Online dating: Breaking social norms in Lebanon

Lebanon has long been seen as a patriarchal society that privileges males. In this context, the rise of social media and the emergence of dating apps defies traditional norms, experts say.
by Yehia El Amine- @YehiaAmine

18 November 2016 | 17:21

Source: by Annahar

A couple smokes a water pipe during sunset on a warm day at Beirut beach, Lebanon January 13, 2016. (Reuters Photo/Jamal Saidi)

BEIRUT: Millions of people around the world use dating applications to overcome social barriers and arrange for quick meetings in their quest to find "the one"; and sometimes simply to enjoy a one-night stand. However, it wasn't until only a few years back that such platforms have gained popularity in Lebanon and the MENA region.

Lebanon has long been seen as a patriarchal society that privileges males. In this context, the rise of social media and the emergence of dating apps defies traditional norms, experts say.

Daoud Ibrahim, a media instructor at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut, says social media has been responsible for shattering many social norms in the MENA region. "Applications such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook make people more comfortable when it comes to sharing their private information and day-to-day activities online for all to see as opposed to the privacy that used to surround the intimate aspects of people's lives," he says.

Ibrahim argues that the fast rise of social media doesn't come as a surprise in a region where people have been prone "to imitate the actions and behaviors of the west." "These applications are not that different from the many things we have taken from them [the West]," he says.

Jad Issa, a 22-year-old marketing student, says dating applications give him control over who he gets to meet and vice versa.

"You create a perfect profile for yourself on the application by putting up your best pictures and building a persona using witty words; and then like everyone else you arrange to meet with someone; if it goes well, you proceed further, and if not you pass on to the next one," Issa said.

For Nancy Maatouk, a 19-year-old business student, online dating is more about facilitating a meeting than having the freedom to choose who to meet. "These applications have made dating less embarrassing for shy people especially since most of our friends are also using them," she says.

"These days there's always so little time to talk and converse with other people, so we all use an application for basically a myriad of services, be it Uber for transportation, LinkedIn for job hunting and Zomato for restaurant reviews, so why not use a dating app?" she asks.

Mirna Mzawak, a sociology instructor at Holy Spirit University in Kaslik, attributes the rise in popularity of dating applications to the widespread embracement of social media. "The internet and social media platforms have rendered us more open to the world around us and to each other, since everything from politics to sports can be viewed on these platforms and dating apps were able to slide under this huge technological wave."

For Nour, a 21-year-old journalism student who uses the dating app Tinder, these applications have become popular due to the proliferation of western and pop culture across the world.

"Lebanon and the region's infatuation with western culture increase the popularity of these platforms," she says.

Natasha Beydoun, a 23-year-old public relations student, who joined online date platforms for a brief period, says that many people are still reluctant to openly discuss the use of such apps with family members for fear of being judged. "They only mention it to their close social circle," she says.

In other instances, parents have given their blessing to relations that started on Tinder and developed into a serious engagement. This was the case for Robert who met his fiance over Tinder.

Ali, a 24-year-old political science student, disagrees. Dating apps can rarely lead to serious relationships. Instead, they are only being used to facilitate sexual relations, he says.

"Dating apps only reveal a person's looks and not the personality behind the pictures posted. The whole idea is based around attraction, you go on these apps and choose potential partners based on what you consider is close to your taste; it's just all based on what you find or don't find physically appealing," he told Annahar.


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