“Sapiosexual, risk-taker, innovator, and a pragmatic romantic,” 34 year-old Ivy League-educated, entrepreneur Gareth’s Tinder profile reads.
A well-curated selection of photos accompanies this crisp introduction. Main photo shows Gareth wearing a modern tailored suit, flashing a bedimpled smile. Subsequent photos reveal his more relaxed side: One on a ski trip in the Alps; another enjoying a night out with equally handsome friends; and finally, one that shows off a toned upper torso while kitesurfing.
All these sound so ‘fetch’, but if they are any real, the good news is that Gareth is just in town—six kilometers to be exact.
Since the 90s, the Internet has democratized dating by making knockouts like Gareth, and his female counterparts, accessible to the dating public regardless of where they are in the world. Online dating on website platforms was prevalent until the early 2000s however, firsthand stories of successful encounters seem rare, especially among the mid-20s to early 30s age group. It could be partly because such dating method was a taboo that posed great risks of encountering scammers and perverts. It is only in the last three to five years that the emergence of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Ok!Cupid have made virtual dating more socially acceptable, thanks to features that are attractive to a demographic that mostly consists of young, educated, and suitably employed individuals.
Just how likely is it to find love at first swipe (or fine, after several swipes) through mobile dating apps? Is there any chance of a "happily ever after Tinder" for someone fabulous like you?
The following accounts are based on true stories of real persons belonging to Manila's "educated elite" although some details such as names and places have been slightly altered to protect their identities.
A True Tinderella's Tale
My globe-trotting college blockmate, Annie, is still on a high from her engagement with a self-made Dutch car dealer she has met on Tinder. “Besides one insignificant detail, he is everything I ever wanted—tall, athletic, accomplished, and with family values that perfectly complement mine,” she says.
Annie herself is quite a catch. She is effortlessly attractive, she can fluently speak at least five languages, and she has a fashionable career that many envy. One may think that Annie would have no reason to be on Tinder, but she tells me, “I have gotten tired of men in my social circle who are habitual cheaters!”
Annie’s deliberate decision to date men outside her circle may not have succeeded had this happened in the 90s. In the cult classic, “You’ve Got Mail,” a serendipitous encounter ensues between competing bookshop owners who hid behind the anonymity of Shopgirl and NY152. With today’s dating apps, users are required to use their real first names and photos as registration is linked to Facebook accounts. (Crooks and jerks may have dummy accounts that enable them to register as a different person.) One can also avoid coming across subordinates at work, social acquaintances, or even nephews and nieces by adjusting the preferred age range for matches in the settings, as well as viewing common contacts with a potential match.
When Cupid Shoots Too Far
On the other hand, "Scarlet Witch" (SW), a social marketing professional in her mid-20s, tried dating apps because she did not know a lot of people, having gone to an all-girls' college. Despite some unpleasant circumstances, including one with a man who tried to scam her, SW has been fortunate. She matched with an older man on Ok! Cupid with whom she is now dating for about a year and a half already.
But there is a catch: The guy is in California while SW is in Manila.
Nonetheless, SW has no qualms about committing. "Despite the distance, my boyfriend reassures me. Despite the time difference, he would always make time for us to talk," SW explains.
Perfect matches do not always need to have a catch. Apps like Tinder allow users to set anywhere between two to 160 kilometers as maximum distance for their potential matches. Meanwhile, Happn allows users to find people they have crossed paths with in real life.
Real Men Swipe Right
"More than anything, the best thing is you learn a lot from different people with different traits, stories, and perspectives."
So what does it take for a man to swipe right?
Carl is a 29 year-old manager at one of the world's most controversial tech startups. He says that online dating is an active proposition for somebody like him who lives a routinary life of work-school-home, being a working student who does not have the time to go out and socialize. Unabashedly, Carl shares that he wants a long-term hookup—something casual with the possibility of becoming serious. (Hmm...)
He shares his criteria for swiping right:
- The school she is from;
- How well her profile is written; and
- How tasteful her pictures are.
For Carl, tasteful pictures mean, "No filters or facial expressions and poses that make me cringe. Only normal and candid shots [are acceptable]."
Now, let us hear from Archibald, a digital media executive and startup founder in his late 20s, who is the non-committal kind. According to him, he has dated a number of girls but remains single by choice as he does not see the need for a serious relationship at the moment.
After matching, Archibald engages the woman in a conversation through the app's messaging feature. "If she is interesting enough, I will ask her out," he tells me.
Then he adds, "More than anything, the best thing is you learn a lot from different people with different traits, stories, and perspectives."
Same Old Rules
Dating apps may have changed the ways we meet people, but the rules of the game still apply. Just as the possibility of falling in love begins with attraction, a man or a woman still has to make the first move by swiping and sending the first message afterwards. (In Bumble, women are empowered to make the first move.)
Meanwhile, for a match to succeed in real life, outside and after the apps, both parties would have to observe that relationships are built with the same ingredients of honesty, trust, and respect, under similar circumstances determined by time, distance, and the effort that bridges the two.
Not everyone who venture into online dating could be as successful as Scarlet Witch and Annie who belong to the 20% of those in committed relationships and consist the 7% of marriages, respectively. Similarly, not all people who mutually swipe right and click online end up together. (Pearl shares how her Cebu City-based sister broke off an engagement with an English man she met online after realizing that they had no compatibility in real life.)
So are you now considering to sign up and take your chances?
Here is a quick, one-word review of the most commonly used dating apps in the Philippines courtesy of SW and Annie:
- Tinder: Superficial
- Ok!Cupid: Scientific
- Happn: Hookup-friendly
- Bumble: Too-good-to-be-true
Lastly, SW shares her top 3 tips in navigating the online/app-based dating scene:
- If it is too good to be true, always leave room for doubt. Go with your instinct.
- Know exactly what you want—are you dating to be committed or to have fun? They are two different things.
- Safety first, all the time. If he starts asking for personal information like credit cards or addresses, walk away. Report this person's account. If it's a hookup, practice safe sex. Don't YOLO (You Only Live Once). It's not worth it.
While it is true that the probability of finding the one increases the more you swipe, you must remember that dating apps are just some of the means to meet a potential partner. There will always be other ways and places where the odds for you are higher and the risks, lower.