November 21, 2008

Computer Dating: True Love or Technological Whims?

by Melissa the Marinade Maker

Millions of users on a monthly basis. Marriages and engagements come to fruition. And millions upon millions of net profits. Welcome to the world of online dating, where membership fees are minimal and the prospect of "true love" is unsurpassable.

To those of us unfamiliar with this seemingly enigmatic system, dating tips can be found en masse to help with navigation through the tangles of this lucrative expedition, thanks to media outlets found on the internet and television programs. A plethora of dating tip websites can be found to assist users from the most menial to complicated tasks, such as "choosing the right profile picture" to the posting of personal information. Some may find it humorous, and perhaps a tad pathetic, that an individual would turn to the realms of online dating, yet for those of society with chaotic schedules and incessant workloads, may serve as the sole outlet to the dating scene.

What makes online dating particularly interesting is that unlike the Stone Ages, in which two individuals would meet face-to-face and have conversations ranging from the weather to the stock market, members of dating services are able to scavenge through the thousands of profiles and pursue another on the basis of similarities. Members belong to a spectrum of all ages, financial statuses, religions, ethnic groups, and geographic locations. Thus, one is bound to find another with mutual interests and perhaps common identity linkages. Other beneficial aspects include a diverse and global membership, personality as opposed to physical features taking precedence, the safety of foraging through profiles in the confines of the home, and the ability to further relationships that conveniently revolve around one's schedule. Dating sites have also attempted to provide more innovative features, such as the use of instant messaging and extensive personal profiling, as well as the use of iovation to prevent online fraud vis-à-vis online dating.

Aside from the ubiquitous publicity dating sites have received online, television stations have realized the profitability of this market and have included advertisements for the most popular, and affluent, of sites. Daytime television in particular, has embraced the inclusion of dating advertisements, obviously in efforts of reach a certain demographic, particularly between the hours between noon and mid-afternoon. In addition, programs such as The Bachelor and Joe Millionaire have aggrandized the notion of finding "true love" with a "blind match." Regardless, the media have effectively tapped into a growing, prosperous market and they are reaping the benefits.

Skepticism of online dating obviously exists, and rightly so. Ostensibly, the first concern of online-daters pertains to truth; how truthful are members online? Common sense filtering between profiles certainly is a must, as is a careful solicitation of information with others of the same dating service. The question remains, however, if these sites are worthwhile. Aside from the well known, PerfectMatch, Yahoo!Personals, Chemistry,, and Lavalife, at least 800 other dating services can be found on the internet. Essentially, the dating service is much like a filter, beginning with "generic sites" and trickling into the hundreds of "matchmaking services" available to computer users, worldwide.

Regardless of the rampant criticisms pertaining to online dating, the statistics are irrevocable. 20 million Americans visit at least one service on a monthly basis. About 120,000 marriages have resulted from such sites, and by 2008 online dating services expect to generate roughly $642 million in revenue. Thus, it is impossible to dispute the growing efficacy of online dating services, both domestically and internationally.

(Graphic by d70focus via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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