BANGALORE: Tinder, a popular dating app, has evoked curiosity among the city's singles, but beyond its user-friendliness, some questions are being asked.
When Mark Zuckerberg wrote a program called Facemash in 2003, little did he know he would forever change the way the genders view and 'like' each other.
The initial Facemash was a cruder version of Facebook and used photos sourced from the online facebooks of nine Harvard houses, placing two next to each other and asking users to choose the 'hotter' person.
Today this technique is used by multiple dating apps that help users decide if they like someone enough at first sight to proceed further.
Considering how tough it is for women to seek love without being hounded online by stalkers, it comes as no surprise that men outnumber women on Tinder as well. Also, just how much can a picture tell you about a soulmate if you are seeking one?
Navin, a 28-year-old sales manager, joined Tinder in May and has been on a few dates with women he met on it.
He has reservations. "By and large, I found that there were a lot of kids floating around, and the older women were wary of the guys they met," he told City Express.
He says Tinder's 'too simple to be true' interface reduces a person to a profile picture and bare details (first name, age, physical distance in miles, and common friends and interests).
This allows users to flick through faces and click 'yes' or 'no', based on looks. Only when two people 'like' each other are they allowed to communicate through messages. "I don't think Tinder is a proper dating app. Even though its Facebook verification process helps root out fake profiles, it is still appearance-oriented. It doesn't apply any algorithm to understand preferences or interests," says Navin.
He uses Tinder because he doesn't have a big friends' circle to meet potential partners. "And I don't attend parties or go to clubs on weekends. So it's pretty convenient," he explains.
Ankita, a 26-year-old assistant film director, makes a similar point.
"I was bored, curious and wanted to meet people when I joined Tinder. Also, I had a friend abroad who has met people this way and I wanted to see if it works in India," says Ankita, who moved from Hyderabad to Bangalore two years ago.
Caution and surprise
Ankita has met four men on Tinder so far and has mixed feelings. "Initially, I had reservations about meeting a complete stranger so I preferred people who had common Facebook friends. This way I could do a quick background check if I needed to," she says. While Ankita is not rushing off to marry anyone she has met on Tinder, she has enjoyed connecting with a few. "I hit it off well enough with this one guy.
So we catch up for a drink once in a while," she says. Most women confirm the Facebook verification helps them have some control over who they are meeting or speaking with, though the blind spots are many.
"A lot of the men I 'matched' with were not interesting enough to last beyond a few conversations. They wanted to steer the conversation to places where I was not comfortable," says Rashmi, a 29-year-old content writer.
To her relief, she only had to click 'unmatch' and the conversations would end. "I like having that control and it makes me feel safer," she says.
But the link to Facebook could also get you a lot of unwanted friend requests online, says entrepreneur Alka. "People I have blocked or unmatched find me on Facebook and send me a request. Even if you only know the person's first name, you can search for them and recognise them by their profile picture, so stalking becomes easy," she says. She has used this technique to find out more about people she finds interesting on Tinder.
Alka says she has met a couple of people who have become her friends over the months, but she has also had a guy sending her obscene pictures. "I've met more people who've asked me to come over to their homes than people who want to have coffee together," she adds.
A lot of men are however complaining that the male-to-female ratio on dating apps in India is abysmal.
"I've sent many requests to women. But no one has responded over the months. The few who do respond stop chatting abruptly or disappear entirely," says Sriram (31), an IT professional. Sriram has however just recently gone on a date and although he had a good time, he felt the conversations were too superficial.
"It felt a little forced. But we're meeting again, so maybe both of us will be more comfortable then," he adds.