey begins and you go on a date which might be good or bad. It might turn into a relationship or love or even marriage. That part defines the exciting complex reality of dynamic human relationships. That dynamics depends on various aspects like can the two make each other laugh, how do they talk, do they have similar interests and what ideologies do their families have.”
Internet in the US has become the most common way for singles to meet for a date. Earlier, people used to meet in schools or religious organisations. There has been a big change as compared to the last few decades when families were more involved. For gay men and lesbian women, it is even higher probably because it is safer for certain groups on internet.
Claire Certain, Head of Global Trends, Communications and Media at Happn, which has just launched in India, said, “The concept of this app is based on serendipity — how to optimise the chance, avoid misconnection and consider the opportunities that come your way to connect with new people, widen your horizon.” The app lets you connect to people you cross path with on a day to day basis and also how many times you went past them but doesn’t reveal the location to avoid any harmful consequences. She added, “We don’t use matching algorithms, it’s only chance-based depending on your daily journey. It’s quite different from other dating apps. You don’t have to choose the person based on criteria as you might not know what you want exactly. And it might not interest you if the person is exactly according to criteria. You don’t swipe right and treat people like a catalogue or a commodity. The fact that you potentially cross paths with them in streets makes them all the more real and personify them.”
She is of the opinion that a chance should be given to people you meet in dating apps; if it doesn’t work out they can choose not to talk or walk away but can also take it forward in case it works out well. In her app, one can mention in their profile if they are looking for a serious relationship or hookup. “We encourage the users to meet for real as there is nothing like having a real life experience and you will never know someone truly until you meet for real.” As you can’t fake it or lie after a certain point or when you have open discussions, asking questions and responding, you reveal your true selves. Happn has been successful so far in Delhi and Mumbai.
On the difference between people’s opinion towards dating app in other countries and India, she said, “In US and UK, people are more familiar with the dating concept. In these countries, you can date two or three people at the same time but it’s not accepted in France and Spain. US and UK are mature markets whereas India is not. The culture is more conservative and different than the rest. And there’s a lot more that needs to be done to make them more aware towards the concept of dating.”
The success rate defined by lasting relationships of people who met on this app is sometimes a matter of chance. She quotes examples to highlight the point. “A guy was sending a ‘hi’ to the girl and liking her profile but she wouldn’t respond. He happened to cross paths with her every day while going to the office but she was probably busy in some other task at that time and couldn’t see it. Finally one day when she replied, they ended up meeting which finally led to their marriage.” She also spoke about a couple who met on this dating app where the man first lied about his height. “When they met, she confronted him about it but it didn’t hamper their first meeting. Now they are happily married with a baby,” she says. Certain individuals believe that the only stigma that needs to be tackled now is people publicly legitimising the use of dating apps in building relationships.
Menon spoke about the online dating space in India and its scope. “India’s urban population is expected to reach 40 per cent by 2030 so there is huge potential in the Indian market. And with the growing Indian online dating and match-making space, we project the overall dating and match-making industry in India including websites and apps to grow to USD 800-1 billion in three years as urban population explodes. As young people become more independent along with internet exposure, they start to carve their own expectations from life and marriage, which might be different from those their parents had.”
There are many dating apps in India like Trulymadly, Thrill, OkCupid and apps which match people based solely on their music preferences like LetsTuneup. Thus, we believe that dating apps are gaining popularity over recent years in India.” On dating trends in India, he said “As India is rapidly transitioning from joint to nuclear families, from the conformist to the brave, from the collective to the individualistic, finding love is the next big adventure. Demanding careers, long commutes, with time being life’s most precious currency means that meeting someone special becomes quite challenging and people are acknowledging that. Luckily, however, India has adopted technology at the same pace and people are quite comfortable with turning to technology to address this problem. With millions of users active on these, dating apps are gaining immense popularity amongst young, urban singles looking out for a meaningful relationship.”
Relationship expert Shashikiran Kalyanpur decodes the reason behind emerging trend of dating apps in India. Said he, “The emergence and success of dating apps is mainly because of the ease it provides to look for a date and not being able to see each other in person which makes it easier for people to hide behind their insecurities of physical appearance. The hesitation and awkwardness of approaching someone for a date is not there anymore. In other words, the fear of rejection is supplemented by the options that the app provides.”
Despite the advantages, it does affect relationships in the real world. Kalyanpur said, “The constant use of dating apps has an adverse effect on relationships, since your subconscious is programmed to look for options, when you find a little problem cropping up in the relationship your first reaction is, ‘let me look for someone else’. To put it in another way, the success of any relationship is to accept the imperfections of the other person, and the dating apps help you to look for perfection all the time by providing various options. The emergence of the apps have also pushed commitment and loyalty out of the window.”
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