Remember the days when you’d hear your parents and aunties and uncles talk about swapping biodatas for your single cousins? You probably cringed at the thought of a matrimonial resumé outlining your superficial qualities like—well, a matrimonial resumé. Somewhere down the line, biodatas fizzled out as online dating sites became the go-to method to meet your significant other in the digital age. But as South Asians have assimilated into Western culture over the last couple of generations, so have their ideas on finding (or not finding) love. That said, while online dating is an everyday norm in today’s society, it can still mean something entirely different for South Asians. Like you, we’ve heard all the stereotypes and ugly generalizations, so we wanted to set them straight by going straight to the sources themselves. We talked to five South Asian American women who’ve played the online dating game and asked them to respond to common [ugly] stereotypes we still hear. Here’s the truth, straight from the ladies.
“It’s only for ‘desperate’ last resort cases.”
OK. This one we’ve all heard and maybe even given some serious consideration before dismissing as ridiculous. The truth is it’s an outdated and narrow-minded stereotype that stems from before the digital age. It’s simply a false statement. Sheena P., 27, from New York, NY responds with her thoughts on this one:
“There were stigmas about online dating / meeting people via personal ads (because I remember the time before the internet) when I was growing up. By the time I joined, I felt like everyone I knew was on an online dating website, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to join one. I don’t think there should be negative generalizations about online dating today because virtually everyone looking for any type of romantic relationship uses online dating websites. There might be people out there that assume people using online dating websites can’t meet someone in real life. I think this is silly. Online dating is another avenue of meeting people. Our world today is almost completely virtual. Why should there still be taboos about online dating?”
“Only creeps, deadbeats and serial killers use it.”
Sure, we were all given safety warnings about talking to strangers on the internet and exchanging personal information, and it’s all totally valid. You still shouldn’t hand out your address and maybe even phone number to someone you have never met in person. You still should practice basic safety measures when going on a date—but these are basic safe dating tips. Meeting someone over the internet doesn’t mean you’re setting yourself up with a creep; it just means you shouldn’t forget to be smart about it. Atiya Hasan, 27, from Houston, TX met her husband on an online dating site and offers her advice to the naysayers:
“Do your research. Speak to friends and acquaintances about their experiences with online dating. There isn’t a one formula fits all since everyone is looking for something different. Some are looking to date casually while others are looking to get married. Figure out what works for you. Involve your friends (and family, if possible) in the process to help screen and to stay safe as well. And don’t give up hope!”
“It’s only for those who want to get married ASAP.”
Here’s the one that many first-generation Western South Asians struggle with: “What if I don’t want to get married yet?” Well, luckily for you, there are plenty of others out there who feel your pain. Online dating can be just that—dating—even in a culture where such a concept has only recently become a reality. Here’s what 26-year-old Sanjana Arefin from New York, NY says to challenge this popular stereotype:
“My experience has been good! I mean, I haven’t met my future husband yet, but I met some amazing guys who I got along with. In fact, I’d say that a few of them have actual relationship potential… I met a really nice guy who was a complete gentleman! That changed my outlook because I couldn’t believe that I’d have such amazing conversations and a great connection with someone I met online. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere serious, I can confidently say that I met a pretty cool person who I love grabbing dinner or watching movies with. After this experience, I feel more confident about meeting a decent guy in NYC. It’s just so hard to come upon genuinely nice people so it was refreshing to meet this one particular individual who I had really gotten along with.”
“Actually, it’s only good for hook-ups and flings.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have this group of skeptics who can’t get past the idea that there might be potential to find someone long-lasting through a website or an app. The real beauty in it is that online dating isn’t just a one-size-fits-all thing. You won’t know until you give it a try with an open mind, says 26-year-old Bijal K.* from Ft. Lauderdale, FL:
“Honestly, know your intent with online dating and keep it moving. When I signed up, I knew I wanted to find someone serious enough to potentially start a new life with. Not everyone is like that. Right off the bat, you can already tell what some guys are about and you just keep it moving. There are too many good guys that are hiding. I would also say, don’t solely base everything off looks in online dating. Initially, I [didn’t show interest in] my [current] boyfriend. Only the second time around when he popped up, I was like, ‘Hmm his bio is pretty funny.’ That’s when we matched.”
“There’s no guarantee and it’s waste of time.”
Well, if you’ve made up your mind, no one can necessarily convince you otherwise. And you’re right about the no guarantee thing. But is there ever a guarantee to a successful match no matter how you make it? Better yet, is there ever a guarantee to anything in life? Exactly. So, if the only thing that’s keeping you from pulling the trigger is the fear that’s it’s a waste of your time, take a page from 33-year-old Sneha K.’s* book. This Ohio native dove right in to online dating and has never looked back:
“I first signed up in 2011. I had broken up with a long time boyfriend and was lonely. This was a good way to meet new people. I hadn’t really ever dated before but ended up meeting people who are still my friends to this day. So my experience was positive. I also met my current boyfriend through the experience. We’ve been together about four years now.”
If you still need more convincing, here’s a final thought from Bijal…
“I also matched with some awesome people who are now my Facebook friends and we actually check up on one another. Like I said before, don’t get discouraged because the selection has a different motive than you.”
…and from Sheena.
“Stop stressing out about finding “the one.” I think too many young women get pre-occupied with this and end up wasting a lot of time. I say, who cares? Just enjoy life, follow your dreams, and live your life to its fullest. That’s all you can do. Whether or not you meet the right person tomorrow is one of the only things beyond your control.”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy