In other Balkan countries, dating apps are used more sparingly, even under the present circumstances of movement restrictions and curfews.
One such place is North Macedonia, where romantic courtship is still conducted in a predominantly conservative manner. A source working in the adult online dating industry tells BIRN that the use of dating apps like Tinder in North Macedonia are still frowned upon.
“The reason for this is that we are a small market and a conservative environment. For example, an app like Bumble, where only female users can make the first contact if interested, would hardly work in our country,” the source says.
Also, many of the dating profiles contain bogus images, since users are reluctant to use their own pictures. “I think this happens because most of them are still ashamed of using such apps. Also, the number of male users is often disproportionately bigger than the number of female users, and this is not good in terms of how the dating apps function,” the source adds.
During the previous decade, North Macedonia had a dating website called Prijateli that existed for several years. According to the source, a few years back there was some interest in making a dating app specifically designed for North Macedonia, but after the potential investors conducted a market study, they decided against it.
For some, Instagram functions as a dating app instead. 35-year-old Marija from Skopje says that when it comes to dating, her experiences using this social network have been varied.
“There are two types [of people connecting with me]. Some start to like my photos, and then write to me. Others are approaching me as soon as they become my followers on the network,” Marija tells BIRN. “Most are behaving nicely, they begin by either complimenting me, or look for general info, such as where I live, my age, and so on.”
“However, there is also a second category of people who openly want to have sex, stating their intent in the opening conversation. But it is also interesting that 90 percent of those are either married or in long-term relationships and are constantly posting pictures and videos of how happy and in love they are,” Marija explains.
Instagram is also the preferred choice for 32-year-old Skopje resident Dejan when it comes to online dating.
“I don’t like to use dating apps. I have tried several times, and in most cases the profiles turned out to be fake. It’s different with Instagram, since you can actually see if the person you approach responds by liking your pictures or replying to your messages. I feel that this is a much more transparent way than using dating apps,” Dejan tells BIRN.
Regardless of how people are dating online, through apps or social media, the trend toward using the internet to find romance remains strong. And as uncertainty continues over how long the societal effects of the pandemic will last, online dating looks set to become a permanent fixture of Balkan’s dating scene.