“WHEN I open my eyes in the morning, I think of how nice it’d be to see you. When I go to sleep at night, I want to hold your hand. When there’s a significant moment in my life, I want to celebrate it with you. Do you ever think about me too? It’s me, the woman who wants to fall in love with you... and I hope you'll love me too.”

That’s just one of the many catchy hook-up pitches from dating apps that are taking the world of romance by storm.

It has been reported that more than 50 per cent of Malaysians know at least one couple who met online.

YouGov research reveals the scale of the phenomenon in Malaysia: as many as 29 per cent of Malaysians have used Internet and online dating apps. This rises to a third among millennials.

Yet six in 10 millennials said they would be embarrassed to admit that they met their partner through online dating platforms. A fifth of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) said the same. However, 45 per cent of all respondents said they would not think of a couple that met online any differently.

YouGov, an international data and analytics group, offers data derived from a panel of five million people worldwide. For this survey, online data was collected between Sept 11 and 28 this year, with a sample size of 1,058.

Online dating has its advantages, says Lunch Actually Group chief executive officer and co-founder Violet Lim.

She says in the past, single people expanded their social circle through friends, family, the workplace or other social settings. And it would be a challenge if these options were exhausted and they were yet to meet someone or if the single person was not extroverted enough to easily strike up a conversation with someone they had just met.

Lim says it has never been easier to start connecting with people around the world because singles now have a lot of options, and online dating allows people to get to know other singles that they otherwise may not ever meet.

“Online dating may be convenient, but it can be frustrating because you never know whether the person you’re talking to is really who they claim to be.

“With Lunch Actually, which is an offline service, clients can feel safe and secure because we meet and screen each member and verify their identities before we sign them up and send them on dates.

“One reason many singles like our service is because they enjoy privacy and confidentiality.

“Other than their dating consultant and their date, nobody else needs to know that they have signed up with a dating service.

“On the other hand, with online matchmaking sites, you often have to put up your photo and profile for all to see.”

A survey found that online dating platforms Malaysia Social, Malaysian Cupid and Tinder were the favourites in Malaysia, all scoring among the highest for fame and respectability.

Approximately six in 10 respondents have heard of these services. Of the three platforms, Malaysia Social has the best reputation among those who have used online dating services, with 37 per cent saying it is considered respectable.

Services that are least recognised by respondents are also seen as the least respectable, suggesting that popularity is key to success in the Malaysian online dating market. The lowest scorers in fame and respectability include Happn, Skout and Twoo.

With nearly three in 10 Malay-
sians saying they would rather meet their future partner online than offline, it shows that Internet dating platforms have come a long way in shaking off the stigma against them.

Lim says having more options may not always be better for success in romance, because with too many choices, people may not know who to choose or focus on.

“At the end of the day, it really depends on the individual.

“I believe there is no one size fits all approach in dating.

“Some singles prefer having more options and photos before deciding to go on a real date, while others may find that having many options is a bad thing and prefer having a consultant to do all the work for them.”

Lim encourages singles to keep an open mind and take proactive efforts to expand their social circle.

“Doing it through online dating is just one way. Some people like it because it’s convenient.

“Online dating also has its challenges. My advice is to know what platform to use, depending on what you’re looking for.

“Casual daters can use certain sites that are different than those used by serious daters, so do a bit of research and know your platform.

“However, for those who are looking for love online, remember that real connection only happens when you meet someone in real life. So your objective should be to move from online to offline as soon as possible.”

Lim says a common fear about online dating is the lack of verification for profiles on most sites.

“However, some online dating websites or apps cater to more serious singles, like our esync and LunchClick.

“We conduct verification for everyone who joins to make sure they are single.

“Other sites like eHarmony, Match.com and Coffee Meets Bagel also have a reputation for having more genuine singles.

“Ultimately, it’s not that it’s hard to date. Remember to view online dating as a platform for you to start knowing someone new, but focus on getting to know them better through face-to-face conversations and a real date.

“Also, because of the abundance of matches from online dating, many singles are getting very picky or tend to be super judgmental.

“They easily reject matches for superficial reasons. Sometimes, those expectations are purely superficial and do not necessarily contribute to compatibility.

“I’m not saying lower your standards. I’m not saying don’t have any parameters. What I’m saying is be more open minded. When you have too many filters, you’re limiting your chances.”

Lim cautions that if you agree to meet in real life someone you met on online dating sites or apps, always meet in a public place, and the most casual time of the day is lunch.

“Meet over lunch and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can always excuse yourself by saying you need to head back to the office.

“With the rise of online dating, we see an increase of love scams worldwide as well.

“More and more unsuspecting singles have been taken advantage of and cheated of their money. Do take note and do not fall prey to scammers.”

‘Online dating is easy, but be careful’

JEAN-MARIE Selvam, marriage and family therapist at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy, offers some tips for online dating hopefuls.

Q: What are the dangers of hooking up with a stranger? Can one find a soulmate this way?

A: There are many dangers to meeting people this way. Can you trust a stranger? How would we know we are not being lied to or catfished?

(Catfishing is the act of luring someone into a relationship with a fictional online persona.)

Additionally, there are certain experiences that we miss out in online dating, such as tone of voice, body language and sometimes even personality.

Online dating only allows for limited knowledge. You only know what the other person wants you to know about them.

As for finding a life partner, people find their soulmates in many situations, why not online dating? We just have to be careful and smart about connecting with strangers online.

Q: In your view as a marriage counsellor, what forms the basis of a good relationship?

A: The basis of any good relationship is the same: respect, trust and communication. I would also add the importance of compromise and friendship.

There will always be a need to give and take in a relationship, without keeping score. It should be a fluid process. This is why having a good friendship with your partner is important. It helps us not to take advantage of them or take them for granted.

Think about it. Don’t we sometimes treat our friends better than our partner?

Q: For people who are pursuing a relationship this way, what are some red flags they should look out for?

A: See whether the other person can answer detailed or personal questions about themselves without hesitation. And, if they want to meet, ensure that the first few meetings are in public areas, during the day and, if possible, with friends.

I believe anyone who tries online dating should be cautious about the information and pictures that are sent online.

Q: Those who use these services claim it’s no different than an arranged marriage. What are your thoughts?

A: I think it’s very different from an arranged marriage, where parents and family members are involved. In online dating, many websites and apps only allow the user to choose the person they want to get to know, either based on first impressions or on similar likes and dislikes.

An ego booster or confidence destroyer?

WHEN his marriage started to fall apart, Tim (not his real name), 44, was looking for comfort. He wanted to feel appreciated and needed.

His life fell apart when he found out his wife of 10 years had multiple affairs. His self-confidence was severely bruised, so he wanted to know whether he was still “marketable” in the dating pool.

“No one gets into a marriage thinking they will have to put themselves out there again. The vulnerability, the fear and the possibility of getting hurt again can be very stressful and scary.

“But when faced with a situation where you don’t feel attractive and special anymore, sometimes getting back on the horse to get an ego boost is the best thing you can do.”

Tim downloaded Tinder at the suggestion of a friend. He had heard about online dating apps, but had no need for them until three months ago.

“I was shocked at how many profiles there were. People were reaching out and ‘super liking’ me. I started chatting up women. After chatting, some started calling me.”

After a month of calls with single mum Cathy (not her real name), they meet for lunch.

“The date flowed easily as we had spoken for nights on end. She was as lovely as she was over the phone. We decided to take our relationship offline and got rid of our Tinder profiles.

“We haven’t introduced each other to our kids, but it’s just a matter of time.

“If you told me three months ago that I would be in love again, I would have laughed. It’s amazing to feel cherished and loved again. I feel like a teenager. It’s surreal.”

Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Tim.

An introvert, who wanted to be known as Samantha, says after two failed attempts at online dating, she is more selective now.

“Maybe it’s more difficult for women over 30. There are a lot of profiles of pretty, young things on most dating apps.

“I fell head over heels for Michael. He knew exactly what to say and do. Although I was going through a break-up, I felt numb to that, as I was so in love.

“He drove from Kelantan one day to meet me in Rawang, and sparks flew. He was every bit a gentleman as I thought he would be. But that was short-lived.

“We went back to his hotel for a night cap. He got offended when I did not give in to his advances.

“We agreed to meet for lunch the next day, but he stopped answering my calls. I was gutted.

“I called every day for a week, but he just texted back that he needed some time apart as things were too intense and I was too guarded.”

Another one of her online dates ended almost the same way, only worse. Date No. 2 had a wife and two kids in Japan. He was hoping to meet someone through dating apps before he left his estranged wife.

“There were too many red flags. He said he and his wife were together because of the kids. He said he was leaving for Japan the next day to bring them over for the Christmas break, wife included, for an extended period.”

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