The names have been changed to protect the identities of our respondents.
With Pakistan in the middle of a digital renaissance, we decided to see how online dating worked in Pakistan. Who uses it? Is it just used for hook-ups? Has anyone met the love of their life through online dating? We asked our social media following, did a little research and here’s what we found.
A significant reason why applications like Tinder have become so popular in our neck of the woods is because of the way society has limited socialisation. For one, most our respondents said that the restrictions imposed by their families, especially on women, hampered them from meeting anyone.
Plus, as a society, we don’t encourage meeting new people who do not belong to similar backgrounds, this can be pretty restrictive. Moreover, we don’t really have places to socialise: no clubs, no combined activity, nothing. Even places like restaurants encourage socialising within pre-established communities. This is why the online world has become so popular in places like Pakistan.
Most of the women we asked about Tinder said that it was full of sleazy men trying to hit on them. Fatima, one of our respondents, said that the Instagram account Tinder nightmares is a perfectly accurate representation of what women have to face. Even though most of these men used their real pictures, they said stuff that they wouldn’t dare to say in person.
Another respondent, Saba, talked about how this one guy stalked her online, used emotional abuse after she ended the conversation, then found her other social media accounts and persistently kept messaging her. But thankfully it didn’t go further than that. Online dating has created a space in which people feel a sense of freedom that they don’t in society-but sometimes those spaces are still unsafe for women.
Most of the men who responded to us felt unsafe as well, but not in the way you think. Ali, for example, told us a story about how he met a girl off of Tinder, and she stole RS. 4000 from his wallet! Haider, another respondent, talked about how he was always scared while on Tinder. In one situation, Haider said that he met a girl who was barely 16, even though she said she was 21.
Overall though, most men felt that Tinder in Pakistan was mostly dry, as the number of women using the platform were few. Men were also distrusting of the women they met online, as they felt that many didn’t use their real names or pictures, and often started up conversations just disappear later. A few men from Lahore said that they had better conversations with women across the boarder in India.
Women still worried about log kya kahenge, but they felt that it was a safe way to get to know someone without any real commitment. They could talk and potentially meet someone while maintaining some form of privacy.
Men had the same perspective as well, they felt it was easier to approach women online, even if they were few in number. Our respondents talked about how they met people through Tinder. Ali, for example, said while he’s had terrible experiences on dates through Tinder, he also met his best friend through the app. While researching, we even found a case of a woman who met her husband on Tinder.
What most of respondents said was that because of the sense of freedom and privacy they felt online, they were more likely to show their weirder side. Our respondents talked about how many people would have profiles adorned with religious scripture, but be sending the most unholy of messages. They also talked about how you’d be surprised to find a large number of people cheating on their spouses. Some of those people even had pictures of their respective spouses on their profiles! Now that’s called not giving a sh*t.
Some of our respondents even talked about how people with different sexual preferences take advantage of the privacy to create safe spaces for themselves. People belonging to the LGBTQ+ community flock to applications like Tinder because of the safety it provides, compared to the real world. Swingers, married committed people who like to sexually experiment, can also be pretty common on places like Tinder. And this all makes sense. Marginalized groups will find places like Tinder safe compared to the hostility they may feel in the real world.
While most people said that Tinder is pretty inactive throughout the year, the summer and winter holidays were massively active. The reason this happens is because college kids and people who have settled abroad come back to Pakistan. And since most have used Tinder abroad, they have a more relaxed approach to online dating, creating a more active and calm season.
Overall we noticed that most people felt the same restrictions with the online world as they do in the real world. Men were weird and women were apprehensive. But if you’re patient, you can potentially find someone important. Moreover, digital spaces like Tinder have given marginalised communities and people who do not adhere to the typical heteronormative standards a safe space to explore their sexual desires.