Possibilities for the Filipino have absolutely gotten bigger with the advent of the Internet.
These days, it is common for consumers to shop for products and services online from other parts of the world; for travelers to learn about countries near and far with a few clicks on Google; and for people across the seas to communicate easily through social media platforms and webcams.
With all these being the new normal, The Sunday Times Magazine dares to pose the following question on Valentine’s Day: Can Filipinos also find love in the digital world?
For start-up and local dating site Diptyc.ph, the promise of true love is not one they will brazenly make, but they do offer a “venue” to meet new people and the possibility of meeting “the one” if fate wills it.
As Jieneb Kho, Diptyc’s marketing head, elaborated in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, “We are an online dating site, yes. But we won’t promise that you will find true love on our site. What we do offer is an avenue for you to encounter someone new.
“Eventually, your goal on both sides is to meet in real life and go out together. And I would think only then will you realize if that someone you met online can be your friend, your business partner, or your travel buddy, among others.
“But if you are lucky, you will may actually meet that someone who will be with you for the rest of your life. It’s really about chances,” Kho enthused.
Opening Filipinos’ minds
Despite positive developments in online dating in the Philippines, Filipinos still have many misconceptions about the concept. Diptyc.ph aims to shed light on what may in fact become a new normal in the quest of finding “the one.”
According to Kho, there are three common misconceptions about online dating.
“First is that it’s just for people who merely want to ‘hook up;’ second, that people who join dating sites are desperate to look for love; and third is that it’s not meant for people who are traditional,” Kho enumerated.
Immediately, the Diptyc executive emphatically clarified that the website’s members are not “desperate” but rather “driven” individuals.
She explained, “Our members are people who are very busy that they don’t have time to meet new people or socialize too much. But they are motivated and far from desperate.”
When it comes to “hooking up,” Kho acknowledged that there are really online dating sites known to cater to such a market. Diptyc.ph, however, is the complete opposite of such sites as it generally welcomes young professionals looking for like-minded people.
Combining these two factors, the executive determined that Filipinos who join Diptyc.ph are first and foremost looking for an opportunity to grow their network of people beyond traditional venues and conventional recommendations of friends. She points to the disadvantages of these situations as the reason why individuals may choose to meet other people via their website.
“Say at the workplace, many people would rather not make friends or pursue relationships with officemates because of the complications such connections might cause,” Kho explained.
“Take another traditional venue for meeting people in a bar. Most people actually don’t think they’d meet someone there they’d seriously date,” she continued. “And as far as recommendations of friends go for dates, that too can result in sticky situations.”
According to Kho, Diptyc members happily do away with all these risks in meeting people outside their social circles.
“There’s less pressure and less worries taking the online route, and we aim to open people’s minds to this, even as we know that Filipinos are innately reserved,” she proposed.
“Unlike in other countries where people are more open, it’s OK if someone approaches you in a coffee shop, introduce themselves and start talking. But here, if someone approaches us in a coffee shop, we generally feel aloof and paranoid,” she expressed.
“For many, online dating may seem even more extreme but then again, if you think about it, you have nothing to lose if you try,” she Kho countered. “Who knows how many interesting people you might meet.”
Launched only in October 2015, Diptyc.ph already has over 400 Filipino members in different professions and careers. The site has welcomed doctors, teachers, and executives, as well as a geologist and a costume-maker, among many others.
Happy to have done so, they have one person to thank and his name is Jean-Jacques Lafon.
In a separate interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, the French founder and chief executive of Diptyc, shared why he built this kind of a start-up company specifically in the Philippines.
“Having worked for the Philippine segment of an international e-commerce company, I noticed that a lot of my Filipino friends and their friends were single, and they weren’t considering online dating as a serious option. I found it strange, considering that in France where I’m from, the use of online dating websites is so widespread and well accepted,” he recalled.
As he kept on observing the phenomenon, he only really considered designing an online dating website when a good Filipina friend encouraged him to pursue it.
“She said she would actually want to join an online dating site where she would feel safe and not feel ashamed to be a member,” he shared. “That made me create Diptyc—to provide urban, educated professionals a safe community where they can meet like-minded individuals.”
After that, it took Lafon nine months to finally introduce Diptyc to Filipinos. He took charge designing and creating the website from scratch. Four months into operations, he reports that online dating is now a “growing practice” in the Philippines.
“I think now is the good time to launch such a site here as more and more Filipinos are trying established dating apps and websites like Tinder, and other new ones. I believe this growing practice is reducing the stigma of dating online,” Lafon enthused.
He attributes the positive response to Diptyc to individuals who have come to understand the site’s mission to provide a better alternative to meet and mingle with other people.
Asked about his expansion plans, the CEO replied the company has just launched an iOS app for Apple users in time for Valentine’s Day today. Effectively Diptyc.ph now has a website and an Android and iOS apps.
As added trivia, Lafon shared that Diptyc comes from the Greek word “diptych,” which means two artworks hinged together.
Before coming to the Philippines, Lafon was an investment banker at Lazard in Paris, working on mergers and acquisitions.
Working the site
Driven by its maker’s philosophy, Diptyc.ph is unique compared to well-known and international online dating sites.
This is immediately noticeable upon sign up. According to Kho, joining Diptyc is actually harder than most sites that only require members to connect their user accounts in Facebook. Those who wish to enter the site must begin by providing ample details about themselves, as well as by answering six questions that will describe their personalities.
Questions range from what qualities attract them the most, to what is the best advice they have been given in life. Each query must be answered with 140 characters—the same length as a Twitter post.
“Our sign up may take you maybe 20 to 30 minutes to finish because of these questions. A lot of users even take longer because they really think of good answers, and in return, they get to know themselves better in the process,” Kho noted.
Asked why they require this, the PR and marketing head explained that Diptyc is made to “start real conversations.”
Besides the six personality questions, the site also has other features that allow members to share their opinions and activities. But before being able to do all that, one must be “voted” by other members and approved by the site administrator. With this, an exchange can ensue, and hopefully, those with similar takes on different subjects can begin to communicate.
Another feature unique to Diptyc is a search option that actually filters members according to physical preferences of height, eye, hair and skin color, etc., as well as other useful information like where they are from, the field they are in, their religion, ethnicity, education, and more.
The online dating site also has a blog (www.blog.diptyc.ph) in which members can read about useful tips and personal accounts on online dating.
To address users’ security concerns, the online dating site requires members to verify their accounts by submitting one government issued identification card to the administrator.
And of course, uploading profile photos are very much part of the process. At Diptyc, members can post as much as six pictures. Giving a tip, Kho’s advise is to use profile pictures in a way to further show one’s personality.
“If you have a photo on a mountain, it says you like traveling. If you have a photo with a cat, it says you love animals and pets,” she noted. “It’s all about laying your cards on the table,” she related.
And as conversations start between members, it should only be a matter of time before someone proposes to meet and date another user in person. From there, the digital may just become real.