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ON THE PROWL

Online dating has opened a medium for many to find love in the age of no time. Many have been succesful but many have also been harassed, duped, stalked and worse killed

Where do people go to find love these days? A bar and even mutual friends may have been the source for many, but times they are a changing, and people don’t have a moment to spare, trailing around looking for a partner. The digital age gives people a space to do just that, anywhere. But as someone puts it cynically, dating apps have become a place where all ideas of conventional love and relationships go to die.

There certainly are many “success” stories from dating apps. It’s not always used as a means for a one-night stand, but what further tarnishes its reputation are criminal cases stemming from interactions with the strangers you may swipe right on. It has become an easy space for people to be cheated, hurt and abused, mentally and physically.

Anil Kumar admits that there have been instances where his friends have been blackmailed, robbed and he himself the victim of a catfish — a term used to define a person who utilises a fictional persona to lure someone online.

Kumar, a gay man, says that finding a relationship for an LGBT person becomes even more difficult in the real world. The virtual world thus holds the answer for many. But he feels it also allows young boys to be exploited. The latter, “seeking friends and to explore more about their sexuality”, may meet older men looking to exploit this lack of experience. Younger boys, termed “twinks”, someone of “18 or 19 years of age are preferred as they can be taken advantage of”.

Pretty sceptical of these apps, Kumar believes, “You won’t find your soulmate”, even though he knows people in relationships who have met through such platforms. “You can expand your network, sure. But it’s like an empty fridge. You know it’s empty but you’ll keep going back to open it and look inside”.

Apps like Grindr can be misused easily, with people creating fake profiles to dupe users.  The preferred apps are Tinder and even now Instagram – a photo sharing app. Kumar says why people like Instagram now is “you have the whole feed about what their lifestyle is, you have more images you get to know what kind of a person he/she is. You get to classify whose classy and who’s not”.

But Tinder has had its fair share of tales from around the world which speak of dates going horribly wrong. In Delhi, in March, a Delhi University student was killed by the man he had met over Tinder. The accused, allegedly, to mislead investigators tried to portray it as a case of kidnapping, sending images of the gagged and tied 21-year-old to his father.

One possibly needs to be more cautious in the online world on how quickly to pursue a relationship when meeting the person and what information they share.

Things like address, phone number and even place of employment can be used to not just stalk you but also to steal one’s identity. As idtheftcenter.org puts it, “You can find the love of your life on the Internet, but you can also find quite a few frogs and some of those frogs may be after more than your heart”.

One woman, admits that a Tinder date from fours year ago, could have resulted in something worse if she hadn’t been more alert. Rajini had swiped right on a fellow who seemed interesting and shared the same love for animals, as she.

After a week of talking, they decided to meet, but she had made it clear that all she was after was a friendship. Ending up in a bar, she says “he kept insisting I drink more and kept ordering drinks”, what made her warier was when this guy invited his friend to join them, “who was so fucking creepy, it still gives me chills”.

Feeling the need to get out, she made an excuse and went to a bakery next door, which her Tinder friend followed her into. Here is where he made his move. “He asked me what I wanted to eat. He pretended he couldn’t hear and moved so close to my face that he was pushing his face into mine, trying to make out with me.”

Pushing him back, Rajini left the spot and went home. The next day, instead of apologies, he bombarded her with messages, “so proud that we had made out.” That wasn’t the end of it, she started receiving flirty text messages from the creepy friend of the Tinder guy and was even stalked over Facebook.

Her Tinder experience however had a good ending. She met her boyfriend that she’s been with for two years now. Rajini was incidentally his first ever Tinder date and last. “He had to uninstall it after me,” she says happily.
Names have been changed to protect identities