As an Indian-American, I am often jokingly asked by some of my semi-culturally aware friends if I plan on having an arranged marriage. While it is true that arranged marriages still are common in India and in the Indian-American community, every family follows traditions to a different extent.
Right now, marriage has yet to cross my mind. But when I think about the current dating and marriage sphere in the United States, an overwhelming majority of people I know, both Indian and not, have been introduced to their significant others through dating apps and websites.
Online dating, the experience of searching for a romantic connection on the internet, has been widely scrutinized because it challenges what is considered socially acceptable as a new generation adopts a new way of doing something. Numerous studies have claimed to find that online dating users unable to commit to relationships is a sign that young people are becoming alarmingly fickle in their expectations.
Many of the apps or websites have their users fill out extensive questionnaires and then attempt to match them with partners based on criteria the users have indicated. Unlike “traditional” dating or dating in “real life,” in which connections can involve introductions and be more spontaneous, online dating is mostly anonymous and has the potential to be more reliable.
My own sister, for instance, has kept active profiles on several online dating websites. She will browse through the countless listings, intending to find her significant other and potential husband through this medium. I wonder though if her method is any different from the one my parents and grandparents used, setting aside technological advancements of course.
A clarification of arranged marriage is necessary. It has different definitions and has changed over time like any social institution, but for this article it applies to anyone whose parents have had a hand in finding their spouses for them and is not strictly an Indian, South Asian or even Asian idea. All types of people have helped “arrange” their child’s marriage. Similarly, all types of people use online dating services.
I actually think that online dating, the more recent entry into the matchmaking arena, is more similar to arranged marriage than it is to “conventional” dating. This lies in the fact that both methods involve both parties’ compatibility being assessed and approved by a separate evaluator before they meet. Though the details may differ, arranged marriage and online dating have a lot in common and can even overlap at times.
For those who may be taken aback by the presumption that I could compare a laughably archaic relic of 19th century society and prior to their beloved OkCupid profile, I point to the presence of a matchmaker. Whether it be your parents or a computer program, someone is helping you decide if that person on the other end might be the one for you.
In what I have termed above “traditional” or “conventional” dating, the emphasis is on the chance encounter, the mutual acquaintance and the chemistry. It can be said that online dating has none of those and instead returns us to the idea of establishing criteria. Another interesting observation to make, however, is that neither online dating nor arranged marriages result in loveless partnerships. The most important perceived benefit of traditional dating is the couple’s physical interaction, but unless you’re imagining an alternate universe similar to “Her” — Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi romance film — any successful relationship will have good chemistry.
Online dating has received plenty of criticism, and it is warranted. But careful distinction should be made between apps like Tinder and websites like Match.com. The studies that show our generation as unable to commit to relationships pick subjects who are not interested in long-term relationships. A connection made on a website with the intention of lasting has an equal chance of success or failure as a connection made in person, but the fact that there are more failures from the apps and websites says more about the people using them than the programs themselves.
RAVI JAIN is a College sophomore from Syosset, N.Y., studying economics. His email address is email@example.com. “Two Cents” appears every other Wednesday.
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