It’s a match!

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 01 Oct 2017


Many Gen Y-ers are on dating apps, but they still prefer to be swept off their feet in person. While there are success stories, experts say online dating can be tough due to mismatched expectations and users being overwhelmed with choices.

THEIR eyes met across a crowded room.

Her lips curved into a smile, giving him the push he needed to walk over to her and say “hi”.

Or, in another version of this story: They flipped through each other’s profiles online, swiped right, and then, he sends her a text to say “hi”.

In this age of technology, it’s no longer surprising to find couples who met through dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Badoo and the adorably named Coffee Meets Bagel.

But while it is becoming more common to look for love online, Malaysian Gen-Yers ironically would rather find their soul mate the old-fashioned way: face-to-face.

Only 7% of Malaysian youths believe that Tinder is the most conducive way of meeting someone new – less than the global average of 12%.

Such findings were revealed in a survey conducted among 11,000 youths aged between 16 and 30 across 18 countries by McCann Truth Central, the intelligence unit for global marketing services company McCann Worldgroup.

And while some say love is blind, young Malaysians would rather have their eyes wide open when choosing a new online friend.

Or so the Truth About Youth (TAY) survey shows, with 53% admitting they do not trust the people they find online.

While some perceive dating apps to be avenues for “one night stands”, most Malaysian Gen Y-ers in the poll actually frown upon such casual encounters.

In fact, 69% cannot accept regularly “hooking up” with strangers they meet on dating apps, says the survey.

Dissecting the findings, experts say there is basis for Malaysian youths to prefer meeting potential partners organically.

For one, some dating apps come with the perception that they are for “hook ups” rather than to find potential life partners.

“Depending on what someone uses these apps for, the potential for a mismatch of expectations is high. This could lead to frustration and disappointment,” says social psychologist Elaine Fernandez.

Another likely reason is “overchoice”.

“When people are faced with too many options, decision-making becomes harder.

“This is especially true when information that could aid decision-making is scarce,” she explains, noting that some apps tend to focus more on physical appearance than personal details.

It’s also tough when users engage in “what if” thinking about the options that they didn’t choose, says Fernandez, who is HELP University’s psychology department acting head.

“This is further amplified when we are faced with many attractive potential partners,” she adds.

While not all online relationships are “doomed to fail”, Fernandez says it comes with challenges because the mechanism in dating apps requires people to “shop” around to increase chances of a match.

“The psychological commitment to any one person could be lower. This is because investing time and hope into one choice risks the person overlooking other people who may be a better match.

“But in offline dating, choosing to meet someone and getting to know them already requires at least behavioural commitment,” Fernandez says.

“People also tend to treat online dating with more suspicion, given how easy it is to craft particular impressions online,” she adds.

However, there is a silver lining to online dating.

Research shows that due to the relative anonymity of the online setting, people engage in “hypercommunication”, sharing more about themselves to others online than they do in real life.

“This could lead to greater online intimacy, which can promote offline intimacy when potential partners meet up,” she says.

But it could also lead people to form impressions about each other that are difficult to change.

“In terms of the longevity, research suggests that offline relationships tend to last longer, but this ultimately depends on the quality of the bond.

“Online relationships have the potential to last, provided the relationship quality is high. This means there should be high trust, commitment and intimacy,” she says.

While online dating is a convenient and fast way to meet potential partners, Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj agrees it comes with a downside.

“What is perceived to be a potential match is purely based at the first glance on online profiles. This rules out many other compatible matches who may have genuine qualities,” he says.

Cases of dating sites being used by scammers have also caused Malaysians to be more sceptical.

“It will take some time for Malaysians to fully trust online dating sites to find life partners,” Dr Mohanraj adds.

Taking things offline, the TAY survey also reveals that Malaysian youths get into the game of love rather early in life.

One-third or 33% of respondents say they had their first romantic kiss between the ages of 10 and 20.

Most or 57% first brushed their lips with a special someone when they were aged between 20 and 30.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that most of them (61%) find that those under 25 are the most romantic compared to other age groups.

They find that youngsters under 25 tend to be more expressive in showing their affection and would go out of their way to celebrate birthdays and buy their lover’s favourite food.

McCann Erickson planning director Nura Yusof says the poll participants feel that younger people generally have the mutual desire to be in a relationship, actively engaging with one and another, leading to the feeling of being in love.

“Older age groups have experienced and learned that being a romantic person doesn’t always lead to a happy relationships. There are more factors to think about like commitment, future plans and finances,” she explains.

While the results are fascinating to note, Nura says the findings open up more opportunities for deeper research into the area.

But most certainly, age is not the ultimate deciding factor on whether a person can be romantic or not.

Romantic notions and acts tend to have a younger skew because it is strengthened by various influences, mostly from entertainment.

“The question is, does it mean that just because you are older, you are less romantic? I don’t think so.

“What may be correct is that romance just looks different when you’re older. You’re no less romantic,” Nura says.

In a related development, it was reported that Malaysian men and women tend to go on more dates if they earned a higher salary, based on a survey conducted by matchmaking app JustDating.

Over 50% of the respondents who say they went on more than five dates a week earned over RM6,000 a month.

Those who earned over RM4,000 a month went on an average of three dates a week while workers making RM2,000 a month only went out once a week.

The survey also found that most would like to have a date for Valentine’s Day, with 70% of respondents admitting they want to find themselves romantically engaged for that evening.

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