Eugene Kaptway, Maxwell Kamau, Silvia Njue, Patience Omondi

From left: Eugene Kaptway, Maxwell Kamau, Silvia Njue and Patience Omondi.

| Nation Media Group

Dating apps: Swiping left on romance

What you need to know:

  • But now, more than 20 years into the New Millennium, dating apps have gained popularity and taken position as an acceptable avenue for finding love and companionship.
  • These apps are sold as miracle avenues that significantly simplify dating since users can decide who to date based on pictures, profiles and preferences.
  • For older generations, the current dating scene might seem overly different, unfamiliar or even immoral, yet many young people can’t figure out a way to date outside of social media.

Let’s face it. Dating, especially in today’s world, is not easy. From those nervous blind dates, to awkward first meetings, to on-and-off conversations that never actually lead anywhere, dating today can be equated to an extreme sport. It is little wonder, therefore, that many young people have shunned the idea of dating and romance altogether and are leaning more into hook up culture.

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Statistics show that in Kenya, the average age for marriage has risen sharply to 28, and seems to be heading to a previously inconceivable age 30. Similarly, in Europe, the average age of settling for women is 36, and 38 for men as of 2017. A report from Pew Research Centre states that, “up until a hundred years ago or so, dates might have been set up by our parents and chaperoned by a relative. During the 1960s and 70s, dating, or ‘going steady,’ became the norm. By the 90s and early 2000s, dates typically consisted of dinner, drinks or a movie.’

But now, more than 20 years into the New Millennium, dating apps have gained popularity and taken position as an acceptable avenue for finding love and companionship. These apps are sold as miracle avenues that significantly simplify dating since users can decide who to date based on pictures, profiles and preferences.

For older generations, the current dating scene might seem overly different, unfamiliar or even immoral, yet many young people can’t figure out a way to date outside of social media.

This week, MyNetwork sounded out five young adults who share their thoughts and ideas on the new dating trends, the reasons they are reluctant to enter romantic relationships, and the challenges that exist in finding meaningful connections in today’s fast paced world.

Photo credit: Pool

Journalism student

The main thing that’s making me a bit hesitant is the posturing on social media and even on dating apps. There is a lot of pressure to present a perfect image, and that is so intimidating to me. The fear of failing to measure up to the set standards is real.

I also feel that the fast-paced nature of our lives today plays a huge role. Between work, pursuing personal goals, and maintaining social connections, it feels like there is very little time to invest in a relationship. Trying to balance everything out feels so difficult.

Moreover, the future is quite uncertain. With the state of our economy and the ever shrinking job market, I am worried about whether I can be able to provide for my future partner. That feels like a huge responsibility especially now that I am still in school.

I also fear getting vulnerable with another person. Opening up to someone emotionally scares me, considering the fact that I have seen how easily romantic relationships can change or end. I fear getting hurt or rejected.

But I also struggle with FOMO – the fear of missing out. With so many options available, I wonder if my soul mate is out there, just waiting for me to make a move. I also appreciate that dating apps provide a platform to meet new people, especially with our busy lifestyles.

It is not accurate to say that our entire generation prioritises sex over all else. People have varying preferences. For me, dating is about getting to know someone who I feel a genuine connection for, and who has shared interests. It is about having meaningful conversations and experiences.

While financial stability might facilitate certain aspects of dating, such as going on dates and road trips, it can never substitute genuine emotional connection.

I don't feel pressured to get into a relationship, but societal expectations and the desire for companionship can sometimes make you feel like you are running out of time. 

I enjoy the convenience that dating apps offer and the ability to select partners based on my preferences. It can save time and help one find a suitable partner faster. Also, it is now quite normal to meet and connect with someone on a dating app.

The key reason I am on a dating app is to explore new connections and explore possibilities of finding real love. It is a convenient way to expand my social circle and meet new people. However, I know that it can be hard to gauge someone's true intentions and personality on such a platform, so I am always careful.

Photo credit: Pool

Journalism and Mass Communication student, Kibabii University

As a young woman, the idea of being in a romantic relationship is both alluring and intimidating. The thought of connecting with someone who understands me fully is undeniably captivating, yet I find myself hesitating to fully embrace such relationships for several reasons.

First, the fear of losing my identity in the pursuit of love looms large in my mind. The stories I’ve heard in the past and the experiences of some of my friends have shown me that some relationships can lead to individuals becoming intertwined and co-dependent to the point where they abandon their own dreams, aspirations, and personalities. I value my personal growth and independence so the idea of sacrificing my identity, goals and ambitions for the sake of a relationship doesn’t sound appealing at all to me.

Moreover, the vulnerability that is required to establish a successful relationship is scary for me. Opening up to someone, exposing my fears and flaws, and entrusting them with my heart is a challenging feat. The thought of being heart broken, betrayed, or rejected is enough to make me pause on my desire to start dating. I have been in a relationship before and I still have scars from those experiences.

As a student, my parents insist on completing my studies and graduating before I can entertain relationships with the other gender. I am keen to follow their advice, so I am a bit hesitant about pursuing relationships.

Additionally, my focus right now is on my studies, and personal growth. I don’t want the distraction that might come with dating. Teen age and early adult years are a period of self-discovery so I am preoccupied with laying the foundation of my future.

The world is rapidly changing and I feel it is really important for young women like me to establish a life separate from our romantic partners, and prioritise self-care, travelling, networking, female friendships and self-love.

The idea of love and relationships is appealing, no doubt, but I feel like I have a whole life ahead of me and there is plenty of time to find my knight in shining amour in future.

Photo credit: Pool

Student at the University of Nairobi

Dating is not a priority for me. I feel that it takes a lot to be in a romantic relationship, and there are too many unrealistic expectations. Relationships have become so transactional these days that you always have to give something to get love. It is no longer unconditional.

Additionally, because of the present economic situation, I am busy chasing financial stability so I rarely have time to think about getting a lover. How can I invest in a relationship when I can barely cater for my own needs?

The hook-up culture has also made it so difficult for me to find a genuine partner. Men my age are so unromantic. They don’t put any effort to win my affection. I expect handwritten letters and planned dates, but what I mostly get are text messages with “wyd?” (What are you doing?) and questions like, “when are you coming to see me?” So, why would I even consider dating such men?

I have seen some of my friends entertain cheating partners, and it always ends in tears. Some even take their own lives, and many end up taking medication for depression. I think therapy is too expensive, and I would not put myself in such a situation, so I prefer being single.

The phrase “Fear Men” is used so frequently these days, and I believe there is a reason behind it. Men see women as objects they can use for pleasure and dispose of when they get satisfied. So much has been done by the government and even non-governmental organisations to educate girls and women about their rights and how to use their voice to defend themselves, but cases of gender based violence involving married or dating partners are still reported almost daily.

I keep wondering how and why someone who once proclaimed their love for me would want to take my life at a later stage. Being single means I am not answerable to anyone. I do not owe anyone an explanation about why I came home late or answer questions about who I’m calling in the middle of the night.

It comes with so much freedom as much as it may seem lonely and boring to some people. I might fall in love one day, but I’ll have so many factors to consider before getting into it. My potential partner must be emotionally mature, financially independent, honest, and dedicated to our shared future.

Photo credit: Pool

Student, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication

Navigating the dating scene as a young person is not easy. There is a lot of pressure and high expectations from the society. You also feel desperate to achieve all your goals and achieve financial success by the time you are done with college.

Add the pressure to portray a flawless image on social media, low self-esteem issues and the compelling desire to be in a romantic relationship either to fill a void or to gain respect from others and you realise that being a young person today is quite challenging.

These days, finding a partner can be hard since most people, myself included, prioritise money. Wealth and fortune are central in many relationships today.

And social media doesn’t help matters. Partners often curate their posts to look like they are in marital nirvana even when they are facing mental, physical, and emotional challenges behind closed doors. It can be so stressful to maintain this façade.

Additionally, being vulnerable with strangers is not easy. I sometimes fear that someone could use my weaknesses against me when our relationship ends, and this makes it difficult for me to trust someone fully.

On dating apps and sites, people often use Photoshop to enhance their appearance, making it hard to tell their true identity and appearance. Additionally, some individuals exploit these platforms and solicit for money under false pretences.

An ideal romantic date for me involves enjoying dinner in a well-lit, calm and quiet garden, preferably at night, where my partner and I will enjoy good food, talk about anything and everything, and perhaps even sing together.

Meeting people on dating sites has become normal, and I believe it is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. I am not on any dating app because I am not in a rush to start dating just to prove a point. Taking time to truly know someone is critical for me.

Lastly, I firmly believe that success in any relationship is a shared responsibility. It depends on the authenticity of the connection between two lovers.

Photo credit: Pool

Nyaboke O. Biyogo, Counsellor and Relationships Consultant

In your experience, how do friends influence the dating choices of Gen Zs?
Dating is generally a personal decision that individuals have to make on their own. Involving friends in this decision could potentially lead to premature breakups, missing out on the right person, holding onto the wrong person, and prolonged periods of singleness, as prospects may be deterred by unwarranted scrutiny from friends.

What factors hinder young people from making the right dating decisions?
Young adults desire partners who possess exceptional financial abilities, and those who fit the standards presented on social media. The only problem with this is that online, there is a lot of poor role modelling displayed by celebrities and influential figures, yet these are the figures that young people look up to.

To increase chances of establishing a successful relationship, you need to be self-aware, have high self-esteem and good personality traits, be able to control your temper, and build good stress and tension management skills.

As an expert, why do you think dating has become less important for the current generation?
Currently, the society judges an individual’s success by the wealth they have, the kind of lifestyle they lead and to some extent, their level of education. Few people see marriage or building a family as a pillar of success. Stability in marriage has been relegated to second place. 

Do you believe that online dating has disrupted the current dating scene? 
Absolutely! I strongly discourage young people and those who are new to dating from engaging in online dating. There are so many people on those sites with ill intentions. Some are scammers, mentally ill, or promoters of pornographic content. 

Young individuals should practice mindfulness exercises such as meditation, cultivate self-love, truthfully share information when they are dating, and adopt effective communication skills.