We have been given new maps to navigate our love lives; the Internet has erased all borders, the oceans have become an online expanse of endless potential soul mates, and yet we are still struggling in our voyage to find “the one”. In this technological age, the lengths that people can—and do—go to in search of some sort of intimacy is reaching new heights.
To swipe or not to swipe?
Online dating is not a new phenomenon, but mobile dating has soared meteorically in recent years. Tinder (www.gotinder.com), founded in 2012 and the behemoth of this breed, orchestrates 26 million matches per day, while Paktor (www.gopaktor.com), an Asian equivalent, has had more than 6 million users and 5 billion “swipes” since launching in 2013. This swiping culture—where a potential mate is almost instantaneously accepted or rejected with the tip of the finger, and often based on a photo—comes part and parcel with a sex revolution driven by such dating apps, where fleeting physical affairs are better facilitated than real emotional intimacy.
However, not all partake in the hookup culture. Apps such as Mat & Minah (www.matnminah.com) are specifically designed for spouse hunting, and while not representative of all users, even Joseph Phua, CEO and co-founder of Paktor, reveals, “Our core user base is made up of local users looking to make genuine connections.” Nevertheless, there is a worrying lack of real affection in the online space. Christopher Ryan, co-author of Sex At Dawn, points out that this is due to the seemingly infinite potential matches. “[There is an] unlimited access to sex partners. People are gorging, that’s why it’s not intimate. You could call it a kind of psychosexual obesity,” Ryan says. With the average Tinder user spending one hour and a half on the app per day, this “gorging” is a real threat. So, what big leap, and what extreme step, will humankind make in search for love?
Cue the rise of another phenomenon: the tech-savvy offline dating service. Matchmaking is a vintage term, but this new crop of businesses utilise the benefits of the Internet while sidestepping unwanted attention or the hook-up culture. It’s not so much a regression from the mobile sphere as it is a coexistence; the goal of app-based relationships, after all, is to take them offline.The advantages are clear: it’s entirely bespoke, eliminates awkward conversations as a precondition for meeting up, and of course, is much safer.
However the largest obstacle to its growth, particularly in Malaysia, is overcoming the notion that you have to be a problematic or desperate individual to use services the likes of Datesmith (www.mydatesmith.com), which launched in Malaysia this year. Joanne Ng, business development director of Datesmith, explains, “People learn that sometimes, it’s really just time and luck. Working professionals get into daily routines and groups of friends they are comfortable with, so social circles don’t grow. Many of the women we meet are at the top of their careers, but simply aren’t meeting the right person.” Organisations such as Datesmith can easily assist with these issues—that are largely practical as opposed to personal—if only more people would reach out.
The prices are hefty, but the level of personalisation is a huge selling point. Private consultations with relationship managers let you outline your ideal partner, from metrical preferences such as age, height, and timeline for marriage, to more elusive qualities such as values and interests. These real conversations, which invariably reveal something of yourself, divulge aspects simply lost in the online world. Ng elaborates, “We are working with such a wide variety of people, and while there are softwares we can use, when it comes to what type of person they are really looking for, it takes a human to do it.” It won’t be the death of mobile dating—Phua believes they will be “complementary rather than competitive”—but it offers a viable, exceptionally individualised and modern alternative for someone looking to take autonomy of their love life. It might be time to take the next step, and perhaps, it’s not so extreme after all.