With Valentine’s Day coming up, couples are busy preparing for their special other. It is on such romantic holidays that people can observe the dating culture prevalent in any country. Korea’s dating culture is particularly unique in that it is dominated by the use of dating apps such as Between, the most popular and notable one in Korea. According to Forbes magazine, Between has 460,000 monthly active users, and an overwhelming 76 percent of users on Between, is Korean. While apps like Between can initially be considered the cute and perfect way to blog and record memories, they ultimately lead to the digitalization of intimate, romantic relationships.
It is apparent that the CEO of Value Creators & Company, which made Between, Jae-Uk Park has put much thought this app. Between incorporates a shared calendar, photo album, chatting section and even a tracker for the anniversary dates of the couple. In addition, Between notifies users about one week prior to romantic holidays such as Valentine’s Day or White Day so they can prepare sufficiently. The private virtual space provided for couples in love will ideally increase affection—and this indeed seems to be true for a vast majority of couples. In fact, according to the Korea Times, Yoon-Seok Ham, a 29-year-old finance professional, said he was able to make up with his girlfriend by writing sincere letters and poems on Between.
However, this sweet and loving app seems to have perverse effects on Korean dating culture. The sincerity and intimacy that was once felt through face-to-face interactions and love letters has now been replaced by this app. According to the Associated Press, Jae-Uk Park describes Between as being analogous to a digital couple ring because it is where many couples seek confirmation of their love and lasting relationship. He also mentioned that in modern day Korea, it is common for men to ask women out by saying, “Would you like to use Between with me?” Even though it is, of course, possible for couples to use the app as a means of enhancing their relationship, the digital dating culture promotes the idea that relationships do not require true, serious commitment because constantly making changes on the app is commitment enough in the 21st century. A relationship that revolves around keeping an app updated rather than true emotional attachment is bound to fail in the long term.
In addition, Between, like most apps, emphasizes the commercial aspects that should not be the most important elements of romantic relationships. Between sells physical goods and coupons as gifts, implicitly sending the message that emotional attachment can be largely intensified or even replaced by materialistic goods. Every anniversary, the pressure gets even worse; the anniversary reminder comes with a gifts recommendation engine that takes users to different online shops that their girlfriend or boyfriend may like. The Event Box, which is unique to Between compared to most other dating apps, shows which items or places are readily accessible to the couple, which, according to Get Connected, is not very often.
With the many functions it has to offer, Between is difficult to navigate and can be frustrating at times. For couples that can enhance their relationship through this private app, they can use it to their advantage. However, when they get the perception that this app can completely replace their relationship and use it rather than actual interactions as a signifier of a successful relationship, the societal message that Between sends out is ultimately detrimental.