Match Making: Traditional vs Modern Modus Operandi
Arranged marriages are commonplace in India and even though instances of couples marrying for love are growing, especially in urban areas, 90% of all marriages in the country are still arranged.
On August 31st, National Matchmaker Day honours romantics whose dauntless pursuit of perfect purchase for cupid’s arrow results in lasting love stories.
Playing matchmaker requires a bit of social savvy. It also requires the ability to listen and timing. They know each friends’ habits (good and bad), passions, and hobbies. When there is a spark, even when the prospective couple is painfully unaware, the matchmaker knows.
While a matchmaker isn’t always successful, her (or his) heart is certainly in the right place! It is all about love, after all. Even the success stories can be quite entertaining and National Matchmaker Day celebrates them all: Awkward blind dates; Miscommunications; All of it!
Traditionally, matchmaking has been the job of family priests, relatives, and neighborhood aunties. Parents also trawl through matrimonial columns in newspapers to find a suitable match for their children.
Over the years, thousands of professional matchmakers and hundreds of matrimonial websites have joined the hunt.
But what has come as a surprise to many here is that affluent, successful, independent Indian-Americans are also willing to try ‘methods from the past’ and rely on the wisdom of someone to find them a match. Many of them also come with long shopping lists that include caste and religious preferences.
"As an educated, liberal, middle-class Indian woman who does not view marriage as an essential part of life, I watched Indian Matchmaking like an outsider looking in on an alien world," journalist and film critic Anna MM Vetticad told the BBC.
Arranged marriages, she says, are "a practical Indian version of the dating game in the West and to that extent, this show can be educational since it does not condescendingly suggest that one is a more modern practice than the other."
Ms. Vetticad describes Indian Matchmaking as "occasionally insightful" and says "parts of it are hilarious because Ms. Taparia's clients are such characters and she herself is so unaware of her own regressive mindset".
But an absence of caveats, she says, makes it "problematic".
Online dating, meanwhile, transitioned from something most Internet users considered to be a dangerous hobby for cheating spouses to a mainstream activity. According to a recent Pew study, almost half of the public knows someone who uses online dating or who has met a spouse or partner that way, and one in five adults between the ages of 25 and 34 has participated in online dating themselves.
As online dating has become socially acceptable and widespread, niche apps have paired couples according to everything from music taste to travel plans. Some, like the League, cater to certain demographics. Others, like Once and Coffee Meets Bagel, intentionally limit the “always on the prowl” effect by allowing users to access a limited number of profiles each day.
Though nobody keeps stats on the topic, matchmaking seems to have simultaneously grown into a niche within this shifting, technology-assisted dating landscape. A trade group called the Matchmakers Alliance, founded in 2012 has about 150 members, who must each be referred by an existing member. “I started my business when there weren’t many matchmaking business,” says Maria Avgitidis, the founder of Agape Match in New York City and a co-founder of the Matchmakers Alliance. “Now when I Google them, I’m like, holy crap, there are hundreds of them.” Avgitidis says her clientele has also changed. Seven years ago, when she founded Agape, they were mostly between the ages of 38 and 55. Now, she says, she has many clients as young as 28. “As online dating is becoming normalized,” she says, “it’s driving up these niche apps and, at the same time, matchmaking.”
People who are older than millennials know something millennials and those younger than them may not know. They know what life was like before the Internet. To be more specific, they know that there was a time when every couple met in the real world, not online. In a bygone era, matchmaking happened exclusively through middle-aged and aged women and men who made it their business to find others, wives, and husbands. They were good at what they did because they kept their ears to the ground and knew the state of unmarried men and women. Using this knowledge, they found people their soulmate or spouse. This was an unofficial but old profession.
Just because the Internet has permeated every aspect of life doesn’t mean traditional matchmakers have gone out of business. Today, despite competition from online matchmakers, traditional matchmakers are thriving. To the majority of Indians, they remain the preferred way to find a suitable spouse. However, since online dating has become prevalent, it needs to be examined, which is better, online, or traditional matchmaking? While one cannot definitively be proven to be better than the other because preferences wary, online matchmaking has some clear advantages.
If there is one thing traditional matchmakers excel at it is knowing the good, bad, and ugly about most people in their circle. They know who is having an affair with whom, which man has a drinking problem and difficulty holding a job, and much more. People looking for love online don’t advertise such faults. Online profiles present the best aspect of a person while matchmakers know both the wholesome and the seedier side of unmarried men and women.
Yet this isn’t doesn’t mean that traditional matchmakers are better at helping people find love. When finding love through traditional matchmakers, potential grooms and brides learn about the quirks of possible matches, yet the information that reaches them is mostly distilled. Matchmakers have their agenda, and often it can center on ensuring a certain man or woman who is best suited for someone, gets married to another. Therefore, a young woman with eyes set on a certain man may be kept away from him by a matchmaker.
The advantage of using an online service is it is more relevant for the person looking for love. Everyone knows that online profiles are somewhat embellished, but this can be advantageous. Profiles that seem grounded are likely to belong to more authentic people. Hence by initiating contact with such people, a man or woman has a better chance of finding true love.
Even more importantly, in an increasingly individualistic society, people must grow up and make their own decision. In such communities, people should have the maturity to decide who is right for them and not be told so by matchmakers. The person a man or woman marries must be right for them, and a middleman has no right to interfere in their decision. For this reason, young independent men and women do better by finding love online.
A traditional matchmaker at most knows a few dozen eligible men and women. Hence the pool of potential suitors they grant access to is small. Online, the pool is vast, far more than is available with a dozen traditional matchmakers. Furthermore, online profiles give insights into the likes and dislikes of people. People looking for a partner have access to a potential life companion’s likes and dislikes and hence find it easier to be paired with a compatible person. The trained eye can spot online profiles that speak to them, making finding love online even easier than in the real world.
Some may argue that finding love online has advantages like, when going through matchmakers, one may almost feel they are being coerced to marry someone. As mentioned before, matchmakers always have a hidden agenda.
Finding love online is ideal for those who value their independence and are confident. They can make the first move and then decide whether they do or don’t want to take their online relationship offline.
By interacting online with many people, men and women have a vast pool to choose from and access to information to help them decide who is Mr or Mrs Right. The smartest and most independent know what it means when someone posts certain comments online.
Such giveaways help them decide whether someone is as genuine as they project themselves to be. They help determine who is a suitable lover and partner and who isn’t. Furthermore, as more and more people spend as much time online as offline, finding love online is a better option.
What makes searching for love online best is that algorithms used by dating sites are far better at matching couples than even a truthful matchmaker if indeed they exist who have others’ best interest at heart.
This fact makes finding love online win hand downs compared to traditional matchmakers. Though sometimes matchmakers get it wrong and match people that ultimately are not happy with each other and therefore they go on extramarital dating websites to find a better choice for themselves.
Different religions and cultures have had different types of matchmakers. Some people, for example, assigned astrologers the dual role of serving as matchmakers since they believed that stars sanctify the matches that parents arrange.
No wonder then, over time, matchmaking became a respectable profession, with those who managed to arrange successful matches walking off with their fair share of gold coins (or US dollars). Now, in an age of information technology, traditional matchmakers find themselves competing against websites and online dating services. In Singapore, a government-sponsored system providing professional counsel and dating technologies is available to the public.
Changing gender dynamics aside, matchmaking has become trickier owing to new communications technologies. But endless trysts on Facebook, online chatting, or even dating cannot ensure that a couple truly knows each other.
The truth is, matchmaking has never been an exact science because people have the tendency to evolve. In the end, the success of marriage boils down to destiny and how hard the couple is willing to work on their marriage.