Kenya's "online generation" are doing more and more things on their computers, tablets and smartphones. But, using tech for romance may be a step too far for many. Nanjala Nyabola finds out if Kenyans are swiping left to reject, or right to accept Internet dating.
When 27-year-old Yasmeen moved from Kenya to Sweden, she found it hard to meet people owing to the vast cultural differences between the two countries. Whereas, in Kenya, dating was easy as men from within and without her friendship circle would constantly approach her and express interest, in Sweden, she found it impossible to breach the cultural divide. "Swedish guys are very shy," she observes, "even the Swedish girls have to approach the guys". So Yasmeen did what an estimated 50 million people around the world have already done. She joined the online dating app Tinder.
Like a vast majority of Kenyans, marriage remains one of the highest social priorities for Yasmeen, but the gap between "hi" and "I do" can be interminable, particularly in cities where traditional structures that signposted the path have fallen away. In Western countries, dating apps like Tinder attempt to create modern iterations of these signposts. In today's social muddle, will Kenyans jump on the bandwagon?
Launched in 2012, Tinder has quickly outpaced rivals to establish itself as the most talked about, if not most used, dating site in the world. The concept is straightforward. Users create a profile, usually linked to their Facebook account, using some basic information on their preferences and their location. Their profile then joins the millions of others that users matching those preferences can browse. Tinder's global success rests on its platform--a geolocated app optimised for smartphones. Users indicate their like or dislike of a profile by swiping right or left respectively, and the profile in question is either permanently removed from the person's archives, or matched for conversation and ideally, a real life meeting.
In North America, Tinder has meshed with society's approach to romance and the thirst for instant gratification. Dating is a major way people in Western societies meet their life partners, and for almost as long as there has been the internet at home, there have been sites specialising in facilitating it. In a world in which people want to take studio quality photographs without ever taking a class, it makes sense that they would try to find an approach to dating that eliminates...