“But while the process of finding love has become easier and more efficient, the old adage of ‘easy come, easy go’ could describe how romantic relationships are formed these days” (The Big Read: Fast Love – Dating Apps Help Busy Singaporeans Find Almost Instant Romance, Cynthia Choo).
Presenting the dating app experience as contingent upon different factors while situating Singapore in a broader cultural context offers a useful and nuanced evaluation of the use of these apps in the country (TODAY, Apr. 19), further speaking to variations across individuals together with the pros and cons of the proliferation of apps. In particular, the observations that the apps are a departure from more traditional partner- or match-making services – including the (unwelcome) involvement of parents or other family members – and that alternative unions are possible as well as the argument, in the context of growing national inequality and stratification, that social circles could be widened beyond one’s demographic and socio-economic background warrants greater examination.
Notwithstanding the stated risks associated with these platforms, three additional questions – two serious and one more frivolous – can be asked of the connections between the apps and policy implications in Singapore. The first relates to the hypothesised consequence that “relationships end up getting shorter and much less stable”, because one could posit conversely that having more choice and competition through the apps could prompt serious relationship-seekers to be even more deliberate, to evaluate across options, which therefore results in more stable unions or marriage in the long-term. In other words, with various profiles of users, how do the outcomes of engagement, marriage, and even childbearing or childrearing compare with Singaporeans who used other platforms? Along this tangent, and perhaps controlling for their motivations for using it or seeking partners, the second question focuses on the social networks of app users, and the extent to which the networks are expanded or made more diverse through their app-dating experience.
And third, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, learning about preferences in such mate-seeking behaviour – again compared to more traditional approaches – could help users understand or even address stereotypes associated with using the apps and with partner matching . It may be a stretch to postulate that Singapore’s decreasing total fertility rate could be reversed, but the trends associated with these platforms appear to be related to broader developments in greater individualisation and desire for happiness, prioritisation of personal affinity and preferences over familial pressure or societal norms, and a rejection of perceived antiquated principles guiding relationships and the institution of marriage. Rather than dismissing their growth and ubiquity, critical evaluations like this should continue.