You’d be hard-pressed to find a Singaporean millennial who hasn’t tried online dating. Whether it’s about swiping on Tinder, selecting curated matches on Coffee Meets Bagel, or going for group dates on GaiGai, the internet is a ubiquitous way for people to meet one another.
Not that there’s anything wrong in harnessing the internet to meet people, but I can’t help but question – would people still be able to do it old-school?
For instance, if you’re at a party and you see a stranger you find cute, would you be able to approach them and strike up a conversation, or would you find it easier to talk to them on social media first?
If you’re into online dating and I asked you to delete all your dating apps, would you still be able to snag a date without the use of said apps?
Curious to know whether people can hold their own without the help of dating apps and sites, I spoke to a group of eight diverse Singaporean millennials to find out more about their dating experiences.
Amongst the group of people who I talked to, some of them admitted that it’s difficult to find partners in real life.
This problem seems to be even tougher these days; it is no surprise that online apps have “come to the rescue”. I had a chat with Mindy, a 21-year-old videographer, who is currently dating a guy she met on Tinder. Without any doubt, she echoed the thoughts of others.
“There’s always the fear of losing face when you ask people out in real life,” she shared. “When you’re behind a keyboard, it makes things a lot easier as you won’t get directly rejected.”
Though Mindy’s right about how humiliating a rejection to the face can be, you can’t deny that it is also a lot more gratifying to ask someone out in person and score a date.
Compare the exhilaration of your crush saying yes to a date to the subdued intrigue you feel when your phone lights up and notifies you about a potential Tinder match.
The satisfaction and pleasure of courting someone offline is only part of the reason why some firmly believe in sticking to traditional modes.
24-year-old Joley, who’s a digital marketer, didn’t mince her words when she told me: “Online dating is basically like a market where you go to choose fish, since it’s based on something as superficial as appearances.”
But so true were her words, “And when you meet them, they may not even be the person you thought they would be. It’s better to date offline from the get-go so you can properly get to know a person, rather than through swiping.”
On the other hand, Zech, a care worker, admitted that he finds online dating a rational act, which is ironically something I agree with despite loathing that very fact. “I think online dating can actually be a smart thing to do. There are billions of people in the world. How do you know who’s out there if you don’t try?”
Kishore*, a recent graduate, quips a slightly negative but thoroughly realistic point, saying, “As you grow older, there comes a point where you start making more acquaintances than friends,” explaining that it’s easier to make friends in school as opposed to work.
Think about it – there are innumerable chances for you to meet people in school, be it as new classmates every semester, clubmates from your CCA, or hostel mates… and each eligible person could be a potential date.
When you start working though, the number of people you meet tends to dip drastically, especially if you’re bound to a nine-to-five office job. Could this be a justifiable reason as to why online dating is a logical step for many?
One of the working millennials who feels the same is Jeremy, who works as a missionary. He confessed, “I used to think online dating was for losers, for people who are not confident enough to find people in real life.”
“Now that I’ve started working, it’s really hard to meet girls out there,” said the 26-year-old, who noted that though he might still meet girls in real life through his friends, there are many barriers to overcome, such as figuring out her intentions and avoiding the dreaded friendzone.
As someone who is keen to find a life partner, Jeremy finds the app Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) a lot more straightforward than offline dating, where he can meet like-minded individuals without having to worry that he’s barking up the wrong tree.
In CMB, guys do not get to mindlessly swipe on girls and ghost them on a whim. Instead they have to either ‘like’ or ‘pass’ on girls based on a short list that they get daily. Girls can then choose from the guys who already expressed interest in them, entailing higher chances for quality matches.
And unlike Tinder, CMB allows for people to state their religion as well as what characteristics they would appreciate in their date, making it a lot easier for people like Jeremy (who is religious) to find a life partner who shares the same worldview.
Though the practicality and convenience of filtering potential dates based on your needs are huge plus points when it comes to online dating, it might not have the same allure and intrigue that comes from courting a person and getting to know them slowly.
I asked Mitch, a writer, about his thoughts on online dating, and interestingly, he brought up the stalking culture. “Since it’s now common practice to stalk people on social media before you meet them, you kind of already know a lot about them, their interests and hobbies. So there isn’t a lot of discovery sometimes, compared to old-fashioned offline dating,” said the 30-year-old.
I really did wonder how a date would be like after already learning about what he likes to do in his free time, where he works, the countries he’s travelled to, and the number of pets he has had.
Social media, as much as you’d like to ignore, only serves to paint a sparse picture of who this person is and might make you unconsciously lean towards the topics you know will interest this person – instead of slowly getting to discover a person from scratch.
Unlike most of the others I spoke to, Kate*, a retail manager, told me that she loves natural progression in a relationship. “If you move too fast, the relationship tends to crash; I’ve learned that the hard way.” She added that she has seen some of her friends jumping into relationships simply because they feel pressured by social media, which fuels their insecurities.
Social media rarely empowers the single life. You don’t see many hashtags about singlehood trending, neither do you see many people proclaiming how much they love the independent lifestyle. However, posts on Facebook that have heartfelt dedications of love and status updates of being in a relationship are lauded with hundreds of likes and comments.
It becomes a part of one’s social media life too, when people start creating couple hashtags and documenting every gift they receive from their bae on Instagram.
For a person who is hung up on social media, every ‘like’ and comment is a strong stamp of approval. If one is single and insecure, they might end up wishing they also had a boyfriend or girlfriend to flaunt on social media, like Kate’s close friend who constantly laments about not having a boyfriend. “It’s basically FOMO (fear of missing out). They are not finding relationships because of love, but because of their insecurities.”
A person who is on the exact opposite of this spectrum though, would be Nicholas*. Having dated people he met both online and offline, but never been in a relationship, the 25-year-old undergraduate believes in the importance of taking relationships slow before committing, and is not one to complain about being evergreen.
“A lot of my friends just rush into relationships because of peer pressure, because they believe they are of a lower status in society if they are single. And it doesn’t seem like they care about love either. For them, as long as they have the same hobbies and interests, it’s enough,” he said.
As I write this, I can’t help but wonder – has online dating fed our desire to find love quickly or has it altered the idea of love? Or does it even matter if I find my soulmate through an app or during a mutual encounter, so long as I get to check every trait on my list?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
*These names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewees.
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