What are the real chances of finding love online in Singapore?

Looking for love on the Internet is pretty common. But why – and how – are our dating habits evolving?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Looking for love on the Internet is pretty common. But why – and how – are our dating habits evolving? 

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You’ve probably given online dating a go at least once. Even if you haven’t, you must know people who have. In this day and age where we can shop for groceries without leaving the house, it’s hardly strange we can also look for love without having to put on pants.

Not that it’s always been so easy – online dating has come a long way since the first internet dating service (match. com) was created in 1995. There was a stigma attached to it for many years, but as our dating patterns have evolved, it’s become a norm. So what has changed, and what sort of power has online dating given us?

Time to ditch the stigma

Online dating platforms are now able to accommodate all sorts of specific requirements, so that even the fussiest singles have a shot at love. Whether you only want to be of finding in Singapore? with someone who’s a strict vegetarian, or will only be happy with a nudist, there is already a place online to meet those preferences – no matter how bizarre.

Even if you’re not that picky, you may have some sort of basic criteria for the type of people you want to date. In Singapore, Muslim singles can connect with one another on platforms such as LoveHabibi, Muzmatch, and Mat & Minah, and Christian singles can use Christian Connection and Christian Café. If it’s salary and ambition you care about, which, let’s admit, is pretty reasonable, there are platforms like Ivory, a “members-only dating app for ambitious, outstanding singles”. This app, in particular, has drawn a fair bit of flak for promoting elitism, but surely there must have been demand for there to have been supply. And if it serves its purpose, who’s to say it’s “bad”? With different platforms now able to cater to specific demands, trying to meet your life partner online no longer feels like taking a stab in the dark.

This doesn’t mean we’re all proud of swiping for love. “There’s still some stigma involving online dating in Singapore. However, this stigma is slowly [subsiding] with more coverage of online dating,” says Darryl Liew, Regional Brand Marketing Vice President of dating app Paktor. For a long time, the belief was that online dating is only for people who can’t get a date in real life. But as frenzied millennials with so much on our plate, we have come to understand that turning to the web for romance says nothing about our eligibility. “With the emergence of many new apps on the market, [Singaporeans are] starting to realise they’re spoilt for choice,” says Darryl.

Lookin’ for love? There’s an app for that

And boy, is he right. Besides Paktor, we also have Tinder, Badoo, OKCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB), and a whole host of others. Most are free to use, which is naturally a huge draw. While the type of people they each attract varies to a certain degree, singles can usually be found on more than one platform. It’s not uncommon to connect with someone on Tinder, only to also see him on CMB, which prides itself on being a “highly curated dating service”. You might even meet him again on LunchClick, which doesn’t allow users to chat and instead sets them up on a date. People are big on increasing their odds.

So how successful is online dating here? According to CMB, pretty good. This dating service alone has made 28 million introductions among Singaporeans and enabled more than 13 million chats. And while we may still be more conservative than our American counterparts (Singaporeans are generally said to be lousy flirts) when it comes online dating, there really isn’t any significant difference in our preferences. “I see more similarities than differences,” says Dawoon Kang, Co-Founder and COO of CMB. “The Singaporean community is a [cultural] melting pot, and certain segments of users are looking for a particular ethnicity or religion, which is something we also see in the US.” On CMB, users are able to narrow down the race and religion of the people they wish to be matched with. This doesn’t mean a man can chat a woman up just by being of her preferred ethnicity or religion, though − women have the final say on the men that can talk to them.

It gives men 21 potential matches each day, but the women only six, as they find us to be more selective. A smart algorithm matches people of similar backgrounds and interests. “I think Singaporeans are a very well-educated group, and the Singaporean CMB population [reflects that]. 95 percent of our user base has a bachelor’s degree or higher, and over 20 percent has a master’s degree or higher,” shares Dawoon. “These users are looking for like-minded individuals as their partners.”

The future of dating

Online dating is here to stay, but would we still rather meet a partner the traditional way (i.e. in person), or do we no longer have any preference? “There’s a certain pressure that the relationship should take a romantic turn if you meet someone on a dating app,” says Melissa Chua, a 29-year-old writer who’s been online dating for two years. “This affects the quality of the interaction, as compared to when you meet someone organically, like through friends or at a bar.”

That struggle is real, and the awkwardness may well see a slight swing back to more “traditional” ways to meet because of that. But if you feel that online dating only sets up relationships that are doomed to fail, know this: a study by Harvard University and the University of Chicago found that marriages of couples that met online were “slightly less likely to result in a marital break-up and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction”. It’s entirely possible for long-term unions that started off as Tinder hook ups to be happier than that of a university romance. At the end of the day, the fact remains: it’s not how we meet him that matters, it’s how we take it from there that does. 

We may still be more conservative than our American counterparts, but there really isn’t any significant difference in our preferences. 

Images 123RF.com Text Adora Wong.