Love and sex in a Lebanon in crisis: dating apps to the rescue, or not

The economic disaster looks like a chastity belt. While prices are exploding, it is difficult to go out and meet people. And when the morale is low, dating apps could be an outlet to vent for a fleeting moment, before the reality of the country catches up with these young people

Love and sex in a Lebanon in crisis: dating apps to the rescue, or not

In times of crisis, dating becomes more and more difficult with prices exploding. The applications become facilitators of meetings. (Credit: AFP)

Exciting glances, smiles on the corner of the lips, rising temperatures and flushed cheeks.

Ali* and Hakim* were in the middle of a date, sitting on the sidewalk. The two young men met on Tinder a week earlier.

“It’s going well so far,” they said in chorus, laughing nervously.

Hakim, who works in fashion, signed up on the application in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic lockdown. A friend convinced him to take the plunge.

Ali, a marketing student, was back on Tinder seven months ago after a breakup.

“I wanted to move on and see what was in store for me,” he said.

What was in store for him was an economic crisis akin to a chastity belt and a depressed and stressed population.

According to a survey conducted in 2021 by Gallup, an American statistics and analysis firm, 74 percent of Lebanese said they felt stressed several times a day, 56 percent said they were sad, 49 percent felt angry, and 6 percent were constantly worried. Six out of 10 people dream of packing their bags and leaving.

In short, it’s hard to come to any conclusions when morale is at its lowest and the country keeps sinking into a never-ending economic crisis.

“The outings are rare, and I am making sure to spend less,” Ali said.

Dating applications became an outlet to breathe and vent. No need to get out of bed, just slide your finger on your phone screen to choose someone.

When two people “match” on the app, they usually chat online for a few hours, days or weeks.

Then, if everything goes well, the meeting takes place, which has its share of (bad) surprises.

Among the 200 men with whom Ali “matched,” he only agreed to meet seven.

One of them invited him to a bar in Beirut. The only red flag was that he showed up with a bird in a cage.

“That’s not the craziest part of the story,” Ali said.

Cigarette smoke enveloped the place, it was too much for the bird to take and it dropped dead. Ali never saw his date again.

With Hakim, however, it’s a different story.

For all tastes

Selfies reign over the dating apps: At the gym showing off one’s pecs, in a luxury car, with a gun, a pet, or a group of friends, in an acrobatic position during a trip to a major capital.

The users’ bios either don’t include any words or sometimes have long descriptions of how much they love adventure, nature, dogs, or cats, sharing their “inspirational” quotes that are nothing out of the ordinary, but just to make themselves stand out.

Some say they’re looking for love, others one-night stands or even a threesome. There’s something for everyone.

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t continue the conversation, I ran out of power,” is a message Carine*, 33, received from one of her matches on Tinder.

Carine rarely uses the application, and when she does, it’s just to “pass the time.”

For her, Tinder is a way to get out of her “bubble.”

“With the crisis, we find ourselves in a homogeneous environment where people are socio-economically similar,” she said.

Since she signed up, she agreed to meet a man after weeks of online chatting.

“It was nice, but I know it won’t go any further. These relationships don’t usually last on either side,” said the young woman. She is not necessarily looking for a relationship.

“You have to have a little fun,” she added, bursting out laughing.

Samar*, 36, said that whenever she goes out to bars, she only meets men in their 20s.

“Many men my age have left the country,” she said.

According to statistics from Information International, an independent regional research and consultancy firm based in Beirut, 78,000 people joined the expatriate ranks in 2021.

Lying on her bed during the holiday season “completely depressed and alone,” Samar decided to sign up on Tinder “to keep my mind occupied.”

Two weeks later, she deleted the app.

Many messages have “disgusted” her. “I felt like a piece of meat,” she said, recounting that one of the first messages she received was a sexual advance.

“He could have had the decency to invite me to coffee first, or at least say ‘hi.’”

She added, “I find that dating apps distort human relationships, and it rarely leads anywhere.”

It was finally in a bar that she met her current boyfriend with whom she has been in a relationship for four months now.

‘An attractive woman who can hold a conversation’

Joseph, 28, is still undeterred. He went straight to Tinder and then Bumble (another dating app) when he returned to the dating fold two years ago. Unlike Tinder, Bumble only allows women to start a conversation with a match.

This entrepreneur is looking for an “attractive woman who can hold a conversation.”

On the app, he has “matched” with over 100 women and seen about 30 without finding the perfect match.

Although he prefers to meet in bars or at parties, he remains on the app because, with the economic crisis, “many have left the country, there are very few women left with whom there’s a connection. And then, we are more focused on our daily problems, it makes us less sociable,” the young man said.

Even when there is a spark, the economic crisis is the number one love killer.

It is difficult for these young people, the majority of whom only dream of leaving the country, to consider anything serious.

“Many are only looking to have one-night stands because we all want to leave,” explains Jonathan, 22, sitting in a bar in Beirut, who has just received a message from a young man he met on Tinder and who wanted to join him.

A few months ago, Karim*, 23, decided to sign-up to Tinder because he is looking for something serious.

“Many safe places for the LGBT+ community have closed and we don’t feel like going out anymore,” Karim said.

In this situation, apps make dating easier. But when it comes to organizing the date, logistics are complicated by the crisis. Because of the price of fuel, it is difficult to afford long trips.

“The circle becomes narrow. I met someone, very nice and cute, who lives in Zahle, but we could not see each other because of the distance,” Karim explained.

He is one of the privileged few who earn in dollars in the country. While he can afford some places, he knows others can’t.

“You have to take that into consideration as well. The question of salary comes up again and again, and I don’t know how to answer, I feel a little awkward to be paid in fresh dollars,” he said.

“The discussions are always the same: the price of gasoline, the private generator, the price of food... It becomes very boring, we just complain,” he added.

Despite this, Karim has met someone on the app. He is in a “situationship,” which is usually an undefined relationship and could mean being on the way to becoming a couple.

“I’m very happy,” he said with a smile. He eventually deleted his account.

*Names have been changed.

This article was originally published in French on L'Orient-Le Jour.

Exciting glances, smiles on the corner of the lips, rising temperatures and flushed cheeks.Ali* and Hakim* were in the middle of a date, sitting on the sidewalk. The two young men met on Tinder a week earlier.“It’s going well so far,” they said in chorus, laughing nervously.Hakim, who works in fashion, signed up on the application in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic lockdown. A friend...