Many articles have recently come out with the conclusion that there has been a spike in the number of individuals using dating apps in India and around the world once the lockdown came into effect. This may definitely be true but it does make you wonder if the articles themselves had a role to play. Such articles paint a rosy picture of how, young men and women matched (dating lingo for liking each other), got off to a great start, chatting to video calls, coffee or tea at a picture perfect restaurant (during normal times, of course) and happily ever after? This is also true with many answers to questions on dating app experience on Quora and the person reading this would brim with confidence that he/she shall also experience this bliss. Naturally, this normal person would be inclined to give it a try and expect the same.
But the question is, do they really? This got me thinking and I came out with an idea (not the most prudent). Why not test this? Hence, I decided to give it a go.
When it comes to dating, the expectations of men and women may differ. For an app/site to be successful they’ll have to meet the expectations of those on either side of the aisle and this is where a plethora of apps decided to cash in. There is Tinder with the famous right/left swipe, Aisle which targets those looking for a longer relationship, Bumble which is said to offer greater security to women, the vintage OkCupid and Woo with its ad campaigns. Whichever app you choose, it all boils down to this: do you successfully meet a genuine person whom you end up liking? The answer is generally a no but not a definite no. This is, at least, as far as my experience goes and based on my interactions with few others.
If you do decide to download a dating app, register yourself and go down the rabbit hole, you might want to know a few things.
First, the obvious that many profiles on such apps are fake. The names, their photos, age and bio-data all cooked up or copied from somewhere else. Many create a fake account and just forget about it while some might play a prank on you. Many apps are trying to weed out such fake profiles but a long way to go.
Second, the skewed ratio. The man to women ratio is stacked against men. There are way too many men when compared to women and there’s a chance that a genuine person looking for a match might get old even before his profile shows up in the significant other’s list to swipe. Many apps are trying to change this by attracting more and more women. Take Bumble, for example, it only allows women to make the first move even if there is a match and hence women control the initiation process. Woo, on the other hand, claims to be an app that women love but not very sure why.
Third, friend makers. There are many profiles in which, the ‘About Themselves’ section says they are ‘here only to make friends’. Now, I am not sure whether they do not understand the purpose of dating apps or they are really being serious about making good friends over on Tinder. Bored with Facebook, I guess.
Fourth, Instagram boosters. Many verified profiles contain a link to their Instagram accounts. Many from outside the country also use options such as Passport on Tinder or location changing options on other apps to try their luck in India of boosting their Instagram followers. I am sure many would have gotten a follow request on Instagram from a stranger who disappears from your followers list a few days later. This trick is nothing but to make you follow them on Instagram. Many content creators have agreed that they use dating apps to boost their followers.
Fifth, a premium account. The way many of these apps make money other than ads is by subscription to a premium feature on the app. Unless you subscribe to their premium features, you are at a disadvantage. Or at least that is how the apps portray. Take any dating app, most of them will not allow you to see the person who has liked you unless you pay at least Rs 500 or more. You’ll have to pay to boost your profile, to make it more visible to the other gender, to send a crush, to view the profile of the person who has liked you, to send a message, to swipe right more than a certain number of times, to change your location and just about anything. On some apps, like Woo, as soon as you register, you start getting 10 or more likes everyday as if they were all waiting for you to join in. To converse, you need the premium subscription, but as soon as you purchase it, the likes disappear or trickle down. This only shows how bots are used to lure naïve users and is pretty evident from all the ratings and feedbacks on the app store.
However, online dating and dating apps are here to stay and are seen as a goldmine with many companies waiting to make money, no matter what. Even Facebook has rolled out its dating service in select regions.
This is because the general attitude to online dating has changed over the years and has become much more positive especially with social networking. However, this does not mean that people would welcome a stranger contacting them over Facebook and Instagram after coming across their profile on such dating apps and you tend to weird them out as I have learnt from trying to interact or to get to know them
This brings us to security and privacy. Many users are and may have been contacted by someone from a dating site or app in a way that has made them feel harassed or uncomfortable. This is especially true with women who are much more likely than men to have experienced uncomfortable contact via online dating apps, Instagram or Facebook. Sadly, there’s no quick solution to this problem.
With more and more people deciding to give dating apps a go and considering India’s increasing smartphone penetration with access to the Internet and the young population, such apps or sites are only to increase. Still, we have to give these apps the benefit of doubt on whether they really care about people matching or is it just about making more money. I am not saying it’s a total fail, but remember not to get your hopes high. Just because you get too many likes on some apps doesn’t mean you are getting lucky and if you don’t get any matches, it doesn’t mean there’s no future. It’s important to stay safe and confident. For those who were fortunate on these apps, I say congratulations.
(The author is an engineer, student of law and an occassional writer. Views expressed are personal)
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