Online to traditional: evolution of dating culture

Monday March 29 2021
date pic
By Lucy Tomeka
By Diana Elinam

Of all the rituals of love, the first date is perhaps the most paramount — and the most dreaded.

Hundreds of questions surround the pivotal event: How do you secure a date? What will you do once you’ve got one? Will your date think you’re funny, or stupid? And what is dating, anyway?

Some people look back fondly on dating, generations ago, with romantic ideas of greater morality and better values.

Others think that with all of the online apps and matchmaking websites we have today, it’s never been easier to play the field.

However, each era of dating in the past century was not without its pros, its cons, and its own set of unspoken rules.

From the turn of the 20th century, to present day, romantic relationships have been an evolving part of culture, just like everything else.


The concept of dating really began at the turn of the 20th century. Prior to the late early 1900s, courtship was a much more private, unemotional affair.

Women would meet with several men, with her parents present, to whittle the pickings, down to the most suitable match for marriage, which heavily relied on factors such as financial and social status.

When a young woman decided on a man she wanted to see exclusively, their activities as a couple took place either in the household, or at social gatherings.

At that time, there was no such thing as just two young lovers “going out on a date.” Many of you are probably familiar with this concept after the binge-worthy Netflix series, Bridgerton, made us want to experience courtship with all the fancy dresses at fancy parties.

However, this began to change in the early years of the 20th century, when couples began to go out together in public and unsupervised. Still, the ultimate and very apparent goal was that of marriage.

This stands in stark contrast to today’s dating world, when the topic of marriage may not be brought up for several years.

The evolution of the dating culture in Tanzania at times comes off as old fashioned, low-key and at times boring.

I’m not sure why I could not find data on Tanzanian’s dating culture online, but this could be a great indicator to the dating culture in our country.

Dating or courtship is always done in private, in fact most females who are unmarried still stay home with their parents despite their age and the parents still expect that someday the lady will introduce a partner they want to marry.

Although Tanzania is often nicknamed the island of love, public display of affection is not a custom in the country even in a cosmopolitan city such as Dar es Salaam.

In our culture affection is to be displayed in privacy, kissing and touching in public, even just holding hands is highly frowned at in some places.

This could be one of the reasons as to why many married couples are either a result of family friendship or a mutual friendship.

Dating reasons and expectations

There are so many reasons people date these days but if we are going old school, there is only one end-goal to dating and that is finding a spouse.

However, the millennial dater is capable of giving you a plethora of reasons for why they are dating and why they choose a specific style and platform for dating.

Looking for company, wanting to pass time, looking to meet similar-minded individuals, looking for a serious relationship and even simple boredom nowadays suffice as reasons for dating.

Much like the reasons, expectations for dating run the gamut such as hoping to get over a bad break up, traumatic event, finding a spouse and companion.

Technological dating

The most popular type of dating is the traditional dating where a couple is together physically but lately with the rise of information and technology, we have witnessed couples such as Mandy Moore and Dawes Frontman’s Taylor Goldsmith get engaged right before our very eyes after dating for more than two years.

The two began their relationship after the “This is Us star” posted a photo of Dawes’ music on Instagram.

She still credits the social media app for bringing them together.

As she told People Magazine, “I took a picture of their album and posted it on Instagram.

“Somehow, Taylor saw it and sent a note to me. We started emailing back and forth, then we went on a date and the rest is history.”

Online platforms have vastly become the go-to arenas for young couples for so many reasons amongst which include distance, convenience, safety and security.

While platforms like Instagram and Facebook offer a more innocuous set up; others like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and Grindr offer more direct reasoning when it comes to dating.

In fact, depending on your preferences, needs and interests, there is such a wide variety that makes online dating a world of its own, a complete and fully functional creature.

Tanzania has been no exception to this and has also caught the online dating streak.

Rupal Ganatra, a 44-year-old social media personnel who is quite known amongst the Dar community on Facebook for starting a dating group on the app says that after getting back from South Africa, she found it difficult to connect with like-minded people.

After checking up on Team Tanzania, I found that there are no groups on Facebook that cater to single people, and being a solution driven person, it only made sense to start one.

Rupal also adds that she has not found dating to be a very common concept in our culture, especially after a certain age.

Young people get married early either through arranged or love marriages, and single, older people seem to fall out of existence in the romance scene.

She believes that both traditional and online dating are just used as a route to marriage, rather than as a tools to develop true self understanding, and an ability to clarify ones needs and wants.

She also shares that her best dating experience was connecting with an amazing man from Netherland.

She said they shared similar outlooks and that he was passionate about so many exciting things. The two spoke online for a year prior to meeting.

On dating, Rupal’s advice is “be yourself, have fun, and get to know each other and yourself in the process!”

Social stance on dating in Tanzania

The current rise in public siting of couples in Tanzania especially in Dar es Salaam could be a result of confidence that is catalysed from online dating that was brought about with social media.

I am pretty sure the majority of you who are reading this have experienced the very common slide in the DMs” on social media platforms especially Instagram, Facebook and even WhatsApp groups by people you may know and complete strangers alike.

The texting and flirting that takes place behind the scenes eventually reaches an urge where couples want to meet and where love and wanting is involved.

Despite the restrictions like Romeo and Juliet’s, Titanic’s Jack and Rose couples will meet eventually.

Life&Style also spoke to Thandi Smith who organized a speed dating event recently in Dar where people met physically, networked, spoke, ate, drank and played games all in an effort to get to know one another for prospective future dates.

Thandi says, “we launched the Speed Dating Tanzania event to introduce something exciting to the social scene in Dar.”

“Dar is a vibrant city and in that, there is a spirit of cosmopolitanism and culture waiting to be nurtured.”

“Having an event like this creates more atmospheres where people can feel comfortable enough to explore dating in other ways” she adds.

Religious stance on dating

We also decided to let other East Africans in on this topic.

The founder of Honey Let’s Talk, an organization ran by Pastor Shadrack Ashaiyo and his wife to help couples build Godly and healthy relationships from the Nairobi chapel says, “a Lot has been said about dating. Whether online or traditional, I am convinced that dating is a necessary part of relationships that leads to a healthy marriage.”

“When you date right you have a high chance of succeeding in marriage” he adds.

“Ask any married couple and they will tell you that their dating experience played a huge role in making them succeed in their marriage.”

“Whether you choose traditional dating or online dating make sure you’re investing your effort and time in a real and personal way by meeting and having real conversations” he says.

“I personally don’t have a problem with online dating however I think the experience is not the same. It’s okay to meet online but I usually advise people to take the relationship off the platform and meet in person” says Ashaiyo.

“There is something about in-person conversations that help you read your partner’s emotion, expression and of course get to know how they look” he explains.

He also adds that before meeting his wife he was in a very long relationship with a girl he met right after high-school and they dated for six years but eventually separated.

Pastor Shaddie advices young couples to heal before jumping into another relationship and to avoid emotional entanglements especially online. Stay away from people who want to draw you into a relationship in the name of helping you out.

The millennial wave is often known for doing things their own way and now online dating has become such trend in our community that it is almost impossible to pass as a dating prospective if you do not have a profile on a dating app or platform somewhere.

The need to digitally vet a person and declare them date worthy has put some distance in the social aspect of dating and has somehow made us both untrusting and fearful of one another and wildly insecure to the point that we need the internet to placate our insecurities.

Whatever your dating preference and wherever you are on this wild dating spectrum (old-school to online and everything in between), we can all agree that the end really does justify the means in this case.