BANGKOK • It began with “marketplace” groups on Facebook created recently by alumni of various schools and universities to sell anything – including food, medical supplies and household appliances – amid the current economic situation which has left many jobless and without incomes.
Now, groups – created by and for students, alumni and faculty of up to 12 universities – have sprung up, and are seen by many as nothing more than dating sites.
“I saw someone post in the university’s marketplace group looking for love, so I thought there should also be space for relationships among students and alumni,” said Dr Chanokporn Puapattanakun, a lecturer at Mahidol University and an administrator of the university’s dating group. It has nearly 20,000 members as of Friday.
“The alumni can reminisce about their time at university. They can make new friends and not get lonely,” she added.
In Single Doctors Market, a dating group created for those with PhDs, a man can be seen dancing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe while holding up a piece of paper with his telephone number.
A woman said, tongue-in-cheek, referring to the group: “I had a boyfriend. But after less than a year of joining PhD, I became single. Luckily there is now a market.”
Ms Natsikan Panmanee, 24, a Thammasat University graduate, said she joined its group for fun. “My goal was entertainment. Getting a boyfriend was secondary. But I do want a long-term, serious relationship,” she said.
She said more than 10 men, mostly from her campus, contacted her after she posted photos and an introduction of herself. “I can’t wait to go out on dates,” she said.
Mr Songpol Chansutthikanok, 24, a business consultant who introduced both himself and his friend in the Mahidol University group, claimed to have found his match.
“The lockdown has really affected dating. We haven’t become a couple yet, so going to see her at her house with her parents around is not appropriate,” he said.
He said he had previously tried dating apps like Tinder, but “I didn’t click with anyone there”.
The campus groups cater mainly to those who are studying or have studied at specific universities. But membership is open to outsiders.
However, those who connect will find it challenging to go on a date now. Most malls, restaurants, coffee shops and bars as well as cinemas have been ordered shut in the partial lockdown and a night-time curfew has been imposed by the government.