In some measure, Dhruv Sehgal’s I Love Thane in Modern Love Mumbai is a cautionary tale on the trappings of a dating app, its trials and tribulations and the emotional toll. The 34-year-old protagonist, landscape architect Saiba, played by Masaba Gupta, is caught in the dating app loop, spending a lot of time and energy looking for Mr Right, hopeful about finding love just by swiping right. The disappointment in Saiba’s gaze at one of the dates matches another woman sitting a few tables away and out on a date as well.
The fleeting moment elucidates the dating app plot that often makes a woman feel like a square peg in a round hole.
Not app-ening at all
Rohini Deb, 28, too, had her fair share of heartbreaks and heartaches while scouting for a date on an app. “I had joined a dating app during the pandemic to beat the lockdown blues. I was seriously looking for a date, albeit in cyberspace. Still, I kept bumping into only those who seemed interested in casual flings because their current ‘marital status’ didn’t leave any scope for anything else. Sadly, the singles were not the ones I would have liked to mingle with. I stayed put there for a while and left it after one terrible incident where a divorced guy set up a date but never turned up,” she recounts. The ghosting incident was too traumatic for Deb, and she left the platform in a jiffy. She is still single but not ready to go appy again. “I will instead wait for a more organic way to connect and find a date," she adds, with a tinge of optimism.
While this experience put Deb off the system, it kind of helped the business of sisters Priyanka and Tanisha. Co-owners of Not So Arranged (NSA) website, the sisters say that every fourth woman, they sign on, tells them this. “Most women who have signed on with NSA have shared this experience. They say that more than 95% of men on dating apps are married and are looking for something ‘casual’... some even have it in their bio! And our website scrutinises before setting up a date,” says Priyanka.
Ragini Rathod, 46, (name changed) finds it weird that 95% men on the dating apps are married. “I have asked a few men that why are they on the app if they are married. And the replies I got kind of put me off,” she says. “One even said that he is looking for more interesting ‘relationship’ while keeping his marriage intact as he doesn’t have any problems with his wife!”
Finding a way around
Explaining the difference between real and casual dating, Able Joseph, Founder & CEO, Aisle, a popular dating app, says that real dating, in its truest sense, is getting to know a person to find a long term partner. Real dating suggests an ‘intent’ whereas casual dating may not have any specific commitment or goal. “In today’s day and age, the term ‘dating’ seems to have lost the intended meaning. It has morphed into a sort of ‘gamification’ of dating, hence the term ‘real dating’ allows us to bring back the essence of romance and courtship to dating. The intention behind a ‘real dating’ app, like Aisle, is that the user will ultimately find their perfect partner and delete the app,” says Joseph.
Proper code of behaviour or online dating etiquette is still a relatively new concept in India. Having apps to find ‘targets’ is an easy solution for men looking for casual flings outside of marriage. “We have observed that the recurring issue is that many Indians, especially men living in smaller cities, approach dating quite differently. Educating Indian men on aspects of online courtship is an important factor for a successful match,” says Joseph.
Data suggests that Indian women who are open to online dating, may not want to mix with a different social class. In addition, the growing number of financially independent women in India tend to look for partners willing to support them in their career goals. Many urban singles now prefer partners that match them in education and pay and fit their family and culture well.
Men and women approach dating from very different mindsets. “Typically, women tend to be more vigilant with who they meet online. Aisle’s goal is to match similar-minded individuals and build long-lasting relationships,” emphasises Joseph.
More men pay to have premier membership as it allows them access to more dates or more information of women and liking the photos. “We have a quiz created by a psychologist that helps us fix the matches,” informs Priyanka. “This kind of helps keep the weirdos away as the analysis gives us a peek in their mind. Also, we are very clear that only singles will be entertained.”
“I would not say that only men are looking for solace on apps... but yes, normally women favour a long-term commitment. The problem starts when one of the two has a different intent and expectation,” psychotherapist Padma Rewari Rewari concludes.