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Is traditional matchmaking dead in Singapore amidst the dating apps era?

As some ponder their prospects post-holiday, the clash between old-school matchmaking and digital swiping takes front stage

A lively debate ensues in Singapore's dating landscape: does traditional matchmaking still hold value in today's world of swipes and likes, or have dating apps taken over as the primary means of finding love?
A lively debate ensues in Singapore's dating landscape: does traditional matchmaking still hold value in today's world of swipes and likes, or have dating apps taken over as the primary means of finding love? (PHOTO: Getty Images)

As the excitement of Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day fades into memory, singles everywhere can finally breathe a sigh of relief from the relentless inquiries about their romantic lives.

However, once the holiday dust settles, a deeper question arises: are some individuals fated to remain single indefinitely, and where should they look to find companionship?

Amidst this contemplation, a lively debate ensues: does traditional matchmaking still hold value in today's world of swipes and likes, or have dating apps taken over as the primary means of finding love? To shed light on this issue, Yahoo Southeast Asia turns to experts and users for their insights.

Allissa Koh, 24, reflects on her experience using a dating app after completing her A-levels. "I guess I did connect with some people, but I did not meet them because it was my first ever dating experience, and I was quite afraid to meet people because I had some self-esteem issues."

Meanwhile, Jolyn, a 26-year-old who met her current partner through Tinder, expresses her reluctance towards traditional matchmaking. "It can be awkward," she admits, "but to me, traditional matchmaking feels like my parents choosing someone based on their standards, not mine." Jolyn's experience with Tinder in 2018 was swift; she connected with her now-engaged partner in less than two weeks.

Tinder's reinvention of matchmaking

In an interview with Yahoo Southeast Asia, Papri Dev, vice president of APAC Communications at Tinder, debunked the notion that matchmaking has become obsolete with the rise of dating apps.

She highlighted how friends and family have always been integral to the dating process, even before the advent of online platforms. Papri stressed that this remains true today, especially among younger generations who often rely on the input of close companions when navigating the complexities of modern romance.

According to her, "Matchmaking is not dead. It was never dead. I mean, even when people got online and started dating through websites where they were filling up like long forms about themselves and when Tinder came in during 2012 and became the world's largest dating app and is huge scale cross the world. 190 countries, many different languages."

Furthermore, Papri discussed Tinder's efforts to incorporate Gen Z users' feedback into the platform's development. She revealed the existence of Z labs, where individuals aged 18 to 25 from various countries actively contribute their perspectives. Papri even spilled the tea on users enlisting grandma's help to swipe right.

She said, "We've heard stories of people asking their grandmother or mother to swipe for them, and they actually had a lot of wisdom in terms of what to look for."

Expanding on Tinder's latest addition, she explained that the platform introduced a feature known as 'Tinder Matchmaker' last year. It functions akin to having a personal matchmaker integrated into users' profiles. When users access Tinder, they have the option to invite up to 15 friends or family members by sending them a link.

These invited individuals do not need to be active Tinder users; they can simply utilise the link to browse through profiles of potential matches known to the user. Subsequently, they can provide recommendations for these individuals.

Bumble's mission to empower women and redefine dating norm

Lucille McCart, Bumble's APAC Communications Director, highlights the evolution of dating apps, emphasising the shift from stigma to widespread acceptance. "When Bumble first launched (in 2014), there was a stigma attached to meeting people online.

"This was due to both the limited products on the marketplace, the unfamiliar nature of looking for a romantic partner on the internet, and some hesitancy about whether it was safe and if you could find a quality match," she told Yahoo Southeast Asia.

However, with the pandemic necessitating virtual socialisation, dating apps emerged as a primary avenue for forging connections.

Citing research from 2021, McCart notes that dating apps have become the second most popular method for dating among Singaporean singles (40 per cent), with over half believing in the possibility of finding love on dating apps (51 per cent).

McCart elaborates on Bumble's mission to challenge outdated gender dynamics in dating. "Our focus on women making the first move helps set us apart from other dating apps and traditional matchmaking practices by empowering women to be more selective and assertive in their dating choices.

"By flipping the script on traditional dating roles, we hope to facilitate healthy and equal connections that lead to better romantic outcomes for our community around the world," she added.

Bumble also prioritises safety through features like Block + Report and Photo Verification, fostering a secure environment for users to connect.

Discussing Bumble's approach to the Singapore market, McCart acknowledges the significance of cultural nuances, particularly regarding religion. She highlights Bumble's campaign strategies aimed at normalising online connections while challenging societal norms.

Notably, Bumble's recent campaigns, such as the "Toss Love into the New Year," incorporate local traditions like "lo hei", empowering singles to manifest their romantic desires for the year ahead.

McCart reveals Bumble's features catering to Singapore's unique preferences, such as durian-themed badges and profile prompts.

Embracing traditional matchmaking in a swipe culture

Violet Lim, the chief executive and co-founder of the two-decade-old dating agency Lunch Actually, acknowledges that swipe culture has indeed revolutionised the dating landscape.

She said, "We have witnessed the transformation of the dating landscape from traditional one-to-one, face-to-face dating to today's world of digital dating where singles are reduced to a single photo to be swiped left or right."

Lim notes the detrimental effects of this culture on meaningful connection, stating, "Chatting has become like mini dates – every question, every reply, every emoticon is used to judge and scrutinise whether they want to continue with the conversation.

"In between the online interaction and an offline date, people might end up being 'ghosted' and not even realise why. It could be due to comments that they have made during these 'mini dates'," she explained.

She emphasises the missed opportunities for genuine connection that arise from solely relying on online interactions, where individuals may be judged based on one-dimensional conversations rather than in-person chemistry.

Despite these challenges, Lim sees an opportunity for traditional matchmaking services like Lunch Actually to thrive. She points out, "It has led to a greater appreciation for the personalised and thoughtful approach that traditional matchmaking offers."

In contrast to the superficiality of swipe culture, Lunch Actually prioritises compatibility, values, and long-term goals, providing clients with a more meaningful and tailored dating experience. Amidst the prevalence of swipe culture, Lim observes emerging trends in matchmaking methods that prioritise personalisation and holistic compatibility assessments.

She explains, "Clients are seeking services that not only understand their preferences but also offer guidance and support throughout the dating process."

In response, Lunch Actually has integrated more in-depth personality assessments and expanded its services to include dating and relationship coaching, ensuring a comprehensive approach to matchmaking.

Lunch Actually emphasises compatibility, values, and long-term goals, offering clients a more meaningful and tailored dating experience.
Lunch Actually emphasises compatibility, values, and long-term goals, offering clients a more meaningful and tailored dating experience. (PHOTO:Getty Images)

Lunch Actually's verification process

Lim also highlights Lunch Actually's stringent verification process and emphasis on compatibility in values as key factors that set the agency apart from dating apps.

She said: "Whilst anyone and everyone can join a dating app for free, most matchmaking services like Lunch Actually would require ID and background check, income and educational verification, as well as conduct marital check to ensure that each member is legally single.

"That means singles don't have to worry about meeting married people, insincere singles, or fake profiles who are not real. Importantly, we match based on compatibility in values which is what truly matters in a long-lasting relationship."

Based on the experts Yahoo Southeast Asia spoke to, the search for love today offers a choice between traditional matchmaking and modern dating apps. Each approach has its advantages and drawbacks.

However, what matters most is our genuine pursuit of meaningful connections. Whether we opt for swiping through profiles or seek recommendations from friends and family, the journey to finding companionship is unique for each individual.

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