Finding love outside school can be an incredibly difficult endeavour. Universities and colleges make it easy to find a partner by virtue of their set-up. School gives you easy access to thousands of people in the same age range, with most of the filtering done for you. At a higher education institute, you are guaranteed that almost everyone you meet (students and teaching staff), has a particular level of education or qualification, on account of meeting the entry requirements. You are guaranteed that this individual has access to funds for education, whichever way they are accessing them.

The biggest advantage however, is the access to thousands of eligible young people, meaning the selection pool is incredibly wide. To meet these people is as simple as taking a walk around campus. Potential partners are everywhere; at the sporting fields, in the lecture theatres, in dining halls or cafeterias, in the libraries, on the outside sitting areas, at the bus terminal, and most importantly, at the numerous social events held on campus. Not having a partner is a choice, and possibly a lack of guts, easily rectified by chatting up as many people as you would like. The struggle begins after school. Never again are you constantly surrounded by such a wide selection of mostly unmarried people within your age range. This is where dating apps come in.

Why people turn to dating app and websites

Dating sites fill in this gap. They create a platform for meeting new people and socializing for the primary purpose of finding partners. Outside school, the effort required to physically meet new people is astronomical. You need to have knowledge of the social activities taking place around the community, but these often require an entry fee. The amount of resources necessary to attend these can become quite high very easily, including transport costs, entry fees, food, and decent clothes to wear. Compared to merely taking a stroll around campus, this can be quite expensive. With a dating app/site, the main requirement is a functional gadget and internet access. You can meet new people from the comfort of your home with the click of a button, and select someone new to chat up with a swipe of a finger.

When you use a dating app/site, you’re aware of the primary purpose, just as everyone else is, erasing the crippling anxiety that often comes with trying to chat up a stranger. The sting of rejection is not as pronounced because there are lots of other faces to choose from instantly, and most importantly, it’s a private humiliation. You are also spared the cost in energy required to dress up, converse with someone face to face, whilst consciously trying to impress them. In some ways it’s even better than trying to find a potential person is a physical social setting.

The problem with dating sites/apps

Despite how easy and convenient dating sites are, they come riddled with their own problems. The biggest con of online dating is the vulnerability to catfishing. A catfish is someone who creates a fictional persona online for the purpose of bullying, seeking attention/money or luring someone romantically. Being catfished can be potentially traumatic for others. When you’re catfished, you are basically in a relationship with someone who doesn’t exist outside the catfish’s imagination.

Another problem that comes with dating sites, that’s closely related to catfishing, is the lack of adequate screening, allowing people to blatantly lie. A person can exaggerate their attributes quite easily. Attributes such as profession, qualifications, earnings, character, personality and physical appearance are easier to alter or fabricate online. With the popularity of camera filters and using a good camera angle, users can easily give a false impression about their appearance. People often understandably do this to make themselves seem more appealing to potential partners, but it comes at a slight cost to whoever selects them. Often what you see isn’t what you get when it comes to online dating.

An additional challenge with dating sites is the shallowness of the process. It often relies on a single still image of a person and a few lines about the person. Choosing someone based on their looks can be difficult for some, putting off potential users. In person, you can see the way someone interacts with others, how they treat people; you can analyze a potential partner’s demeanor and decide whether to pursue them because of or despite their physical appearance. Furthermore, online dating makes ghosting someone very easy. Ghosting is when a person ends a personal relationship by abruptly cutting all communication with the other person entirely. Without knowledge of where to physically find a person, whether at their home, workplace or social places they frequently visit; being ghosted can easily become an unpleasant reality for users of dating websites.

Recommendations from client side

  1. Integrate online dating with social meets

Host socials for users to meet in person and get to know each other. This helps to eliminate lies about age and physical appearance. It also allows users see if they will have chemistry or be attracted to one another in person.

  1. Require more than a still image of someone

A short video can give a glimpse of someone’s personality, making it easier to choose from the selection. Posting a video also gives animation to what would have been a static impression of someone.

  1. Show the verified location of an individual

Displaying exact location would be dangerous for security reasons and violates privacy, but a verified, general location can be useful, possibly decreasing chances of being catfished.

Online dating is still a little stigmatized in Zimbabwe, but the urban population is slowly warming up to it because of the difficulties in finding a partner outside school settings. Perhaps eventually Zimbabweans will fully embrace online dating, and the recommendations above could assist in making that reality happen faster. Such a business can be monetized via adverts and subscriptions. The Western model of dating sites might not entirely work locally, but with adjustments and innovation, online dating could fully take off.