In India, dating has always been complicated. Whom to date, how to date, to what end and for how long depend not just on personal choices, but also on social and cultural circumstances. While online dating has taken off to some extent – through apps like Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid, it’s still not as commonplace as in some other countries.
Over the last few years we have been working with brands like Tinder and Facebook to understand online dating in urban India and we find that women are holding back on online dating. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Women in urban India are marrying later. They are enjoying singlehood and the freedom that comes with it, and want to hold on to it for longer. Defying social expectations of getting married early and being independent for longer gives them a sense of empowerment. You can find more on the rise of single women here.
Indian women are also reluctant to interact with men online. Women are at risk of encountering fake profiles, trolls, and stalkers. So they prefer meeting men the old fashioned way – in real life. You can find more on dating in India here.
However, online dating has seen a sudden surge since the lockdown started among both men and women.
Why the surge?
A sudden state of lockdown has taken everyone by surprise. In addition, the fact that social distancing is the most important practice in order to remain safe makes offline dating highly risky and almost impossible. Single women are finding their regular dating lives being interrupted.
Heightened Sense of Singlehood and Loneliness
Due to the current state of lockdown, women are experiencing an amplified state of “singlehood”, stemming from isolation and loneliness. This is especially true when they see friends and family who are in relationships talking about their positive support stories on social media.
Anxious About Losing Time
Many single women are now feeling a heightened sense of urgency to find a partner. They worry that they are “running out of time” to do so, as they are suddenly faced with the concept of their own mortality in the face of the pandemic, and the fact that life as you know it, can change in an instant.
Online Dating Has Come to the Rescue (Especially since There Is No Other Way!)
The lockdown has reduced pressure around online dating and has also made it easier and fun.
Less pressure to dress up = more focus on conversations
Because of the lockdown, they are “allowed” to be comfortable as they are dating from the comfort of their homes
Having longer conversations = combating isolation
Dating apps like OkCupid have recorded an increase in conversations by 20%. This trend is a throwback to past decades when “slow dating” was the norm.
Using video chat features = authenticate and connect better
Online dating in India has always had a risk of encountering ‘bad actors’ like trolls and fake profiles. Video chatting helps women see and evaluate their dates a little better. It also helps them connect because of ‘face to face’ conversations instead of just texting.
Going on virtual dates = “dating normalcy”
To add to the conversation, young Indians are building playlists together, having Netflix Parties, and playing online games in lieu of going to watch a movie or meeting for coffee.
Dating as a diversion = some fun in difficult times
In a time where routines are in flux, people are enjoying the idea of fixing date nights to give them a sense of something to look forward to. It helps provide a sense of escape in these uncertain times.
In essence, dating in Urban India today is a bit like Cyberpunk – it is futuristic and retro at the same time.
The Sound Advice
Here’s how we think dating will change in India when lockdown ends:
How dating is done
The circumstances have forced young people to explore slower, more meaningful ways of connecting with one another. Perhaps some of the activities like game nights, quizzes, long conversations will become an essential part of the dating lifestyle – both online and offline.
Where dating happens
The lockdown has actually propelled a trial period for the online dating apps; And depending on how it works for them during the lockdown, they may actually choose to continue using them afterward. Dating apps may, therefore, become more mainstream for women.
Written by Sushma Panchawati and Barkha Surana