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Online dating can be traced back all the way to 1959 when Jim Harvey and Phil Fialer started Happy Families Planning Services as a class project at Stanford to match 49 men and 49 women.

It was not until 1964, however, that computer-generated matchmaking was made available to the general public when Joan Ball started St James Computer Dating Service.

Fast forward to today and the most popular dating services are Tinder and Bumble, both of which are mobile-based.

The two dating apps are also the most popular in Indonesia.

Prior to the introduction of the two platforms, online dating services were relatively foreign to Indonesians.

As online dating in Indonesia has been traditionally conducted using social media and multi-feature chatting apps such as Facebook, Line and MiChat, it was not until recently that the two apps started gaining popularity, especially among the youths.

One dating-app user is 20-year-old Jessica, not her real name. Currently living in Surabaya, she used Tinder back when she was studying in the United States.

“I only used it for four months. I think it has its positives and negatives,” she said.

“(Among its positives, for instance), Tinder helped me differentiate between guys that I want or don’t want to be with, things (that I look out for) in a guy.”

Online dating has a certain stigma attached to it.

For most people, its image has been shaped by the suggestive, and sometimes also obstructive, online “hot singles in your area” ads, setting the stereotype that it is unsafe.

Even when one manages to get past that, there is the prevailing view that online dating is reserved only for casual flings and hookups and therefore should not be touched by goodie-two-shoes boys and girls.

Even in the post-pandemic world, this stigma, although greatly diminished, persists.

There are reasons why this stigma is lessening. One of the reasons is that people have begun to see online dating’s other merits outside its intended purpose.

Jessica, for instance, said sometimes online dating is just about finding someone with the same frequency.

“I find that it’s not all about dating. I met, like, one or two (dates) who were just looking for friends,” she said.

“(When) I tried it in the US, I successfully met with six people. (If we had good chemistry), we’d stay friends or on good terms because we knew what we want.”

Melati, not her real name, a 20-year-old Tinder user from Surabaya, agrees with Jessica’s opinion.

Online dating apps or sites, she said, have unique perks that are otherwise unavailable on traditional social media platforms, especially in terms of networking.

“According to my experience, a platform such as Tinder might also help (me) spend my spare time by broadening social connections of mine,” she said, adding that the in-app interaction can also affect the mood of the users, often in a positive manner – at least in Melati’s case.

“I can say that (online dating apps) help boost my confidence. (Especially) whenever (people) recognise my existence – by simply clicking the right button,” Melati said.

“What captivates me the most is when (the apps) notify me of a new match during an otherwise hectic or gloomy day. … (It also) helps me be more sensible about others’ behaviour and personalities before taking any further steps (in a relationship).”

Meanwhile, Trix, not her real name, who prefers to use the dating app Bumble, said using the online dating app is an adventure of its own.

“I think that using online dating apps not only gives you more insights about men in a broader scope but also gives you (an addictive) adrenaline rush,” said the 24-year-old Surabaya resident.

“It’s like, you never know the future, and so it gives you the adrenaline (rush) – especially when you decide to meet the other person. It’s like you are taking risks (that are) fun and adventurous.”

Using dating apps does not necessarily require people to interact face to face, meaning one never truly needs to meet a stranger. This is clearly a boon security-wise, as long as people know what they are doing.

Yet, social media remains buzzing with Twitter threads about dating scams akin to Netflix’s popular documentary The Tinder Swindler.

Users now need to be more vigilant than ever.

“(Unpleasant things) could happen while using online dating platforms because of the massive number of people you could meet. Having firm limitations as well as boundaries from the get-go could prevent this,” said Melati.

“Explicitly stating our intention, for instance, in our bio could also help categorise the ones we are trying to avoid.”

Some people may not write their intentions clearly in their bio, believing they could introduce themselves by chatting before meeting in person.

However, there is a higher risk of running into unpleasant conversations, if not downright uncomfortable exchanges, if they do this.

In this case, Jessica said it was important to clearly state what users want in their bio to avoid the misuse of the purpose of the online dating app itself.

“(If you use the app not only to date), but (also) to find friends, you need to make sure you write that down in your bio.” — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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