Twenty countries have gotten lucky, India is not one of them, the US is the twentieth. Facebook Dating began rolling out across the world last year, and five days ago it went live in the US, an opt-in service where people will be suggested to you “based on your preferences, interests and other things you do on Facebook” – and you would be likewise suggested to people who have also opted in. The suggestions would not be from your friends circle except you could admit to a Secret Crush; unless the friend also put you on her/his Secret Crush list she/he would never know.
Time will tell if Facebook Dating keeps its promise of privacy or if it pulls ahead of the Tinders of the world. But these finer points aside, humanity is definitely moving towards love by algorithm. India may be moving more slowly than many, which is why Facebook Dating isn’t coming here in a hurry, but it too is surely moving in that direction only. Science fictions are laying out so many scenarios that look fantastic today, but some of them will come true. Consider that twenty years ago the idea of Facebook itself would have been met with incredulity, a virtual space that is more powerful harbor of human relationships than any temple, church or community hall.
In the Netflix drama Love Alarm, inspired by Chon Kye-young’s webtoon with the same name, an app sets off an alarm every time somebody within a 10m radius likes you. In a big university or office it could be any number of people, or even as any number of beeps went up around you your phone screen could be flashing the message, “Nobody within 10m radius loves you.” That could be extremely painful. For some people sadly the alarm may not ring ever, ever. Or you and your colleague could be in the washroom when your alarm went off, thereafter things would turn very awkward between you. You could be violently weirded out by some of the people who ring your bell, so to speak. Or at a wedding everyone but the bride and groom would be asked to turn off their Love Alarm app, but then the much awaited ring would be heard from only one of their two phones, with the entire congregation squirming in sympathy. Within the drama, all of this is not experienced as dystopic, it’s just what it is, like breathing. The younger they are the more organically they adapt.
It’s a version of the future of facial recognition software. Like, there is no hiding your emotions. AI sniffs them out, no matter how embarrassing or dreadful you find that. More than that, in this future you will no longer have the agency of confessing your love, a smartphone app would take over that function. Obviously it is towards such a future that Facebook Dating is taking us, where an algorithm chooses the best possible match for us.
Ring my Love Alarm (Photo by Ranjit Kumar)