Setipe Co-Founder on Social Media, Self-Esteem, and Online Dating in Indonesia

Since moving back to Indonesia 4 years ago I started to mention “online dating” whenever appropriate in general conversations with friends, family and people I meet. I can say so far I’ve gotten quite a sense of why they are apprehensive to try it.

The typical response is:
1. How do you know people are telling the truth?
2. It doesn’t seem safe.
3. I’m not that desperate.
4. It seems sleazy.

The reasons are valid. People tend to stretch the truth about themselves online, Indonesia is a hot bed of SMS phishing scams, and the general dating sites we’ve seen locally do not exude professionalism or they tend to hit niche markets like “white guy meets local girl” type action. It doesn’t help that the number one activity on the net probably involves porn.

With the current situation there is likely a majority of two types of people using online dating in Indonesia, i.e.:
1. desperate with nothing to lose or
2. self-assured and publicly ready to defend their reasons for using it.

Unfortunately when the majority in the market hails from two extreme positions such as this it doesn’t make for the greatest matchmaking pool. What about the majority of people who are online in Indonesia unwilling to make the jump?

Social Media Behaviour
Indonesia is at the top of many lists for users in popular social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Path, Line and Instagram. In it we are open about the things we do on a daily basis. Personally I find people here tend to over-share (seriously, I don’t care how many kilometers you ran this morning or how fat your steak looked). We have mostly shared great content originating from elsewhere. The local memes also tend to coincide with marketing events (is it a coincidence that Thor memes are popping up just as the movie is opening this month)?

So, with that much public sharing online, why hasn’t online dating taken off?

Self-Esteem Issues
If you talk to any social media “expert” (probably charging you an hourly rate) they’ll tell you that sharing tends to occur when your content makes the person sharing it look good. Whether it makes them seem funny, smart or nice  –it’s this angle that makes people share, like and tweet. It is open to debate but my personal belief is that over-sharing occurs to compensate the lack of excitement they’re experiencing offline. Their online persona is in many cases an outlet for what they are not getting recognition for offline. This high social media activity can therefore be partially attributed to low self-esteem.

Would someone trying very hard to maintain an impeccable online persona admit to using an online dating service?

As someone launching an online dating site in the local market I could either work to make online dating cool (unlikely in the near future) or I can make the experience as private as if not going online at all. I therefore decided on a model that match-makes people (no member searching, cataloging, or public view) and ensure that efforts to find a long term partner do not interfere with people’s online persona. The other things I focused on was to ensure we put substantial effort into making the service credible and serve an under-serviced market: online dating to find a healthy long term relationship.

I see this effort as a bridge to bring the online majority to consider online as a viable option to find love and to continually plant the idea that online is not just for social media –there are many credible services that help people solve problems, including but not limited to loneliness.

Razi Thalib has been working in digital media for the last decade. He currently runs a digital management consultancy bbda.co.id and started an online dating site called setipe.com; previously he lead digital product management and marketing at Zalora Indonesia. You can read his brain farts on twitter @RaziThalib but he recommends instead that you get back to work!

[header image from Shutterstock]

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