Tinder, Grindr, WhatsApp: Love in the age of Internet - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 13 February 2021

Tinder, Grindr, WhatsApp: Love in the age of Internet


If you were to explain Valentine’s and dating in 2021 to an 80-year-old who lives in the rural areas, what would you say?

“I would tell her about WhatsApp first and how it now takes five minutes for people unknown to each other to decide whether they want to hook up. I would go on to explain how dating apps have made match making easier,” says Eunice Muthoni, a 22-year-old resident of Kasarani, Nairobi.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), not even love is being spared by the rapid technological changes, greatly impacting on every aspect of our lives.

You no longer need to break a sweat to find your dream partner, thanks to advances in Big Data algorithms deployed by tech companies. Machines can now connect you to a potential lover depending on your preferences such as height, education, religion, work, life interests, age and location.

“That’s how I found myself in love with the person I wanted from my fantasies in high school,” Eunice discloses.

While Tinder has been the most popular dating app around the world — because its algorithms are tailored for you to cast the love net widest — other apps have been developed to cater for varying interests of people who want to be a little more specific.

Bumble, for instance, is designed for women who want to make the first move, especially those aged between 26 and 35 and pressured by society to tie the knot. Grindr, on the other hand, is exclusively loved by the LGBTQ community.

Online dating

You no longer need to break a sweat to find your dream partner, thanks to advances in Big Data algorithms.


Dating apps

“For Grindr users, this is an escape window from a society that labels them as ‘misfits’,” says Joram Mbugua, a 33-year-old Uthiru resident.

Those who dated online in 2005 might remember OkCupid, whose signature questionnaires about everything — from primary school to avocado — gave one an in-depth understanding of the person one was chatting with.

There is also Meet Me for those dating after the age of 40, Lumen for those who want a partner after 50 years, Plenty of Fish for those who have just graduated from university, Hey Baby for those who can’t wait to have children, Loosid for alcohol haters, and then, unsurprisingly, Ship, for those who struggle to make a decision.

“We have more information about people we do not know more than ever before. We are proud of these supercomputers in our palms with geolocation capabilities to see who is near Garden City, for instance, where we are having fun,” notes Joram.

The addicting thrill of swiping right on a profile you like on such apps, and then getting an alert if that person swipes right on you, has become a cultural sensation that millennials cannot do without.

Most of them find it comfortable to sign up in more than three dating apps as this helps them navigate the sea of love with more precision, but that is increasingly moving them out of commitment if they find “the right one”.

“They call themselves digital natives but they are much less likely to be in a serious relationship because they are spoilt for choice,” Alice Anangi, chief executive officer of Nairobi-based Zeden Technologies, observes.

Dating apps have become more popular as people try to find ways to combat loneliness caused by the pandemic


Valentine’s Day

Choice overload is also happening when lovers want to surprise each other with gifts on Valentine’s Day through the numerous e-commerce sites.

“We are seeing stronger emotional overtones on Valentine’s Day compared to previous decades. The gift giver does not really know what to buy because Artificial Intelligence (AI) is recommending so many gifts at once,” says Alice.

The apps, Alice adds, have gathered so much data that they cannot err on the recommendations they give for a gift.

“They even give you a hint about the right time to give a marriage proposal after analysing the message and photos exchanges for a period of time,” she reveals.

But such apps have now gamified dating. Compared to the traditional way of break-ups — where you no longer saw each other — social media has made dating a game of ‘abandoning’ and not actually breaking up.

The algorithms are allowing people to peer into each others’ lives and ‘reconnect’ on the different social media apps, long after they parted ways. 

“I ‘broke up’ with my boyfriend in 2017 but Facebook brings me all his posts to my news feed because we had dated for two years. I see everything he posts though I never inbox him,” says Carol Muithya, who is now married.

Future of love

For James Oloo, who lives in Nairobi, and Lillian Macharia, who lives in Johannesburg, theirs are two hearts that beat as one but are locked in their private worlds.

“We send each other messages — texts, audios, images and videos — on WhatsApp, but no one really knows what is inside the mind of each other. Sometimes wrong message interpretations lead us to arguments,” James says.

But these problems, according to John Horgan, director at the Centre for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, could be overcome if James and Lillian were linked via Wi-Fi equipped, AI-enhanced brain implants, which would render WhatsApping and Zooming obsolete.

“The implants would have apps for specific tasks. A gift-giving app would query Lillian’s brain about what she really wants for Valentine’s Day. The app would go on e-commerce sites to purchase gifts and make reservations. Lillian would adjust the settings on her implant so it responds to James’s queries without alerting her conscious self, which can then be pleasantly surprised,” he expounds.

With such technology, he notes, disagreements in relationships and even marriages would never arise, because brain implants would resolve potential conflicts before they escalate.

“It would be like having a team of super-smart couple counsellors working round the clock on your relationship without any conscious effort from both of you,” Mr Horgan anticipates.

The future of love is getting moulded everyday, with Tesla chief executive Elon Musk revealing that he is working on a project that aims to ultimately create a machine intelligence brain interface that surpasses human intelligence.

So, for your grandpa in the village, or a time traveller who lived in the 1940s, the current speed of technology and its impact on love would leave them completely mystified.  And probably lonely amid plenty.

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