On a sunny September day at Yangon’s Inya Lake, couples sprawl out on the grass, relaxing under umbrellas on the banks of the water. Until just a few years ago, one of the only ways young couples in socially conservative Myanmar could get to know each other better was to find a quiet spot in a public park and, shielded by an open umbrella, steal a few kisses away from prying eyes. Displays of affection are frowned upon in public spaces like malls or restaurants, but parks offer a cool breeze and privacy.
While parks and lakes still serve as popular dating spots, the way that young people are meeting up has changed. Instead of mingling with friends of friends offline, they’re adding strangers they share mutual friends with on Facebook. Social media has radically changed the way city-dwellers find love; young urbanites are now using Facebook to connect and get into relationships—sometimes before they even meet IRL.
Serendipity on Facebook
Kyaw Oo Min* and Thazin Phyu*, a couple in their early 20s, sit at Inya Lake and insist that they brought the umbrella for shade from the sun. Kyaw Oo Min lives in Yangon, but Thazin Phyu goes to school in Bangkok and her hometown is Kawthaung, a beach town near the Thai border that’s over 1,000 miles southwest of Myanmar’s capital. They’ve known each other for two years, but met in person for the first time a year ago in northern Yangon—after they’d already been an item for about five months.
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