Kenyans on Tinder: Love in the technology age

In Summary

• The dating app allows you to connect with virtual strangers and ‘match’ with them based on very little information. 

Dating apps.
Dating apps.

“Why did you Join Tinder?”

I find myself having to answer this question a lot when the company I’m with sees a notification pop up on my phone (as I have not yet figured out how to silence the app).

Well, to put it simply: I was tired of only having options in the same old circles. You find a nice person at a social gathering and chances are,you will be connected to at least two people—and I’m being modest when I say two—that they have been involved with. The levels of connection may vary but the fact that Nairobi is a really small city does not.


The dating app allows you to connect with virtual strangers and ‘match’ with them based on very little information. They might have only availed their first name, age, location, job title or university and a few sentences in their bio if they please. What people go on mostly is photos. If you like what you see, you swipe right and hope the other person does the same, as that will result in a ‘match’. A conversation may begin and who knows what blooms from there.

I figured Westerners have plenty of success stories when it comes to dating apps, so why would thatnot apply here? I mean, the app combines the need for humans to have intimate relationships and the use of internet. Two things that Nairobi folk and probably Kenyans in general, tend to devote a lot of their time to.

“Are you not worried?”

It is true; the concerns are many and valid.

You may fall into the trap of a Sugar Daddy or the less pleasing to the ear: Sponsor. If you have lived in Kenya for the past three years, read the news and have a twitter account, you know why this is a point to be scared on.

There is also the risk of finding someone’s married parent or worse perhaps, a friend’s spouse on the site and having to battle with yourself over what to do with that information.

Then again, these things have been happening long before the existence of dating apps.It’s not like married men at bars wear their wedding rings and for many brazen ones, wedding rings are not a sufficient deterrent.


One would need to exercise the same caution (and wisdom) on this digital platform as they would in the ‘real world’. If you plan on meeting up with one of your matches, ensure it is in a public place and you have informed at least a friend or two.

What if someone you know sees you on there?”

Firstly, I personally think as a country, we are past the point of a dating app being taboo. Secondly, that is why I am on the app: to be found or to find someone.

Some may be a little ashamed of having their family members or colleagues stumble across their profile and assume one of the many stereotypes of Tinder, i.e. that one is desperate to find a life partner and has given up on the traditional methods.

Well, someone can only find you on the app if they already have a profile on there too. Therefore, this may be a situation of the pot calling the kettle black.

For the bashful people out there, it may please you to know that one can also not search for you on the platform, as you would do on Facebook or Instagram. And as for the assumptions of desperation, with the way the feminist movement seems to be shaping Kenya; the pressure to settle down and start having children as soon as possible is rapidly declining.

“Has it been successful for you?”

Eh, si you relax?

As much as that is what I want to respond, I have to give people some hope in the app. It has been successful in starting many friendships, as not everyone on the platform is looking for something physical or serious.

You will find a majority of expatriates looking for somebody to show them around our beautiful city, people looking for others to share in their passions and hobbies such as hiking or mountain climbing and of course, you will find those looking for ‘something casual’ or ‘long-term relationships’.

My expectations so far have been lived up to. It has only been a couple of months though, so who knows what the future holds. I might be writing about my wedding in Venice on the next article. Fingers crossed.

Ivy writes on various lifestyle issues for the Star and on her blog