To be, or not to be...on a dating app, is no longer the question. With the stigma around online dating reducing, more and more Singaporeans are exploring the digital world for companionship.

A few swipes and you have more chances of meeting someone than depending on your nosy Auntie to set you up with her dream girl/guy.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, there is a special emphasis on spending it with the one. But in an ever busy and bustling city of 6 million people, are online dating apps helping Singaporeans find the special someone?

To this end, Milieu surveyed 1995 respondents, representative of Singapore’s population in terms of age and gender, to find out how Singaporeans navigate the complex world of online dating to find meaningful relationships.

The answer is not as easy as swiping.

Online or Offline: Where is the Ideal Love?

Of the 1995 people surveyed, 42% stated that they have used online dating apps at some point.

Generally, Singaporeans are not averse to online dating. But neither is it their most preferred way of meeting someone.

While majority men (64%) are open to both online and offline hunting grounds, women are more evenly divided with one half stating they have no preference between the two (49%) and the other half firmly stating that they would prefer finding someone offline (48%).

Most Singaporeans who are looking for love revealed that they prefer to either get to know someone from work or school (33%) or to advance from being ‘just friends’ to ‘the special one’ with someone they already know, be it an acquaintance or a friend (32%).

While the heart may still yearn for old-school, organic romance, the reality is that dating applications, dubbed the ‘modern-day Cupid’, have been paramount in helping busy Singaporeans find romance. They significantly shorten the amount of time needed to filter through traits and characteristics that one would like in their partner.

So it’s not surprising that more than half of the respondents revealed that they know of someone who is in a long-term relationship with someone they met via a dating app.

The Gender Divide: Quantity vs Quality

Among respondents who use dating apps, Tinder is by far the most used (71%) followed by Coffee Meets Bagel (42%) and OkCupid (39%).

However, interesting gender differences appear when asked about their favourite apps.

For male respondents, Tinder takes the top spot with 26% votes, followed by Coffee Meets Bagel (18%) and OkCupid (14%). Top reasons that work in Tinder’s favour are ‘ease of use’ (63%) and that it ‘gives more matches’ (45%). In other words, it’s fast, easy, and yields maximum results.

When it comes to women, it’s less about the number game, more about quality. Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) takes the lead over Tinder and OkCupid, with 25% of females voting for CMB as their favourite. Compared to other dating apps, CMB ‘feels more trustworthy and secure’ (66%) and people using it are ‘able to have more genuine connections’ (60%).

A look at the algorithms of Tinder vs CMB and the gendered results make sense. While Tinder provides unlimited matches a day mainly via a quick glance at photos, CMB provides only one match a day based on detailed profiling. Not very different from how evolutionary biology explains gender differences in mating selection, eh?

Beyond Just Love and Lust

Dating apps are often seen in extremes. They either earn the reputation of being the go-to place for a frivolous fling, or the last hope in your quest to walk down the aisle. There’s no in-between.

Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to see that the top reason for using dating apps, irrespective of gender, is ‘to make new friends’ (61%). Somewhere above, the German philosopher Nietzsche is nodding in agreement as he believed that romantic love is fleeting, and the strongest form of human bond is friendship.

Philosophy aside, with so much of one’s time revolving around work and with friends often getting busy in their own lives, dating apps are becoming a great way of expanding one's social circle. 49% even stated reasons like ‘just to talk to someone online’.

It was also interesting to see the need for meaningful and longer-lasting connections out-ranked the more frivolous ones. The second most popular reason is to ‘look for long-term romantic partners’ (59%). 'Finding a partner for marriage' are also goals for many of those who use dating apps (45%).

Casual Relationships: The Expected Gender Divide

The gender divide in motivations for using dating apps was more stark for the casual reasons.

When we look at the gender split within each motivation, compared to women, men are more likely to use dating apps for hook-ups (79% vs 21%), casual relationships (68% vs 32%) and sugar dating (74% vs 26%). The divide is less stark for friendship and long-term relationship. In general, men are maximising while women are optimising.

The Endgame

For those looking for long-term relationships, the success rate towards a happily-ever-after (measured by conversion to engagement or marriage) is at 11%. An impressive 21% also indicated that they have been in a relationship with someone they met online for more than a year.

This is not bad at all and the results are bound to improve. Online dating is no longer associated with ‘sleaze’ and is now less frowned upon by elders. People have instead begun to see dating apps in a positive light — 63% of respondents indicated that they think online dating is perceived more positively now as compared to before.

With myriad dating apps springing up in Singapore, using dating apps will only become more commonplace, and you might just find the one - or perhaps even better, a good company in a friend - just in time for Valentine’s Day!