Japanese Singles are Weary of Online Dating

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In Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg’s new book Modern Romance, they discuss the disconnect of online dating in Japanese culture. Despite Japan’s adoption of and love for technology, single people still stigmatize online dating.

The reasons are part cultural and part historical. Japanese singles haven’t had a good experience with online dating, historically speaking. In the 1990’s when online dating first hit the singles scene, online dating companies had male members pay per message and also used their female employees as bait, posting their profiles on the dating sites to attract more male users. More recently, fake dating sites have been exposed, with companies using male employees to pose as girls on the sites and charging their male members to talk to them – (obviously, those members never get to the date).

It’s easy to see why Japanese singles are skeptical. But now dating apps have made things a little easier to verify. First, like most dating apps all over the world, users are verified through their Facebook profile, so it’s not easy to create fake accounts. And Japan is really embracing social media, especially after both LinkedIn and Facebook helped families find each other after the 2011 earthquake.

But another interesting trend is happening with Japanese online daters. The culture is rather conservative when it comes to dating – and guys don’t want to be thought of as players. Since dating apps have become synonymous with hook-ups, Japanese - and men especially - are weary to sign up for fearing like they will come across as insincere. So people aren’t really embracing online dating.

In fact, they aren’t dating much at all. Most Japanese singles are much more focused on work, which means working long hours and delaying starting a family. This is also taking a toll on their social lives. A 2014 survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found that 49% of all respondents had not had sex in the past month, and 18% of men said they had no interest in sex at all. On top of this, they face a serious population decline.  According to Business Insider, a 2012 report by Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research shows the number of Japanese people will fall from 127 million to around 87 million by 2060.

Still not everyone is averse to online dating. The country has seen some interesting trends.

Selfies tend to be popular with online dating in most countries, but are looked upon as narcissistic in Japan. Even a photo showing an online dater by herself is frowned upon because Japanese tend to view this as self-centered. Most daters either post photos with a group of friends (so you can’t really identify the person you are meeting), or they post photos of their cats or random objects. One of the weirdest trends among online daters is posting photos of their rice cookers in their profiles, according to Modern Love.

There are definite cultural and practical barriers to get beyond when it comes to online dating in Japan. But as time goes on and it becomes more trust-worthy and mainstream, hopefully singles will embrace it.