Swipe for Love: Navigating the Dazzling World of Online Dating

//vol.15-4 Viewpoint: Love life

Navigating the Dazzling World of Online Dating

 The Perks and Pitfalls of Dating Apps in Modern Relationship

by Stella Chen


“The free-of-charge nature of online dating services brings people from different backgrounds closer regardless of their social circles.” 


The concept of dating has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Gone are the days when one would envision a serendipitous encounter in a CD shop, or a guy struggling to come up with a clever pick-up line in a café. The landscape has now changed dramatically with the advent of smartphones and technology, giving rise to the popularity of online dating apps among millennials and Gen-Z.

Online dating has provided a more diverse and accessible avenue for individuals to seek romance and make new connections. In Hong Kong alone, there have been nearly 660,000 profiles created on Coffee Meets Bagel, a popular dating app since its inception in 2012. Tinder, another widely used dating app in Hong Kong, reports that more than half of its users from 190 countries fall within the 18 to 25 age bracket. 

The prevalence of such apps has transformed the dating experience beyond simple left and right swipes. New apps continually emerge to cater to the diverse needs of different communities. For example, Bumble aims to redefine traditional gender dynamics by empowering women to make the first move and initiate conversations. Furthermore, dating apps have expanded their functions to facilitate not only romantic connections but also friendships and business networking.

Hong Kong as a metropolis of diverse cultures,  sees people such as Hong Kong Chinese, ethnic minorities, expats and people from other cultural backgrounds tend to have their own preferred physical venues. Professor Chan Lik-sam, an assistant professor from the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who specialises in online dating research said the free-of-charge nature of online dating services brings people from different backgrounds closer, regardless of their social circles.

He also noticed that although app operators have designed dating apps for specific relational goals, users can always creatively use the app for their own purposes.

“We have seen people selling products on dating apps. In the US, some LGBTQ+ organisers run counselling accounts on popular apps. Some people use dating apps simply to kill time and to fulfil their curiosity,” Professor Chan said.

In this collection of dating stories and experiences, Youth Hong Kong talked to young people of different ages, gender identities, and ethnicities who live in Hong Kong about how they are using online platforms to seek relationships and romance.



Can you share your general thoughts on dating apps, what are the advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional dating?


Thaddée, 25, male, Caucasian from France, been on dating apps for more than six months: 

The good thing about online dating is that you can know something about that person before going on dates face to face, which can prevent awkward bad dates (although that is by no means a guarantee). But online dating can be very shallow and artificial, in the sense that the matching process is based on pretty lousy criteria. Traditional dating feels more organic, is probably more exciting as a process, and can enable you to get the “feel” that you have with that person straight away. You are also less overwhelmed with “choice.”


Judy, 22, female, Mainland Chinese, has been on dating apps for five years:

The advantage of online dating is that it provides a huge dating pool compared to traditional dating and it enables users to meet new people quickly. The disadvantage is apparently the dating culture, which is really confusing and it takes so much time and energy to make sure people are on the same page. Traditional dating is more serious because the social connections between the two usually overlap so both of them wanna take it seriously and protect their reputation.



Do you experience a higher level of caution when meeting people from dating apps?


Nina, 26, female, Eurasian, has used dating apps for about a year:

Generally, I would experience a slightly higher level of caution online because I feel like I can get a better feel for the person face to face compared to through a screen.


Yunqiao, 26, female, Mainland Chinese, has been using dating app for 3 months:

Personally, I don’t. But I know lots of people do. I normally would search the date on LinkedIn or Facebook to get a bit more information.


Marco, 28, male, local Hong Kong Chinese, has been on dating apps for around two years:

Generally, it is the other side that is more cautious of me since I am a male stranger. Once, on a first date, I discovered my date had brought another girl along for safety reasons. The three of us ended up hanging out together, which was initially a bit awkward.



Do you believe matchmaking algorithms in dating apps are effective in facilitating meaningful connections between individuals? Why?


Eric, 26, male, Caucasian from the United States, has been using dating apps for five years:

I think dating app algorithms are primarily aimed at retaining users instead of creating successful matches.


Doner, 28, male, Filipino, has been using dating apps for a few years:

To an extent yes, because it puts people of your preference type in front of you which helps. But at the end of the day, I don’t think people matching up and having a good time together can be quantifiable 100%.


Mavis, 23, female, local Hong Kong Chinese, has been on dating apps for four years:

I only chat with people on dating apps, but I don’t meet them in person. The algorithm introduces me to individuals I wouldn’t typically encounter, which is pleasantly surprising. It allows me to express thoughts and share things I wouldn’t typically discuss with friends.



Words from a long-time dating app user 


Emily, a 27-year-old Chinese woman, holds the record among the interviewees for using dating apps for seven years. While she appreciates the opportunity to meet diverse individuals online, she finds it challenging to establish a solid relationship due to the absence of mutual friends and shared social circles.

“I’ve been on about 70 dates since my last break-up, and it often leaves me feeling disoriented. Dating apps create the illusion that there’s always a better match out there. So, people lack the patience to truly connect with someone they’re seeing because they believe they can easily find someone better.” 

Having been on and off dating apps, Emily is now determined to delete them and focus on herself. When discussing how online dating helps overcome the initial awkwardness of approaching strangers, she suggested, “I agree, but perhaps we should also take a chance and approach someone we encounter on the street and have the courage to say hi!”