Dear Sir, Chinese dating apps battle with tradition for hearts and minds (Financial Times, December 24th) – but the truth is: tradition already lost that battle, and not just in China.
While Facebook still doesn’t facilitate meeting new people, Tinder — mostly popular in English-speaking countries — now has millions of users and has generated over 300 million ‘matches’, people who have become mutually interested in each other based on photos and occasionally a short biography. Instagram too facilitates a thriving meat market among young adults, and if you don’t have time for a romantic candle-lit dinner, you can build up the tension using Snapchat (a chat application that lets you exchange photos with digitally acquired contacts, displaying the photo on the other person’s screen for just a few seconds, making the exchange of saucy photos relatively safe) while more of these applications are being launched every day. Compared to spontaneous encounters in the park or chatting up a stranger at the supermarket, they offer much more simplicity and volume: in one hour you can easily look at hundreds of profiles.
While one’s range of potential lovers used to be limited by one’s physical environment, nowadays your options number in the billions of people. Why commit to a long term relationship at an early age if you could just as easily score an exciting new lover on Tinder every month? The options are endless…
Social norms and values change with new technological possibilities and the digitalisation of society is not only happening in the area of dating: how many people’s phone numbers and (postal) addresses do you have memorised?
Tradition lost a long time ago. But it remains to be seen whether Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest also applies in the digital age, whether we will turn out to be made for stealing each other’s hearts away with duckface photos on Tinder, and how new technologies like Google Glass will influence matters. And we won’t know in a year. We’ll know in a few generations.