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City Weekend

Popularity of dating apps in Hong Kong shows technology and love make a good match

Residents in city with highest rate of daily mobile usage increasingly connecting online to find love

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 2:41pm

The idea that you could “swipe” on profiles until you find your soul mate used to be a novel concept.

But these days, it seems almost archaic to not have surrendered your love life to the many apps at your disposal, or at least dipped your toe in the digital dating pool.

There are plenty of proverbial fish in Hong Kong – people over the age of 15 who have never been married number 1.97 million – and plenty of tools to help singles navigate the waters.

In Hong Kong, a city with the highest rate of daily mobile usage of 96 per cent, the obvious choice for lonely people is mobile app sensation Tinder.

Similar apps include the Singapore-based Paktor; Bumble, in which only women can start the conversation; Hinge, which is based on mutual friends; and Happn, which connects those who pass by each other in person.

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Meanwhile, Grindr and Blendr are for people looking for hook-ups. Those seeking commitment can get matched once a day on Coffee Meets Bagel – its highest level of engagement globally is in Hong Kong – and LunchClick, which encourages dates over in-app small talk. Coffee Meets Bagel said it has created over 13,000 matches and 600 dates per week since its 2015 debut in Hong Kong.

The scores of apps help underscore the uniqueness of dating in a densely populated city where “social circles and degrees of connection might be smaller”, a male law student at the University of Hong Kong said.

Singles can also choose from dating websites such as OkCupid and Lovestruck, which has registered over 150,000 people in Hong Kong, according to founder Michael Ye. Lovestruck’s users in the city are generally searching for “long-term, committed relationships”, and pay more attention to objective traits such as educational background and income level, Ye said.

But getting more matches online does not always equate to a spark. Fatigue from shopping virtually for a date is well documented, with people bemoaning the rise of a hit-it-and-quit-it hook-up culture and shallow connections.

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“In Hong Kong, because everything’s so fast-paced, we kind of forget to slow down and get to know [people] from the inside out, and to not be so focused ... on the image of the person,” Ariadna Peretz, founder and managing director of matchmaking service Maitre D’ate, said.

As a result, some people believe a stigma around online dating persists.

“Cantonese people oftentimes view users of dating apps as ‘desperate’ or ‘needy’,” a young male finance consultant said. “If they use it, it is more as a source of entertainment.”

There is also the risk that people will misrepresent themselves online, with the city’s police saying online dating scams surged 84 per cent last year to 114 cases, leading to HK$95 million in losses.

Online dating also presents a “privacy issue”, since people’s information, profile, and photos are widely accessible, something high-profile individuals may not be amenable to, said Violet Lim, co-founder of Asian dating specialist service Lunch Actually.

Still, technology provides another option for people to look for intimacy and love, apart from relying on fate or a night out at Lan Kwai Fong. For those desperate to escape singledom, as long as there are profiles to swipe on, there is always a glimmer of hope.