The growth of online dating
It wasn’t long ago that people would whisper maliciously about suspicions that a certain couple they knew met in that dark, unacceptable space known as “online”. But new evidence suggest that Indians have, in fact, begun to accept “online” as an okay space in which to meet one’s partner. Of course, this isn’t to say that attitudes to hook-ups have changed, or that the obsession with marriage is waning. But just that online dating is no longer as big a taboo as it once was. A Google report released earlier this year shows that the number of dating related queries have now surpassed matrimony related queries. In 2016, the dating app Tinder reported 7.5 million swipes per day in India, and the highest average number of messages exchanged per match in the world.
Even as matrimonial websites continue to boom, there is a steady growth in the dating app market as well. This could be a reflection – at least in urban spaces – of the growing acceptability of dating itself. For a country that still largely believes in “arranging” marriages, and where dating and “love marriages” are comment-worthy happenings, the growth of online dating could signify a shift in attitudes. One of the things that the smartphone has done for young Indians is increase the amount of privacy they have in their social circles. With encrypted messaging and password protected phones, young people have more control over their social lives than ever before. In such a scenario, it becomes easier to experiment with online dating. As more apps enter the dating market, as opposed to the matrimonial market, it has become easier to try and meet other like-minded people, without the stress of impending matrimony and parental pressure. Of course, attitudes towards pleasure seeking and casual hook-ups haven’t really changed; finding friendships and relationships remain the main motivation of most users, but even the pre-internet generation appears to be now accepting the idea of dating (and finding people to date) online.
For a generation that is busier than ever before, more lonely and isolated than ever before, and more reliant on the Internet than ever before, it is easier to seek companionship in the digital realm. Not only do dating applications provide a sense of privacy, it gives people, especially to women, the ability to exercise a certain amount of agency in picking and choosing who to meet in real life. Given the rate at which online dating is growing in India, it seems the malicious mafia of the neighbourhood will have to find something else to be malicious about, since both dating and online dating are quickly becoming the new normal.