Technology is increasingly being used to explore marriage proposals
Despite drawing the ire of the government for perpetrating ‘social evils’, social media sites have become a popular and oft-used mechanism for meeting people online. While arranged marriages remain a prevalent practice, there has been a rising tide of relationships and marriages that have stemmed from online interaction.
There are a number of avenues for single people to pursue this online, particularly if they like to go down the traditional route of finding a rishta. As an alternative to rishta aunties, several Facebook groups have popped up with a staggering number of members. Searching up the word rishta on Facebook will bring up the most popular groups: Free Marriage Bureau Pakistan - Zaroorat Rishta - Shaadi Group - Rishta Group is a private group with a membership of 269,000, with 8,023 members joining in the past week alone. These groups usually tend to be free, with people posting their own bio data or having someone post on their behalf.
Amna Saeed, 27, a member of Free Marriage Bureau Pakistan says she was looking for proposals in Lahore through matchmakers but had an unsatisfactory experience. “One of my colleagues recommended this group and my older sister posted details on my behalf.” As a resident of Dera Ismail Khan doing her residency in Lahore, it was hard for her to find a doctor who would understand the demands of her job through traditional matchmakers. Amna ended up finding a suitable match through the group after a few meetings with some families, and has been happily married ever since. “My family was very hesitant initially as no one we knew had gone through online matchmaking before. It took a lot of convincing. However, the process itself was very straightforward.”
Looking at the post history on these groups, a number of trends can be observed. An overwhelming majority of posts advertising female bios are made by family members for privacy reasons, while quite a few men post their data themselves. Posts with female bios tend to draw more comments than those of males. Both bios sometimes lack pictures, choosing to focus on data instead. Furthermore, these groups have a healthy rate of engagement with several posts popping up daily.
At times, members can connect without posting their data altogether. Maryam Ali, 29, found her match through a random interaction. Her sister bonded with another female member in the comment section leading to a genuine friendship. As the two had a lot in common, they organised a get together where Maryam would meet her match for the first time. Her match was the brother of the other member. “I never thought that my sister complaining about toxic societal norms would end up in me finding Mr Right. As soon as we met, we bonded over our love for books, particularly Harry Potter, and hit off immediately. We got married in September. I couldn’t be happier,” says Maryam.
However, Facebook matchmaking groups can be too public for others, making them feel exposed, which is where WhatsApp rishta groups and matrimonial websites come in. Some Facebook pages run WhatsApp groups for those looking for privacy. Others are standalone groups that are either public or invitation only. A list of these groups with links can be found with a Google search. Ali Hassan, 31, a member of All Pakistan Rishta, explains that WhatsApp groups can be very convenient. “I am a member of a few groups and it is really easy to set up a meeting without the hassle of a middleman and long waiting periods. However, because these groups tend to favour anonymity it is up to the interested parties to do their own background checks.”
Matrimonial websites have been around for a while now. Looking at data from RishtaPakistan.com, there are a number of profiles that can provide a significant pool of potential matches for single people. However, there is a massive disparity between male and female profiles. While there are 11,706 female profiles in total on the website, there are 35,631 male profiles. Some of the profiles are repeated or out-of-use.
Although meeting people online is still a relatively new phenomenon, there have been some convincing success stories that makes it viable for those looking to break out of traditional matchmaking. However, it is always good to conduct your own diligence.
Rimsha Shujat, 27, a media student, approached a man through a matrimonial group. “He seemed like a genuinely friendly man, and we got along really well. When I asked my parents to approach him, he mentioned that his immediate family had passed away so they would have to discuss matters with his older cousin who had raised him,” she recalls. Rimsha and her family went to Islamabad to meet them. “Everything went very well and his cousin, her husband and children all seemed lovely so we decided to set an engagement date.” After they were engaged, Rimsha discovered a profile in her People You May Know section on Facebook. “The profile belonged to his wife, and there were pictures of him, their child as well as his parents, who had not passed away after all.”
Such stories are not exclusive to online matrimonial websites, as some men falsely claim to be single in traditional matchmaking services as well, at times even hiding a prior divorce.
There is always going to be an unsafe element to meeting random people and forming connections, whether it is through a rishta aunty or an online group. However, the latter affords members a certain degree of privacy for smoother communication and you do not have to invite strangers to your home right away. With increased options and technological proliferation comes great responsibility, and as the world moves towards considering online connections as a viable option to meeting people, it is always best to do your own research and be vigilant.
The author is a staff member