The Era of the Digital Biodata: Is Online Dating Keeping us Single?

A few months ago, my relatives from around the country flew in to attend my cousin’s wedding. One afternoon before the wedding, as I was catching up with my relatives and my parents, my aunt asked:

“Now that you’re settled with work, when are you going to get married?”

Here it was—the inevitable question every single, South Asian adult is posed with—often. I took a moment to collect my thoughts, figuring out the most shrewd way to deflect her question.

“Soon, Aunty. I’ve been looking, you know, and trying to find the right person.”

My aunt looked at me and said, “Listen, I know some girls that would be great for you!”

“Aunty, it’s okay, I’ll be fine. Soon enough it will happen,” I replied.

I didn’t need my aunt to put me in touch with other singles because it’s 2018, and dating apps abound. I was already putting myself out there, determined to find a partner on my own terms.

A Shift in Societal Attitudes

Online dating, once assumed to be a “last resort” attempt at finding love, is now extremely common among all age groups. A recent survey estimates 40 percent of Americans use online dating services. A majority of those using online dating platforms are between the ages of 18 to 35.

And unlike its early days, when it was more of a vehicle for casual flings, online dating today is a very real way to find a life partner. In 2015, 20 percent of people surveyed who were in committed relationships said they began online, with 7 percent of couples who got married that year having met online.

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As a South Asian, online dating isn’t too far of a leap from what people in this community know so well as the biodata. You could argue that the biodata has simply gone digital. Whereas parents and relatives once circulated a paper copy of your biodata—essentially a profile detailing your age, career, location, and hobbies—we can do this ourselves online and through apps, comfortably vetting potential interests at a glance.

Even as it’s lost much of its stigma with society, online dating hasn’t made finding love any more natural because there’s no rulebook on online dating.

Blurred Lines and Definitions

Dating in itself can sometimes feel like an unpaid internship, in which you hope your hard work and labor will lead to a long-term position. It’s unclear where the opportunity lead (if anywhere), but you’re in it for the ride, just hoping to gain valuable experience to make your next relationship better if this doesn’t work out.

What’s worse is here’s no clarity about what “dating,” actually means. For some, it’s a long-term relationship, for others it’s not, and for others, yet, it’s somewhere in between. Technology has blurred these lines and definitions even further, with each new advent disrupting our current conventions and introducing new consequences. (Who would’ve thought there was so much meaning in swiping?!) But, when the logistics of meeting someone couldn’t be any easier, why is online dating still so hard?

The Psychology Behind Online Dating Fatigue

In 2004, American Psychologist Dr. Barry Schwartz describes the Paradox of Choice, which argues that too many choices harm human decision making.

As our options increase, we’re more fatigued by them, not liberated. Like when you go to a restaurant where there are so many menu items that you wonder if you should have ordered something else, even if the dish you had was great. That, in a nutshell, is the paradox of choice.

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Research has shown that when we become cognitively overwhelmed, we start to become more careless and neglectful when evaluating our options. This overwhelming feeling is a possible explanation for why, as time goes on, it seems that our matches are less compatible, and conversations fizzle out before a date is ever initiated.

Think about it: If the first date is lackluster, many won’t even bother with a second. We’re too quick to ghost and move onto the next option. After all, with so many other options to choose from, we ultimately spend a little time on a lot of people. We develop an escalation of expectation because we do so much work evaluating our choices, so when the decision we make doesn’t live up to how we imagined it, we’re disappointed.

As a result, we’ve psyched ourselves out of ever “settling” for anything but the absolute best, but at the cost of disposing people and becoming disposable ourselves.

When I found myself single in the era of online dating apps, it seemed like the best way to meet people amidst my busy schedule. I created multiple profiles on all the major apps. At first, it was exciting to see that I had a new match. There was a sense of enthusiasm at the possibilities. I was able to expand my romantic horizons outside of my current social circles and local region.

Over time, some dates led to more, while others were dead ends. As the novelty of the apps started to wear off, I became less motivated to message matches, felt less invested in my conversations, and I grew more likely to cancel dates than before.

With online dating, I felt I had to put myself out there again and again—like no matter how much work I put in, I was still left with nothing. The longer I was on the app, the more apathetic I became. I asked myself, should I quit using the apps if it makes me unhappy or continue swiping in hopes that one day I’ll find my person? Nonetheless, I continued to swipe on, hoping that the tides would turn in my favor.

The Collective Frustration of Cyber Romance

Recently, I met up with a few of my guy friends from college to catch up. They were single and had active profiles on many of the major dating platforms. In sharing my frustrations with the process, I learned I wasn’t alone.

One friend admitted when he initiated a conversation online, he often got no response. Others described how the conversations lacked substance and became draining. They all had a story about a date that went seemingly well, but a lack of adequate communication would lead them to be ghosted for no reason.

My female South Asian friends don’t have much better to share. Many of my friends said that a lot of men would seem confident over the phone, but in person, that chemistry never translated. One friend described how a match was dating both her and her cousin, even after he figured out that both girls were related.

And every girl had harrowing tales of receiving inappropriate, sometimes harassing, messages.

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“Honestly, it’s stressful to put yourself out there. It’s worse when you put yourself out there and have guys attempt to body-shame or slut-shame you for no reason,” one friend told me. “We get harassed going to work, or when we go out, and at other random places, and now not even being online is safe.”

Another one told me this story:

“One guy I was messaging recently wanted to play Truth or Dare. He insisted that it was his way of getting to know me better, I shouldn’t have been that naive, but I played. It was fine at first, but after a few questions he started asking me about my favorite sex position and asked even more disgusting questions.

“Online dating makes me feel like it’s a game for men. Like because you’re behind a screen, you can say whatever you want? A lot of the people I match with online are not gentlemen at all.”

Although harassment in any form is never OK, online or otherwise, it’s arguable that online dating creates an environment with loose rules of social conduct, making it all that much easier for creeps to thrive, unfortunately.

Whatever the case, problems with communication seem to be the common thread between men and women. My female friends complained about guys they were seeing leading them to believe they wanted a relationship, when, in reality, they wanted a casual hook-up. Many of the guys, on the other hand, felt that there was a lot of pressure to either label the relationship or be exclusive in the early stages, sometimes souring the relationship altogether.

Dating Forward

I certainly won’t argue that dating apps are the only way to find everlasting love in our modern era or that using apps will always be a pleasant experience. Online dating apps have delivered on their promise which is to pair you up with eligible singles quickly and easily.

What we (and aunties) have to remember is that using an online dating service doesn’t lessen the time it takes to build a relationship. Dating has always been difficult because human beings are complicated. Evaluating someone’s potential as a life partner over the course of one date or over a few text messages isn’t enough. In dating, getting to know someone is a process that requires persistence, patience, and communication. Technology might match us to our soulmate, but it cannot change the way we fall in love.

As for myself, rather than spending my free moments swiping and searching for the next best match, I’ve decided to be more mindful of how I use online dating apps. So, until the right person comes around, I’m sure my aunt would be happy to know that I’m still here actively looking with my digital biodata.

By Steven Jacob

Steven Jacob hopes to help others gain insight by starting a dialogue on the issues that affect millennials. His writing … Read more ›

Moving on After Breaking up With Your Cat

“Take what you want//Take everything” reflects on a time with my partner and our cat, Layla. It’s a retelling of the chaotic night I adopted her. I didn’t know why Layla hid from me. When I chased her around, it scared her more. “Take what you want//Take everything” juxtaposes our first night, filled with misunderstanding, with the rest of the time we spent together. My fond memories call back to the loving moments Layla and I shared.

Such memories defined us; they reverberated in my partnership. I wonder if my partner, like Layla, only remembers her fear of me, over our shared moments of love. The title, a Kanye West lyric, is an acknowledgment that their happiness together–without me–destroyed my sense of self. When I see their photos, I wonder if I can see myself reflected in their eyes. I wonder if they still keep kind moments of our time together.

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Take what you want//Take everything

I remember when she would look at me from behind a laundry basket.

A small simple cat with green owl eyes. She was afraid of her new home and its owner. Shit, I remember the night I got her, she hid under my bed, in the middle just out of my reach for maybe 6 hours, watching me. She didn’t eat anything the entire day. When the night fell I was afraid she’d starve or come out and attack me. I was just scared. I didn’t have a childhood pet, I’m not white, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up the whole bed and yelled that she needed to move. I chased her into the closet with a vacuum cleaner. When she ran in, I called my lover and yelled to her that she wasn’t helping enough, she needed to be there to help me. That was our first day together, me and that cat. No one will ever have that memory but me and maybe her.

It was during Ramadan, my first year fasting.

Our problems had already begun by then. Enough so that I decided to fast and show retribution. I’d try to change into a more patient and understanding self. Like the Prophet (SAW) I guess. To become someone that my lover could feel safe around. Somehow, getting a cat felt like it fit into that picture. I’d be a cat dad, you know, gentle. We’d raise her. I’d fast and become New Again. Maybe I’d wrap an inked tasbih around myself and show I’m a man of God.

I don’t know how a cat remembers fear any more than I know how a lover does.

I know her body stored it. My cat’s must have stored it too. That first night, I wish I could tell her that I was afraid too. It doesn’t make sense that I was afraid really — I’m bigger, more threatening. We don’t speak the same language anyway, so how could I ever tell her? She learned to trust me though, in her own way. Her small bean paws would press on my chest in the mornings. She’d meow to berate me for locking her out some nights, or when I was away from home too long.

She lives with my lover now. They share photos with me, they’re happy together.

I saw my lover once, it was on 55th and 7th, Broadway shined blue performance lights over us. She wore a red sacral dress. She said her mental health has never been better. I think she was trying to tell me that she’s doing well, because she knows I care for her. I don’t think she was trying to say she’s happier without me. We don’t speak the same language. I actually think they are happier with just each other. And I loved them both, so it hurts. Sometimes, not all the time. And it doesn’t always hurt that bad. Other times it does get pretty bad, though. I probably owe it to myself to say that.

I look back at the photos, the ones of our life together, and the ones of their new life.

Two green owl eyes, and two brown moonlit eyes. I look for myself in them.

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By Umrao Shaan

Umrao Shaan is a short storyist, poet, and ghazals singer. You can find his songs on his Instagram. His other … Read more ›

In Conversation with Karan Singh: CEO of the Sunburn Music Festival

Karan Singh Sunburn
Karan Singh Sunburn

From receiving his MBA from Harvard business school to being the CEO of Asia’s largest music festival brand Sunburn, Karan Singh combined his interests to push his passion for music! Singh received his bachelor’s degree in management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He worked as an investment banker for three years at Ambit Corporate Finance before working at Sunburn which is a part of his family’s business. Sunburn started providing the music festival experience starting in the year 2007. The first festival was in Candolim, Goa. The music festival brand has put on over 5,000 events over the past 15 years. In 2022 The Sunburn Festival will be in it’s 16th year. Continue reading to learn more about Karan Singh’s journey with the Sunburn music festival!

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What does the Sunburn brand offer and what made you have the festival in Goa as opposed to other parts of India?

We believe that Sunburn offers a really unique experience and is a melting pot of diverse people & cultures from not only across India but around the world. Goa is the ideal setting for this as there is something magical about Goa in the winter-time and truly enables us to tap into that global audience.

Safety at live events has always been a concern among concert goers. Considering recent, events more individuals have asked brands and artists to do more to ensure audience safety. What are you doing to ensure safety for live concerts?

Safety is a huge priority for us. We work with the best-in-class security agencies as well as closely with the police and requisite authorities. For anyone in the crowd a Sunburn safety officer will always be close by and easily visible. We also run an awareness drive on both social media and on ground.

What was the first Sunburn Festival like and what did you learn from this experience?

The first ever Sunburn Festival was in December 2007, and I had actually attended it as a fan, not part of the crew. However, it was absolutely eye-opening as the first proper music festival on Indian shores and opened up our minds to a world of possibilities.

As Sunburn houses so many electronic dance musicians who have been your favorites throughout the years?

It is difficult to pick from the list however the favorites for Sunburn, in no order and because of the amount of love they have shown Indian audiences, are Martin Garrix, DJ Snake, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell and Armin van Buuren.

Do you plan to expand the festival to add other genres into the mix as well as more activities?

We have already expanded into different formats like Arena, Campus, Club, Reload and things like merchandize & academy. In terms of genres, we have been dabbling with genres like rap, hip-hop and pop, however our focus remains on electronic dance music.

What can someone expect from the festival as first-time goers?

Apart from a state-of-the-art production & line-up, one can expect a special experience, meeting interesting people from all over the world, and embarking on a creative journey of the theme for the year.

How does the festival help local musicians from Goa as well as the surrounding areas in India?

This year we had set up for the first time a special stage and village in the festival only for Goa which gave a platform to local Goan artists. But beyond that a huge focus for us has always been to showcase domestic home-grown talent and indeed 60-70% of the line-up each year is locally sourced.

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A post shared by Martin Garrix (@martingarrix)

What was the experience like this year in 2022 and how is it different from previous years?

The biggest difference was that this was the first time the festival was back to its full scale since the pandemic hit after 3 long years. It was a fantastic release for everyone there. Our theme was “the future is now” and this was reflected across the festival experience and particularly in the main stage design – termed “Cyberpunk City” which received rave reviews from all.

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What was it like having the legends Black Coffee and Afrojack this year as well as the DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike?

Afrojack and DVLM are both Sunburn & India veterans, it was amazing having them back crushing the main stage after very long. Black Coffee for us was something very new and exciting, to have a special artist and a unique sound like that close the main stage on day 2. However it was very well-received and took our experience to the next level.

As you have had the artist Avicii back in December 2011 how do you feel he revolutionized Electronic Dance Music?

Avicii is one of my all-time favorite artists and his show in December 2011 was actually my first one working on Sunburn so will always be extra special. There is no doubt that he revolutionized EDM by taking massive risks and introducing an entirely new sound which a lot of others then followed, but no one as well as he did.

How does it feel to be in charge of one of Asia’s biggest Electronic Dance Music Festivals?

It feels great, we have a very young but ambitious and hard-working team and our primary focus is to continue delivering the best possible experiences for our fans, artists and partners. India is such a vibrant and exciting market that I cannot help but be pumped about what the future holds.

Do you feel Electronic Dance Music is a misunderstood genre?

More so in a country like India possibly yes, where people who are not exposed to these experiences sometimes have preconceived notions about EDM festivals and the like. Oftentimes those people are also in a decision-making capacity and can directly affect the industry. However, things are certainly improving as the industry overall gets bigger and gets more acceptance.

What does music mean to you, Karan Singh?

Music provides a sound-track to life, it is something which is always there!

How do you choose to react when you receive negative comments about the Sunburn Festival?

Well, you have to be able to differentiate between those which are just trolling and those which are constructive or fair criticism. The latter is very important as it helps us to look at ourselves and continually improve, we are still a long way from where we eventually want to be.

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?

I hope it allows us at Sunburn to reach a wider audience of the desi community around the world and hopefully get some more people to fly down to Goa for Sunburn Festival 2023 which I can promise you all will be the best one yet!

Artist Testimonials:

Dimitri Vegas Like Mike

We have had a long connection with India. The first time we played here was more than a decade ago. Going from clubs to being a regular feature at one of Asia’s biggest electronic music festivals which is now an institution in itself. It’s been an exciting evolution to see how Sunburn has grown over the years. The fans at Sunburn are some of the most insane and every show is a special one. We’ve always had an incredible experience at Sunburn.

DJ Snake

Honestly, the energy I feel when I am in India is one of the most amazing things. I would say the culture and energy is what keeps me coming back! India is like a second home to me, just like Sunburn. I feel so comfortable and welcomed here. I’m always excited about coming to India and playing at Sunburn, experiencing new cities, meeting more of the people, hearing more of the music, and seeing more of the country that has influenced me so much.


Sunburn has helped dance music artists world over to tour India and connect with their Indian fans and I’m always excited about performing at the festival.


I’ve a long history with the Sunburn team. They are a great team to work with and they also give the fans amazing experiences. As an artist, I want to be a part of providing fans with lifelong memories and so we all share the same vision.

Alan Walker

Sunburn is one of the pioneers of the dance music festival scene in India and has been instrumental in creating a truly world class platform that supports the dance music industry and all of its stakeholders. I’m always excited about touring India with Sunburn.

Photo Courtesy of DNH Media

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›

Reflection Comes From Within, not From Others

“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.

I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.

We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!

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Confessions to a Moonless Sky

Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.

If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.

But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.

[Read Related: ‘headspun’ — Bengali Muslim Boy’s Poetic Journey Through Himself]

By Umrao Shaan

Umrao Shaan is a short storyist, poet, and ghazals singer. You can find his songs on his Instagram. His other … Read more ›