Dating apps in Bangladesh: have they changed the love game?

The first time I opened an account on a dating app was after getting out of a fairly long relationship. Now, nearly two years later, I’m still puzzled by the overall experience of the app.

You see, if you set your expectations based on social media, you’re just one stroke away from finding the love of your life. Of course, it may take a month or two, sometimes even a year, but you will find happiness and joy in these applications. At least that’s what Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc. want you to believe.

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These dating apps have become a big part of our lives during the pandemic, and they seem to have stuck. And why wouldn’t they? The convenience that comes with these apps is amazing.

The dating culture in Bangladesh is rather unique. Being a Muslim-majority country, dating in Bangladesh can sometimes be a sensitive topic. However, the avenue created by dating apps sometimes facilitates an interesting scenario.

If you find it difficult to go out and meet new people, either due to strict parents or social anxiety, you can simply meet new people through a mobile app. If you’re someone who doesn’t have any of these complexes, then you’ve just found a new way to meet even more people.

While South Asian countries generally tend to be against the concept of dating in general, it seems that dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble have done a great job of normalizing the concept.

What’s even more interesting is that Bangladesh has about 6.8 million dating app users, according to Statista, and can expect significant market growth over the next five years.

While it seems unlikely now, there could be a future where the widespread adoption of dating apps normalizes our nation’s typical sentiments toward dating. And with the government’s focus on a still-strong digital Bangladesh, it’s at least likely that the dating app user base will expand in the near future.

For generations who have grown up with the internet, it makes sense that real-life interactions have diminished over time. Nowadays, we only meet people through our existing social circles and all the institutes we are engaged in – work, school, coaching centers, etc. So, dating apps can be a great way to meet people even without the intention of forming a relationship.

However, if we look at people’s real-life experiences, it quickly becomes clear that dating apps don’t always work the right way. In a recent conversation with my friend Farhin*, a student at Bangladesh Independent University, we talked about the different experiences of men and women on dating apps.

While my own experience as a man has led me to conclude that dating apps can be a hit or a miss, depending on what you’re looking for, my friend Farhin notes that often women’s experiences can be worse: ” Sometimes people see my profile on these apps and then message me on Facebook or Instagram asking me out or telling me they are interested. It’s like a border is crossed, because if we don’t match on the app, then why did someone send me a personal message?

I’ve heard similar stories from many women, many of whom choose not to use dating apps just to protect their own privacy. Some often prefer apps like Bumble over Tinder because the former has a more filtered selection of people and also allows women to initiate conversations. However, even with such features, women’s experiences on dating apps are not always positive.

Worse still, women are stigmatized by their friends and family when using such apps. While most men can use as many of these apps as they want without thinking twice about what someone will say, women are likely to come under scrutiny for simply existing on these apps.

I saw this firsthand when friends — whom I would generally consider progressive — praised me for using these apps, while judging and criticizing women for doing the same. “Dating apps aren’t safe for women,” they say, before asking themselves, “Why would a woman go on a dating app?” She would only meet crackpots and creeps. Doesn’t she know it’s dangerous for a woman to put her private information on the internet?”

Some of these critics are acting as if some women’s terrible experiences on dating apps are “justified,” as if to vilify them just for showing off. But it goes without saying that if a woman has bad experiences on dating apps, it does not reflect her character or her virtues, but rather those of the people she is in a relationship with.

Overall, dating apps have made it much more convenient to meet new people. You no longer need to go to parties or events to meet new people who might be interested in a relationship. You also don’t have to message someone on Instagram and Facebook and then be told they’re dating someone. You can go to one of these apps and immediately find singles who are usually there with the same intention.

Still, people need to temper their expectations of these apps. Just because Tinder exists doesn’t mean you can immediately jump on it and find the love of your life. You still have to navigate through a process of trial and error, meeting people, talking to them, figuring out if you click or not, etc.

Dating apps have changed the way we pursue relationships, while preserving some of the best parts of that experience. Having used these apps myself, I can tell you that the process of going through a multitude of profiles, in your quest for love (or whatever it is that you are looking for), can be quite difficult. But, at the end of the day, the benefits these apps bring to the table — and what they will continue to bring, as they improve over time — are undeniable.

Aqib Hasib is deputy editor at the Daily Star.

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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