Finding a partner- it might be the most primal instincts that keeps the human race still in touch with our evolutionary past. Nature possibly wrote this code with the idea of propagation of species; the human civilizations have refined it into a wonderful term named relationships. It is so true that we enjoy being with certain people, have feelings towards them (may be even as friends) and ultimately we assign them a unique place in our social ecosystem as long as it has an impact on our life. This is what I’ed say is my view of how we start and maintain our relations from an individual level.
The first level is usually the family where we are born, next is close and distant relatives. When it comes down to friends; we get them from school just by virtue of innocence- sitting on the same bench, sharing the same toffies, travelling in the same school bus or just nothing at all. As we graduate through school and college, we have a rolling account of friends and our first encounters with dating. But overall in most cases, dating is confined to people we know and to ones we are most influenced by in a group. In such cases, everyone knows everything about one another and where we don’t, we have a friend, acquaint or someone who knows this person in some or the other way and can help. The need to know something about someone is the amazing space which has given rise to social networks of today. (given if the movie Social Network is something to go by)
With the advent of internet in Indian households, chat rooms and messengers like ICQ were the first form of tools to enhance the social circles beyond the boundaries of the known people. But why do we have an inherent need to expand our social circles and get to know more people? The answer is pretty simple- what fun it is to answer an exam where you know every answer or play Prince of Persia with cheat codes. Dating is like being on a treasure hunt for the perfect match from a million around whom you do not know. It’s almost like taking command of the USS Enterprise and going boldly further than any man has gone before to know another person. In most cases, it also brings out a lot of self-awareness as you end up understanding more of yourself from an independent opinion from a person who only knows you as much as you can tell them.
The traditional dating forms like blind dating, speed dating etc. have been tried to a fair extent in India but little has actually caught on. I had heard of mobile led dating devices in some Asian countries but the recent explosion of smart phones in India has led to a large number of dating apps that have come in. Now honestly, I had only heard of Tinder and Bumble for some time and considering the fact that the online space had got creepy in a lot of ways, I was confident that this was just a passing phase. Not to mention, the final nail on Orkut did suggest that people has moved to Facebook and WhatsApp as a preferred choice. But recently I started hearing radio ads of some Indian dating apps gaining popularity. So I kind of decided to do some research.
On an overall I guess the apps have refined the art of internet enabled dating away from the weird friend requests we all get on Facebook (and the fraandsheep seekers on Orkut). Firstly, people are from within your geographical vicinities which eliminates you the chance of finding someone in Latvia, Ghana or Fiji. Also since the larger objective is for people to actually meet at some point, it is necessary that the geography is defined. It is also a great thing for people to just swipe around and take a call based on the first impression if it is worth exploring- there are no second chances and a reject is like permanent. I’m sure this gets rid of a lot of nuisance value and stalkers. The third is that you cannot make a profile on its own as they use Facebook as a reference platform for verification. So no more corny id’s like ‘waiting4u, 4uonly, hunkinslacks’ will every bother you.
While everything as an app might seem good with Tinder or an Indian one like Woo, there is and has always been an element of creepiness which is one obvious thing that floats around here. I mean when you name an app Thrill or Desi Crush; it somehow just doesn’t inspire that confidence to meet genuine and good people. But I guess this is the space where people have to change rather than apps and their filters. I do believe there will be people who will possibly mention their intent well and truly direct manner in their profile at some point. These apps are purely means to have more friends- just friends. Sadly this is something not very common in India for people of opposite genders to be just friends; our movies only preach a bunch of guys exclusively or girls exclusively who can sing a song on being friends. Also we love to promote the myth that friends turn life partners eventually.
In my view, more than anything, people have to understand what really is dating. In plain simple terms, dating (unlike flirting) is merely a casual interaction between two people who meet, talk about areas of mutual liking and possibly share things about their life. There is no space for any malicious intent or involved. Since there is no accord to meeting someone again, people usually do open up without the fear of being judged. Though this might not be a primary use of dating apps, I’m already hearing of people who are using Tinder as a business tool to meet people who might be from a particular field of work with a business proposition. And most certainly, a dating app is not a Shaadi.com app or some escort service in disguise.
In an era when I see more and more people involved in activities which actually disconnect them from one another, where the bonds in our social circles, time spent with friends away from work etc. are dropping to a new low, these apps can actually be a breeze of fresh air. A technology connecting people in real.