The way people meet each other has drastically changed now that nearly 2 billion people in the world have smartphones. More people in the world have access to internet, technology, and, yes, dating apps than ever before.
90 million people around the world use dating apps.
I’m not trying to get all “Sex and the City” in this article. However, I do want to talk about implications dating apps have for global society. Since moving to New York, in my experience with friends here, dating apps are HUGE. From Ok Cupid, Tinder, Grinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Match.com, Hinge, to Happn (which matches you with random people you pass on the street), everybody seems to be on one. There’s even more “specific” apps that narrow down your ideal partner by religion, race or level of interest in vampires… dating apps can be a little bizarre.
But, are dating apps also agents of positive social change? What if dating apps could actually promote equality and education, or delay the age of marriage and childbirth for women in developing countries?
There are several popular dating apps in India, for example, which take into account cultural sensibilities. After all, Americans and Indians are probably looking for different things out of dating apps.. Dating sites like Shaadi and even Quickr’s love interest section (which looks similar to Craigslist) advertise “matrimonial” matches in India through a lens culturally focusing on what Indians desire out of dating.
Shaadi is mostly used by the young urban population—which consists of 1.2 billion people under 25. And it has already started to change the marriage process for users. Typically, spouses are chosen by parents, village matchmakers, or older siblings in Indian culture. However, with dating apps in India, it’s the individual who brings marriage candidates to the rest of family, according to this article from The Economist.
Ok, so greater independence—but what other impacts can dating apps in India have on marriage?
In India, 47 percent of girls marry before the age of eighteen. Often, girls subjected to child marriage live in poor rural communities, and marriage at a young age occurs because parents see early marriage as a way to keep girls safe from harassment while traveling to school, which sadly happens all the time for girls in secondary school. In addition, families resort to child marriage when they cannot afford to support daughters.
So how exactly would a dating app help end child marriage?
Education and control over marriage are directly related: the more education a woman in India has, the more choice, input, and control she has regarding marriage. 80 percent of women in India with no education never meet husbands before marriage compared to less than 40 percent of women with 12 years of education.
So, first, education for girls needs to be a priority. If families can receive support to keep daughters in school, and prioritize education, then women in India can make more educated decisions on marriage. And use dating apps as a tool for independent marriage making decisions.
Dating apps can be the tool to allow independently controlled marriage decisions for both men and women. Beyond this, dating apps can connect men and women in India from different castes, and who live in rural or urban areas, which will break down the country’s segregation. While this is not as common, dating apps can provide a platform for reaching across cultures in the dating world. Dating sites and apps in India have connected men in urban settings with women in rural areas, and are also used in slums like Dharavi.
What are some challenges with dating apps in the developing world?
There’s no lack of investors. Smartphone sales in India are projected to increase by 67 percent in the next year. The challenge will be getting girls in India to use dating apps. Currently, more men use dating apps than women globally. And it’s difficult to trust the online world of love, and it becomes even more challenging when your parents don’t support use of dating apps either. Safety issues for women are a big concern for women worldwide too. Indian dating apps, like TrulyMadly are working on making dating apps more secure to prevent violence against women. TrulyMadly even has users upload a passport, and driver’s license, which is a bit different than the shirtless mirror selfie you might come across in American dating apps.
Essentially re-molding the structure of marriage in India, dating apps and sites can make some incredibly interesting changes happen. It’s smart to be cautious with dating apps, but I think dating apps will be a useful tool in continuing to drive positive social change and maybe even equality for the future. Anything that advances women’s equality is a good thing.
You can go to TAKE ACTION NOW to call on support to help end child marriage.