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Modern Love: Dating and fostering genuine connections in an increasingly digital space

Nothing intrigues me more than romantic relationships – especially as someone who’s been single all her life. It feels like being given a science project to dissect. One of my favourite activities is sitting with my girlfriends, hearing them ‘spill the tea’ about their love lives, and objectively analysing if it’s worth it for them to swipe right, go on a second date or send a polite rejection. 

That being said, however, nothing scares me more than romantic relationships as well. Being the friend who is the ‘emotional support single’ comes with its fair share of being the traumatic information dumpster (for the lack of a better phrase) – the reality behind the cute Instagram posts and diabetically sweet texts. 

Safe to say, my friends and I are collectively confused, perplexed, and daunted by today’s dating world. Why is it so hard to form genuine connections? Is the problem the myriad of dating apps and the digital space around us? Or is there something fundamentally messed up about the Gen-Zs of today? 

Well, I got some answers from Ms Sonia Samtani, the CEO of All About You Wellness Centre, Hong Kong’s leading Hypnotherapist, and a highly sought-after Mental Health and Wellness expert. I know there are no hard and fast answers for modern romance’s woes, but if someone can come close to giving invaluable insight, it has to be Ms Samtani. 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Modern Dating Scene

Digital Dating: Traditional Dating
What makes dating today better or worse than in the past?

Dating in the 21st century means finding romance in an ever-changing, dynamic, fast-paced world. One might wonder if we have it better now compared to our parent’s generation and well, it’s a mixed bag. 

According to Ms Samtani, “people are less influenced by the traditional notions about who to date, at what age to do it, what gender it needs to be, how many people to date at a time, what the outcome of it should be, and other criteria that previous generations have been exposed to. As a result, people are reflecting inwards to discover their own values and preferences when choosing their dating partners, which is much healthier in the long run.” 

Ms Samtani has a point. While some still find themselves bound to traditional expectations of romantic relationships, whether that be the age when one settles down or whether a romantic relationship should inadvertently result in marriage, the pressure to live up to these expectations is lesser today. 

Even in Singapore, with political parties pushing for the minimum age where singles can apply for flats to be lowered, greater advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights, and more singles taking their time with marriage, we are seeing a shift in mindsets as more are accepting of individuals taking their romantic life at their own pace and defining their romantic trajectory themselves.

Greater autonomy, however, comes with its fair share of downsides. It’s a double-edged sword, as some would say. On the other side of independence is the creation of a whole new set of rules and terminologies in the dating scene. As Ms Samtani says, “people are not sure what dating means anymore as it can mean so many different things to different people; it can be the prelude to marriage, a recreational activity, an exclusive or non-exclusive agreement, be emotionally vested or not, sexually open or closed, and the list goes on.” 

Courtship in the past felt much simpler. I mean, just look at the films from a decade ago. Two people liked each other, had a period of courtship, dated and if all went well, rode off into the sunset with their happily ever after. But today, the process is not as linear and straightforward. Even the vernacular has changed. One has to discuss if they are ‘exclusive’, or if the relationship is ‘official’. The conversation of “what are we?” sounds more serious and unnerving than a confession. 

Ms Samtani added that the result of this “can lead to a mismatch of expectations and fears of not being on the same page. People now need to get clear of what dating means to them and have the courage to say it to their dating partners.” In a nutshell, what matters and what makes modern dating hard to navigate boils down to one word: communication. Now more than ever, we need to be able to express our feelings, our concerns and what we want from our partners. 

Online Dating – Boon or Bane? 

Digital Dating: Online Dating
Is the world of right swipes as convenient and beneficial as we think it is?

The topic of dating cannot be discussed without the poster child of the modern dating scene: dating apps! Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and the list goes on. You know how industrial revolutions have multiple versions of them? I believe there should be one for the dating scene as well. The fourth industrial revolution is characterised by rapid developments in technology and automation, and I believe the same can be said about dating today.

Online dating is now the norm; it’s undoubtedly the era of swipes and texts. However, many have expressed a common fear: How can we remain authentic in a digital space? Where everything can be curated, where every word is carefully thought out, and where every step can be traced, how can we preserve the depth and genuine connection?

Well, Ms Samtani advises that “if you are aware and mindful of your intention and know what you are looking for and why those qualities are important to you, you will look at the same pictures with a different lens than if you are mindlessly swiping.  I would encourage people to first know what they want with clarity and specificity, and make it realistic, bearing in mind that each person is a package of assets and shadows. With that in the background, begin to look at the profiles of people who could potentially be a match.” 

So next time you’re scrolling on a dating app, keep in mind why you are there and what you’re looking for, especially if you are seeking a long-term, serious connection. Some questions you can ask yourself include, what are some key non-negotiables your ideal partner should have? What values would you like to see in your ideal partner? By reminding yourself of your intent and purpose, you can truly leverage the choices presented to you via dating apps. 

The Biggest Misconceptions About Modern Dating 

I asked Ms Samtani what she thinks are the biggest conceptions people have about dating today. She answered that people think others should have the same interpretation of dating as they do. 

She said, “Traditionalists think it should be one way. Gen Z’s are ‘slow dating’ to discover what they want, and other generations may be experimenting or rethinking their values.  If we can accept that dating is a subjective notion and that the dating scene is filled with people from various generations and perspectives, we can move away from our ‘shoulds’ and just be with what shows up.”

In essence, the idea is that dating is a personal experience – and everyone is looking for something unique to them. In fact, one of the most perplexing yet exciting facets of dating is that by meeting other people, you better understand yourself. 

When asked if finding love is a game of head or heart, Ms Samtani said it’s a mix of both. We must tap into both our rational and emotional sides to make informed decisions for ourselves. However, she also suggested learning how to make these decisions from a place of wisdom. 

“Wisdom takes everything into account; what makes logical sense, how you feel, your past lessons, what you want in your future, the impact that this relationship has on you and your environment. If you were to be present to who you are today and access your wisdom, what kind of a relationship would you be inspired to be in? I would encourage you to write down the answer to that question, be able to visualise that relationship, and use it as a powerful reference point to assess if someone is suitable”, she said. 

A Game Changer: Love the Metaverse

Digital Dating: Metaverse
Can we find love in a 3D digital space with avatars?

Looking ahead, we are at the precipice of another revolution in the tech space, and by extension, the dating scene. 

You may have heard of the evolution of the Metaverse, and its impact is also creating big splashes in the dating world. This means, there is a greater possibility of meeting someone via their avatar in a Virtual Reality (VR) space. KJ Dhaliwal, the CEO of Dil Mil – a dating app for South Asians, wrote an article about dating in the metaverse. The piece titled, ‘Dating In The Metaverse: How Relationships Could Evolve As Technology Expands’, puts forth an interesting notion of what it would mean to date in a virtual world and how dating apps are already dabbling in this technology. 

Given that the future seems to hold more possibilities of meeting an online version of others, it means greater barriers are being posed to seeing someone’s true self. As Ms Samtani says, “wearing an avatar still means wearing a mask, and can prevent people from putting their true selves forward. You can imagine a person in their sweatpants and greasy hair sprawled on the couch, while it looks like they are in a sexy bikini lying in an enchanted forest.”

The power of technology to create alternate realities can be exciting, yet deceiving. As a reminder, Ms Samtani elaborates, “You may set impossible standards where physical experiences fall short. If it’s so easy to have the most beautiful sunset, perfect bodies, and afford the best clothes, you will find it even harder to accept the fundamental truths of who you are and embrace your shadows”. In a world where it’s becoming easier to craft an alternate reality than face our actual realities, it’s important to check in on ourselves and ground ourselves back to what truly matters: our values, our perspectives and what we seek.“

In conclusion, while the future of our dating space seems to be getting more dynamic, what remains consistent are lessons as old as time. We’ll never know what the future holds, so it’s vital to invest time and effort in developing to be the best versions of ourselves! 

Visuals courtesy of Andi Risam Triangga, Rudy1412, Athree23, and Tumisu via Pexels and StockSnap.

Srinidhi Ragavendran

Usually uses her miniature height as her sole personality trait, but also likes to be known for her weird obsession with Astrology, Breaking Bad and Road-Trip movies.

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