Will mobile apps and internet ever be able to compete with traditional matchmaking?" />

Tinder vs Toynder: why can’t a popular dating app take root in Azerbaijan?

Will mobile apps and internet ever be able to compete with traditional matchmaking?

“Sorry, couldn’t answer your phone call. I was talking to a girl who I met just recently,” Huseyn boasted casually.
“Well, congratulations then. And how did you meet?” 
“On Tinder.”

It is commonly believed that one can start a romantic relationship in Baku at work, while studying, on Facebook, on a trip, in a queue at a dentist, even in a traffic jam on Gagarin Bridge. to put it short, everywhere except for Tinder.

Tinder is a mobile dating app with geolocation matching, i.e., it matches you with people who are within a relatively close distance to you (within a range of 100km).

The prototype of this app was Grindr, intended for gays and lesbians. However, later, heterosexuals decided to put an end to that discrimination.

Tinder is a very popular app in the West. It is used by both adventure-seekers and more serious individuals, dreaming about big and pure love. And there are plenty of children, whose parents met each other that way.

But it’s not the West.

Some people are simply unaware that Tinder is available in Azerbaijan. And when they learn about it, they are very skeptical about this option. Many perceive the Azerbaijani segment of Tinder as a kind of a dark alley, inhabited by thugs of both sexes.

Where does this attitude come from? Perhaps it could be explained by the fact that it’s somehow uncustomary to show off one’s intention to start dating someone in Azerbaijan. Moreover, to openly declare about it on the Internet. It is believed that only sexually obsessed men and easily suggestible women are engaged in it. Consequently, even those who don’t tend to think in terms of clichés, in principle, still don’t believe that one can meet anyone ‘normal’ on Tinder.

I had to conduct an investigatory experiment so as to gain an insight into whether Tinder is really as terrible as it is portrayed. And let that unknown Turkish girl, whose photo I used for this purpose, forgive me. Zeus knows, it was all for science’s sake.

An investigatory experiment 

Tinder’s undeniable advantage is that only those who you personally approve, can write you in private, and vice versa.

On the other hand, the system is far from being user-friendly.

Having downloaded the app on your phone and undergone registration, you set the search criteria (gender, age and permissible distance). Then the program ‘recommends’ a pile of photos of people, whom you, theoretically, may be interested in. Some photos are accompanied by brief info. You ‘flip’ through them and ‘Like’ a person who appeals to you most. If that person also ‘Likes’ you in return, a choir of angels will sing in heaven and the chat gates will open for you two. Now you can exchange messages, get to know each other better, schedule a date etc.

A 5-minute communication is usually enough to make a preliminary conclusion on how adequate and acceptable a ‘candidate’ is.

Though, if you take the liberty of being sort of categorical, then even a few seconds will suffice. At the same time, you can break your head over all sorts of sidesplitting issues. For example, why do so many people write ‘how are you’ without putting a question mark?

A good few men represented in the ‘Azerbaijani’ Tinder are foreigners: students, expats and travelers, flung away to Azerbaijan either by a twist of fate or by bosses, apparently languishing here in loneliness. They have obviously brought the habit of using Tinder along with them.

Another part is from the local contingent. Frankly speaking, most of those applications cause a great desire to ‘unsee’ that as soon as possible. By the way, what do you think the men, who put photos with kids (obviously their own) as a ‘pickup’, are guided by? Do they demonstrate that they are loving fathers or warn that half of their salary will go to alimony? Those who are photographed embracing cars seem to be great strategists compared to such a background.

In fairness, it must be said that you can come across some decent characters, too. They are polite, quite intelligent, rational and handsome. In fact, availability of such people has conditioned termination of this experiment.

One day was more than enough for me. Afterwards I just shamefully escaped, having deleted my account and erased my fingerprints. However, as is always the case, my conscience began to prink me in the most inappropriate moment, not allowing me to fool the innocent people. Secondly, I experienced a certain fit of agoraphobia and misanthropy, caused by so many faces. And also, that Turkish woman was throwing unkind looks, promising to come to me in the nightmares.

Eyewitness testimony 

A few weeks passed after the conversation with Huseyn. During that period he managed to meet his mysterious stranger, take a liking to her and even break up with her. That’s because the stranger was too mysterious and had a nasty habit of ‘disappearing’ for quite long, which suggested that Huseyn was hardly the only one for her. Nevertheless, he still perceived Tinder as a prospective and reliable way of finding a match:

The good thing about it is that only those who like each other can exchange messages. In addition, when you try to get acquainted with a girl, for example, on Facebook, there is always the chance that she isn’t looking for anything at all. As for Tinder, it presents exactly those who aim to date.

However, Huseyn seems to be the only one who got lucky with Tinder. The rest of my respondents compared their Tinder-experience with a visit to a tax agency:

Anar, 30: “To be honest, there is a rather unsavory public there. That’s probably because the culture of gender relationship is poorly developed in Azerbaijan. And that has a serious impact on online dating.”
Orhan, 25: “A pretty girl won’t be looking for a guy on the Internet. Only ugly or stupid girls are registered on Tinder in Baku.”
Murad, 32: “I can’t understand – why do local girls register on Tinder if they almost never communicate?”
Chingiz, 43: “There aren’t any normal girls on Tinder’s Baku segment. Part of them register to sell themselves out, while others view it as a place for marriage.”

Women haven’t been positive about Tinder either:

Samira, 31: “I convinced my sister to register there and regretted it a hundred times. She was offered sex all the time from the very first lines.”
Gunel, 27: “My friend and I registered there once. We had some fun for 5 minutes, but then it was no longer funny, there wasn’t a single bright person there.”
Lala, 29: “I tried to use this app, but in vain. I think it’s an absolutely useless thing.”
Aysel, 26: “I successfully used Tinder when I lived in Europe, but I won’t dare use it in Baku. I guess it’s horrible.”
Medina, 30: “I have nothing against online dating. But personally I regard it as something unnatural and a sign of complete despair.”

A vicious circle

At the same time, many respondents admit that they have a need for a platform for virtual dating. However, none of the available ones can strike roots on Azerbaijani soil, except, probably, for Facebook, which, though not specifically designed for these purposes, quite successfully serves them. And maybe that’s why it serves them, because it wasn’t initially intended for them.

The fate of purposeful online dating in Azerbaijan has been sour, in general, since primitive dial-up times. It all began with the ‘Mamba’ website, which, at the dawn of its appearance, was at least used for its intended purpose. However, it turned into a sexual service market over time. And maybe Tinder is vigorously following the same path.

Women avoid it, because they are afraid of coming across some inadequate people or being taken for being women of easy virtue.

As for men, they are afraid of being mistakenly taken for those very inadequate guys and run into the women of easy virtue. It’s a vicious circle.

It should also be taken into account that there is a huge gap between, so to say, ‘conservative’ and ‘modern’ youth in Baku. It will never occur to the first ones to look for a serious relationship on the internet. For example, relatives’ weddings may serve for that purpose. As one of our respondents joked: ‘The Azerbaijani version of Tinder is Toynder’ (from the Azerbaijani ‘toy’ – ‘wedding’).

Happy end

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Irada, 37, was straying away from men and avoided starting any relationships. Once her friend urged her to register on Tinder.

At first I was hesitant. Besides, everyone said that Tinder was just for a one-night-stand. But that very friend of mine convinced me that one may come across some indecent proposals everywhere, and that it all depends on how you position yourself. So, I risked it. Though, it’s true that I didn’t even consider Azerbaijani candidates. I put ‘Like’s only to foreigners’. And I met two absolutely wonderful men – a Turk and a Colombian. Both of them were Intelligent, handsome, well-educated and looking for a serious relationship. The hardest task was to choose between them. I don’t know, maybe I just had a stroke of luck and that it was an isolated case. But, one way or another, it seems to me that online dating is no inferior to any others. Its not silly at all. It’s silly to deprive oneself of a chance to meet your love.”

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