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QUARAN-TINDER: A Portrait Series of Thai Youth on Dating Apps During the Pandemic

In 2021, I embarked on a portrait photography project that began as a class assignment and evolved into a series documenting the experiences of young people in Thailand who turned to dating apps like Tinder in the wake of the pandemic. Through my lens, I capture the unique perspectives and stories of those navigating virtual dating in a changed world.

By Karina ThyraPublished about a year ago 5 min read
Top Story - February 2023

As the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s becoming clear just how hard young adults have been hit. Many were just starting out on their educational and career paths when the pandemic hit, and the resulting lockdowns have left them feeling isolated and disconnected from their peers. Even now, three years on, it’s clear that the lockdown had a severe impact on personal development. For those who were just starting out at the beginning of the pandemic, they may have missed out on some of the most important experiences of their lives from their first day of college to finding lifelong friends. These experiences are critical to personal growth and development of important life skills. Additionally, the pandemic has taken a toll on mental health, something that policymakers are only beginning to address as COVID-19 becomes endemic.

For me, the pandemic meant being in Thailand for much longer than I had planned. I had come for a month-long visit with my family, but when the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, countries around the world closed their borders. As the months wore on and my adoptive country eased into a ‘new normal’, I decided to use my time to work on my final project for my Photography class. Wanting to capture the unique experiences of people who, like me, were using social apps to connect with others during the pandemic, I set out to take a series of portraits that would tell their stories.

Despite the challenges of social isolation and the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health, there were still ways for individuals to connect with others and find support during these trying times. For many, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble provided a way to connect with new people and form meaningful relationships. In fact, according to a GMO Research survey in 2021, Thailand had a 46.5% adoption rate for dating apps, second only to India at 57.2%. Inspired by this phenomenon, I decided to explore the theme of ‘Socialization in Times of Isolation’ for my project in Photography class. With the help of several individuals who also signed up for these apps during the pandemic, I was able to capture their stories and experiences. Here are the people who graciously lent me their time and permission to publish:

The Healer

The Healer was the first person I had the privilege of photographing. Despite not being the first person I approached, there was something about her profile that drew me to her. We met at a mall and sat down for lunch at her favorite Thai-Chinese fusion stall before grabbing coffee and stroopwafel. During our conversation, we delved into a range of topics discussing everything from social expectations placed on women in a patriarchal society to politics and food.

The Influencer

Technically, The Influencer was a friend of my parents, but I didn’t have the chance to meet her until I was stranded due to the pandemic. During the lockdown, she found comfort and solace in the social app Kumu. Over the course of seven months, she gained significant influence on the app, as well as a new romantic relationship. According to her, Kumu helped her manage stress and intense negative emotions.

The Rookie

The Rookie and I met up at the mall and chatted over cold tea before starting the photoshoot. He was considering a career change from hotelier to police officer, particularly if his food business venture with a friend before the pandemic didn’t pan out. The Rook uses Tinder to meet new people, but he finds that people tend to mindlessly swipe rather than take the time to connect.

The Knave

The Knave had just returned from the capital when lockdown and face-to-face classes were canceled. He joined Tinder to expand his social circle, feeling that he had exhausted topics of conversation with his old friends. Being far away from them geographically only made it even more difficult to frequently stay in touch.

The Entrepreneur

I met The Entrepreneur on the same day as The Knave because they are old friends. I found it amusing when she told me that she had a Tinder account, but never met anyone like me on it. She expressed her frustration that most people on the app just wanted to hook up, rather than forge genuine friendships.

The Scholar

The Scholar studied to become a teacher, driven by his desire to instill in the next generation the importance of being good people without sacrificing critical thinking or values. At one point, he introduced me to his classmates as his English-speaking Filipino friend, a thrilling experience in which I became a substitute for the foreign students who were unable to attend.

The Mr Congeniality

Though our time together was brief, we managed to connect despite the language barrier between us. We sipped tea and used Google Translate to communicate. He expressed that he was open to being friends with anyone.

The Dreamer

The Dreamer and I shared a lively conversation over a buffet and beers during our first meeting. Despite only having just met, we quickly became friends. She exuded a vivacious personality, and she aspired to be remembered as someone who was kind, intelligent, and beautiful.

Overall Impression

As I met with each participant in my Quaran-Tinder portrait project, I was reminded of the beauty of connecting with people in person, a slowly dying art in today’s world. Making friends as an adult can be difficult, especially in a cynical environment where stranger danger is a real concern. However, apps like Tinder can be helpful for people who find themselves friendless in a foreign country, as it was for me.

Through this project, I discovered that while Tinder did not always meet the participants’ standards for social connection, social media in general was helpful in cases of isolation, loneliness, and even depression. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of socialization, something we often took for granted. Even though the lockdown forced many of us into isolation, social media and dating apps provided a quick escape from cabin fever. Although the pandemic has altered the landscape of dating, social media has provided solace and camaraderie to many, even if the connections lean towards the parasocial. People experience loneliness, and while social and dating apps can offer a temporary reprieve from the mental strain of cabin fever during lockdown, it is important to continue to foster in-person connections and maintain a healthy balance between virtual and real-life socialization. Overall though, this Quaran-Tinder portrait project pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to connect with others in a unique way, highlighting the power of human connection, both online and offline.

Did you sign up for a dating app during the pandemic? How has it impacted your life? Let me know in the comments!

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About the Creator

Karina Thyra

Fangirl of sorts.

Twitter: @ArianaGsparks

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Comments (9)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred6 months ago

    Hi we are featuring your excellent Top Story in our Community Adventure Thread in The Vocal Social Society on Facebook and would love for you to join us there

  • Abdullah6 months ago

    Very well written great work

  • Alex H Mittelman 10 months ago

    Great work! Great writing! Great pictures!

  • Atif S.about a year ago

    This is very well written & I liked how their personalities really shone through in what was actually a pretty short and snappy article.

  • Manisha Gargabout a year ago

    Readers please have a look on my story I hope you will like it for sure. Sharing link with you. ttps://

  • Christian Johnsonabout a year ago

    The in-person connection In photography is so important. What a great idea.

  • Lucky Angela Watsonabout a year ago

    I am also one of those people who have taken in person socialization for granted. Now that we are close getting back to normal, despite my busy schedule because of school, I try to at least meet my friends or family from time to time. But will not deny how social media apps have helped me temporarily escape from sadness and stress I get from school haha. Btw, I loved the portraits and my bias is The Knave hahahah

  • Kellanabout a year ago

    Your portrait series is really great.

  • mohamed rumais about a year ago

    Some think better then nothing

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