Kathryn's Blog

Match.com, eHarmony, and Older Singles

If you are over 50 and wondering about Match.com or eHarmony, here are reviews of both sites, aimed at older singles…

Online Dating Site Review: Match.com
From Sharon OBrien,
Your Guide to Senior Living.

With more than 15 million members, Match.com is one of the largest general interest dating sites on the Internet and one of the most successful at bringing people together. The staff at Match.com calculates that every year more than 200,000 people find the person they were seeking by using Match.com. And Match.com reports that people 50 and older represent its fastest growing user segment.  For the whole review, click here.

Online Dating Site Review: eHarmony
From Sharon OBrien,
Your Guide to Senior Living.

Marriage is the goal at eHarmony

eHarmony claims to take the guesswork out of matchmaking by using a scientific approach to help people find not only good matches and potential mates, but soul mates—and it seems to be working.  To read the complete review, click here.


Male Scamming victim

Oooh, I hate seeing these scamming stories.  I’d much rather post tales about happy couples, but alas, not all pairings are.  Thank goodness, by far the most prominent are the successes, but there are folks out to get you, in all areas of life.  In love, just as in every day, you need to keep your guard up and your brain engaged.  This guy did not.

SA man ‘duped’ by internet dating, brother says

Fifty-six-year-old Desmond Gregor from Adelaide travelled to Mali last month to see a woman he met through the internet.

But after arriving, he was held for 12 days by people demanding a $100,000 ransom.

State and Federal Police worked with Mali national police to secure Mr Gregor’s release, by tricking the kidnappers into taking him to the Canadian embassy.

His brother, Phillip Gregor from Hoyleton, north of Adelaide, says Mr Gregor has learned his lesson.

“Definitely it was an internet romance, I guess you would call it, and certainly he was very taken by this and completely tunnel-visioned and couldn’t see the scam behind it,” he said.

“To him [it was] obviously very convincing but as soon as I had seen some of the material that was found at his place, anyone should have seen through it.”

Authorities in Mali want to question three men over Mr Gregor’s kidnap.

Mr Gregor is expected to arrive back home in Australia tomorrow.


Dating Success Story

Doncha love stories about couples who met online?  I do, and I’ve got a good collection of them if you want to see more.

MUST READ: Weekend feature: Online dating

By Mari Schuh
Special to The Free Press

Beth Speece of Mankato says when it comes to online dating, some people make assumptions.

“I think there’s this misconception that you’ve got to be a loser. Hey, I was just busy,” she said.

On a lark last year, Beth joined Match.com, one of the Web’s most popular dating sites. It was just another piece of her full life, a big part of which she spends teaching at Minnesota State University. She didn’t think anything serious would come out of it.

“I’m a very cautious person. I thought there’s no way you could meet the love of your life online,” she said.

Well, fate believed otherwise when Beth met Grant Speece for a cup of coffee after connecting on Match.com. The 40-somethings chatted for three hours about taboo first-date topics, such as religion and politics. They found they shared many common values.

Grant had another date with a woman that evening, which turned out to be a disaster. He thought of Beth the entire time. Shortly after, he called Beth back, and they decided to date exclusively.

They were engaged just two weeks later.

“People were really shocked,” Beth said. “Generally, we’re not impulsive.”

The Speeces are one of an estimated 120,000 couples who get married every year as a result of online dating, according to Online Dating Magazine.

Not everyone is quite so lucky, of course. Subscribers can spend countless hours sifting through profile after profile of “I love long walks on the beach” and then suffer through terrible first dates that seem to drag on forever.

Users should be wary of the pictures posed with profiles, too. Misleading photos akin to Abercrombie & Fitch ads muddy the waters. Vague and potentially inaccurate body-type descriptions (What does “curvy” really mean anyway?) test people’s belief in the process.

People even have to watch out for “professional online daters” who are addicted to the online-dating game. They rarely form a real relationship and bail at the first sign of trouble.

But despite all the pitfalls, those “You had me at hello” moments really do happen. Just ask Blair and Andrea Dehning of Mankato. The couple met on Yahoo! Personals in 2000 when the service was free.

It didn’t happen immediately — Blair had to surf around a while to find Andrea.

“I found one woman who wanted me to bungee jump with her,” he said. “I said icksnay to that one.”


Internet Dating Old Hat

Here we go again: Yet another article about how online dating is now mainstream and THE place to find love.  Not that I am complaining about the positive coverage.  Far from it.  After all, it’s good for my business, right? And more importantly, good news for singles looking for love.  This article also throws in a couple of cybercouples just for fun.

Finding your love at online dating site

We have become a society of high-tech people. The internet has changed the way we do business, how we learn and how we find love. Alicia Hansen, a 36-year-old mother of three, has been dating online, on and off, for a couple years. She does not care who knows. “People who don’t understand that it is part of our new world are like, ‘oh, you’re doing that?’” Today millions of people are “doing that,” trying to find their match online. In fact, online dating has become so main stream it’s even part of a class taught at the University of Minnesota.

“We don’t have the same connections that we used to have through church or family or neighborhood,” James Caron, U of M Social Science Professor said. There are plenty of sites on the internet that cater to those looking for love. Each one works a little differently. Most sites charge a fee, make you fill out a profile about yourself and then help you find people with whom you are most likely to be compatible. The rest is up to you. Dr. Elizabeth and Eileen parks met two years ago on MillionaireCupid.com.

“I did it for about four or five months before I winked at Ryan,” Elizabeth said. “I went on a lot of first dates, but I guess Ryan was my only second date.” Two weeks ago, they tied the knot. Certainly not every match ends up in marriage, but for a budding industry, the number of success stories might surprise you. It’s estimated that anywhere from 8 - 10 percent of all marriages are the result of people meeting online. There is a downside to dating online. It’s hard to tell someone’s tone in an email. Also, you have to trust that the people you meet are being truthful about themselves.

Not a problem, says Vince Turk. He met his wife Karen on eHarmony.com. “As somebody who is looking at profiles, you know the people who have invested time in it and put some money into it are pretty serious about wanting to meet somebody.” Karen couldn’t have been more honest. “I lived in a small town. I was approaching 40 and I had six kids,” Karen said. “There were just not a lot of options for me.” Vince lived in Minnesota. Karen lived in Iowa. But after a push from their combined eight children, the two decided to move from the cyber world to the real world. “We have two 15-year-olds, two 13-year-olds, a 12-year-old, 10-year-old, nine-year-old and a five-year-old.” This month, the Turks are celebrating their one-year anniversary.


Patrick Perrine

Dr Houran’s Interview With Patrick Perrine Of myPartnerPerfect

ONLINE DATING MAGAZINE—Aug 8—Patrick Perrine is the President of the newly-launched gay site myPartnerPerfect.

Dr. Jim: Congratulations on your launch, Patrick. Tell us, why did it take so long for someone to establish a site that catered to gays?

Patrick: Thank you. I don’t know why it has taken so long for the industry to identify this tremendous opportunity. It was partially because of the eHarmony policy and other relationship sites’ lack of service to the gay segment that I founded myPartnerPerfect. For far too long the industry has neglected the gay community and their pursuit of life-partners. Instead, the dating service industry has been flooded with gay sites that only promote hook-ups and short-term encounters. I don’t object to sites with that goal, but a very large segment of the gay community is looking for something deeper, that can last a lifetime. That’s exactly what the myPartnerPerfect system was designed to do.

Dr. Jim: Do you think all of the recent, negative press around eHarmony is fair, or are these just cheap shots from competitors and a few dissatisfied customers?

Patrick: I think the larger issue being drawn out in the press isn’t with the focus of eHarmony’s services, but the underlying premise of that focus. Sites like eHarmony will always have a place in the world of online dating and relationships, but it is my hope that myPartnerPerfect can help fill the void in the market and foster many happy and healthy relationships for gay men.

Dr. Jim: What’s the difference between a niche site that caters to a specific audience versus a site that is accused of being discriminatory?

Patrick: Wikipedia describes a niche market as “a focused, targetable portion (subset) of a market sector. By definition, then, a business that focuses on a niche market is addressing a need for a product or service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers.” eHarmony, in my opinion, essentially started out as a niche site for marriage-oriented heterosexual Christians. Dr. Warren himself attributes much of eHarmony’s success to its ties to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian community. It was only recently that Dr. Warren and eHarmony began distancing themselves from that “niche” market as the site began growing rapidly and they began positioning themselves for the masses. myPartnerPerfect is completely forthwith about the segmented “niche” market we cater to due to the demand in the market that is not being met.

Dr. Jim: In what ways does the culture of your service and site differ significantly from large sites, like Match or Yahoo! Personals, which try to address the dating needs of everyone?

Patrick: myPartnerPerfect is an exclusively gay site that has been designed to cater to gay men. Much like any other niche site, myPartnerPerfect addresses the areas of partner selection that are not only important to our community, but unique to our community. Although there are many similarities between heterosexual and homosexual relationships, there are also many differences in partner selection. Our Partner Perfect Compatibility™ matching system was designed because of the many differences of gay partner selection in the areas of relationship styling, characteristics of partner selection, partner qualities and personalities, and above all else, cultural and sexual lifestyle considerations.

Dr. Jim: From your experience and research, are gays more interested in compatibility testing (and perhaps long-term relationships) than other groups? If so, why might this be?

Patrick: I wouldn’t say that gay men are more interested or less interested in compatibility testing than the general population. I think that gay men are a very discerning population of consumers and demand the very “best of breed” of anything they patron and that’s why myPartnerPerfect has developed the Partner Perfect Compatibility™ matching system.

Dr. Jim: What does a customer really get for his money at your site—what are the compelling features that can’t be found elsewhere?

Patrick: In addition to the unique Partner Perfect matches presented to the user by our matching system, members can search the database with 5 different customized browsing tools (including our Deal Breaker Search, our Partner Perfect Search, and our Custom Search). We also have unique profile customization tools, a monthly gay-relationship eNewsletter, private matchmaking services, anonymous phone calling, our myProfilePartner™ personal profile advice and review services, monthly socials and singles mixers, weDate!™ group dinners, and our a la carte menu to select the features that are most important to the user who is not yet ready to commit to a full Premium Membership.


Background Checks

More for your resource list on how to check up on potential dates…

Sites help with background check

Question: I am going to try online dating, with some trepidation. Can I use the Internet to check the men I meet online?

Answer: There are many free search options. Start with a general search, such as at Google.com, Yahoo.com or Live.com. Also look at social-networking sites, such as MySpace.com. Go to business sites, like Xing.com, Ecademy.com and Ryze.com. Look for inconsistencies. Court records can be illuminating. Start with the National Center for State Courts (Ncsconline.org). Many pay sites offer endless databases. Beware of “free” offers that are too good to be true. Such research is still specialized. If things are serious enough, consider hiring a private investigator.


Match.com drop?

This little piece below is pretty dense with the financial talk, but interesting.  Just keep in mind that even if Match slips a knotch or two, you are still talking about millions of singles who are registered.

Match.com Released their earnings a few days ago. Is this their way of saying subscribers in the US decreased at least 12% year over year? One assumes the US accounts for far more than 50% of their subscribers.

“Revenue growth was driven by a 1% increase in worldwide subscribers, including 13% growth in international subscribers, most notably in the UK, combined with higher average prices in North America. Operating Income Before Amortization grew faster than revenue due to a lower cost of acquisition as a percentage of revenue in North America and flat operating costs, partially offset by higher international cost of acquisition. Operating income in the second quarter of 2007 included amortization of non-cash marketing of $7.2 million.”


Hooray for Internet Dating and Niche Sites!

Articles like the one below about how Internet dating is “in” have been popping up all over everywhere lately.  While they are similar in tone and get repetitious, I find them so welcoming after what I have seen over the years. Five years ago when I was just getting started as a Romance Coach, searches yielded practically nothing, and what did show up tended to be scary.  Not so with articles like this.  Yea!

The Many Faces of Online Dating

By Erika Morphy

“Match.com is not for everybody,” says Todd Creager, a licensed clinical social worker and coauthor of Finding Life’s Passions. “There are those that thrive on generalized dating sites, but typically those are people who ‘show well’—whether it is due to looks, an extroverted style of writing, a natural sense of humor, social confidence or some combination of these qualities.”

Shoshanna Berman, an intern in New York City, is happily dating her ideal future husband: a nice, young—and tall—Orthodox Jewish man who is also outgoing and easygoing.

On date two, they bonded while scalping tickets at a Knicks game. Date ten, she remembers, was an all-night drive to Philadelphia.

“I would have married him if he asked me after the first date,” Berman tells TechNewsWorld, “but it took him a few months to realize the truth.” Now they are unofficially engaged.

Take away a few details here and there, and this could be anyone’s “how we met” story—including the fact that Berman met her beau at SawYouAtSinai.com, a dating Web site.

“My friend met her husband there, so I thought I would give it a try,” Berman says.

These days, anyone who scoffs at online dating is either married or in the priesthood. The U.S. online dating market—typified by such Web sites as Match.com and Yahoo Personals—will reach US$932 million in 2011, according to figures from JupiterResearch.

Soul Mate Search

More than 20 million Internet users visited such a site last December, reported comScore. The top destinations were Yahoo Personals, Match.com, True.com, Spark Networks and Singlesnet.com. In short, from 18-year-olds in college (where there should be no dearth of potential suitors) to senior citizens, multitudes are logging on in search of love or companionship.

To be sure, not everyone who goes online finds a happy ending. Horror stories abound from the horrifying—stalking incidents and worse have befallen many online daters—to the annoying. (Hint: Using photos more than a year or so old always backfires.)

Sometimes it just takes a little patience to find your soul mate, says Robert Schwartz, author of Courageous Souls: Do We Plan Our Life Challenges Before Birth? Schwartz met his partner at JDate, another popular Jewish dating site. Several years ago, he posted a profile there but nothing came of it. Recently, though, in the most serendipitous manner possible, he connected with a woman, and they’re about to move in together.

“I had been living in Oregon but thinking about moving home to Cleveland to look after my father, who was needing assistance,” he tells TechNewsWorld. Idly, he perused the profiles in Cleveland and immediately gravitated toward the woman who would become his partner. “What I loved about her profile is that I could tell immediately she is spiritually aware. That is very important to me.”

Fast-forward over several months of phone calls and visits. Schwartz is now moving to Cleveland.

Specialized Sites

It may be no accident that both Schwartz and Berman met partners on specialized dating sites. Mainstream dating site memberships are stagnating—or, in some cases, shrinking. The proportion of paying customers has stayed the same—5 percent—over the last five years, according to Jupiter.

Another Jupiter metric that suggests interest is beginning to decline: Only 10 percent of Internet users visited an online dating site in 2006—a decrease from 16 percent in 2005 and 21 percent in 2002.

One way the online dating industry is counteracting these trends is by introducing specialized Web sites that focus on commonalities that would-be daters hope to find. Many focus on religion; some focus on hobbies or professions.

Sparks Network, currently one of the top online destinations, operates over 30 online personals—all but one of which is targeted toward a specific religious, ethnic or special interest group. JDate, launched in 1997, was its first site.

It makes sense, some say.

“Match.com is not for everybody,” Todd Creager, a licensed clinical social worker and coauthor of Finding Life’s Passions, tells TechNewsWorld. “There are those that thrive on generalized dating sites, but typically those are people who ‘show well’—whether it is due to looks, an extroverted style of writing, a natural sense of humor, social confidence, or some combination of these qualities.”

Singles who do not make great first impressions end up feeling frustrated, he continues. “On a specialized dating site, one attraction may be the similarity of interests, vocation, religion, life challenges and so on.”

Next Evolutionary Step

Specialized sites are the way to go for today’s daters, says Steve Monas, author of several books about online dating and social networking, including Chemistry and Numbers: The Online Dating Guide.

“When I used JDate, there was already a feeling of comfortability, knowing that there will be some commonality moving forward,” he tells TechNewsWorld.

However, the specialized sites may follow the path of the generic dating Web sites, he cautioned—unless they evolve once again.

“Dating Web sites are now trying to get appealing features that will compete with free social networking sites such as MySpace.com and Plentyoffish.com,” Monas notes. These sites, after all, are de facto meeting places and have come to compete with some of the larger, specialized dating sites.

Revenue from major sites will have to come from more personalized services—such as selecting and contacting potential matches on behalf of members, he suggests.

Indeed, some of the newer specialized sites are focusing on what happens once you get past the third or so date and become a couple. eHarmony, a dating Web site known for its hour-long application—and, more controversially, for not matching gay people—has launched a Web site aimed at married couples who want to strengthen their relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum—the far end—is HoochyMail, a service that “brings couples closer together by safely and securely allowing them to create and share their mutual fantasies,” according to site spokesperson Rob Frankle.

Basically, HoochyMail allows each couple to compose and e-mail Email Marketing Software - Free Demo fantasies customized with their own details. There are about 35 different occasions—from Christmas to Thanksgiving to basketball playoffs—in the system Manage remotely with one interface—the HP ProLiant DL360 G5 server..

Thus far, the site has been very successful, judging by almost every metric, Frankle says, including opt-in numbers and click-through advertising rates. “Plus, we have never received even one hate mail.”

In the online dating world, that’s as good as it gets.


Dan and Jennifer on AdultFriendFinder.com

Here’s an interesting “massaging of the stats” I found by dating coaches Dan and Jennifer.  I can’t say whether or not their conclusions about the patrons and matrons of the way sexy site AdultFriendFinder.com are true, but there is some interesting speculation to be done for sure.

Sinners in the Bible Belt? Sex, Swingers, and Religion...

Dan and Jennifer
August 2, 2007

Who would have thought that Texas, the conservative Republican state, is 2nd In the Nation on Sex Seeking Enthusiasts?

While Texas may be perceived as a highly religious and conservative stronghold, deep in the heart of the Bible Belt, it’s beat out only by California, and Florida is a close 3rd in the number of adults actively looking for sex on the internet.

Are we making this up? Now way!

These revealing numbers are reported by one of the largest adult web sites on the internet. The numbers will really surprise you…

If you don’t already know, Adult Friend Finder is the largest sex and swinger personals web site on the internet today with 22,319,717 members. That’s almost identical to the population of Texas which is 23,507,783. Hmmm… That’s a lot of people on just this one website.

What is a sex and swinger personals web site? Well, it’s basically a dating site for singles and couples looking for sex. What many people don’t realize is that Adult Friend Finder gets more visitors every day than Match.com and eHarmony put together!

That’s no big surprise. But what IS a surprise is that Texas is ranked #2 in the number of subscribers to this web site.

Here is the state by state breakdown of the top sex enthusiasts in the U.S., according to Adult Friend Finder:

* California - 1.2 million (That’s 3.3% of the state population)

* Texas - 800,000 (That’s 3.4% of the state population)

* Florida - 743,000 (That’s 4.1% of the state population)

* New York - 660,000 (That’s 3.4% of the state population)

* Illinois - 429,000 (That’s 3.3% of the state population)

Wow, what’s truly amazing here is that Texas - the heart of the Bible Belt - is #2 in all of the U.S. with a larger percentage of the population subscribing than California!

Is Texas shedding it’s ultra conservative facade? Or will the truth remain buried behind closed doors with faceless pictures on the top sex personals sites like Adult Friend Finder?

Here are some more interesting facts about sex on the internet

While it’s difficult to identify the exact number of internet users, ComScore Media Metrix reports 4% of all Web traffic and 2% of all time spent Web surfing involved an adult site.

* According to a recent study by Google, adult content is the most sought after content by users with cellphones. Google’s team found that 20 percent of searches on cellphones were for adult content, while only 5 percent of searches on PDAs were for it. The researchers sifted through 1 million searches by users of their mobile search software to come up with these numbers.

* The AVN Annual Survey of the Adult Industry 2006 asserts that the adult entertainment industry is nearly a $13 billion business in 2006, mostly in the form of adult videos. But the delivery mechanism is changing… Internet sales of adult content, which includes images, live-chat and live-streaming video, has now become the second largest adult entertainment segment, with 22 percent of the market or $2.8 billion in sales.

So, are more than 23 million people wrong? Or are the rules and social stigmas against sex and enjoying our sexuality outdated remnants of the Victorian age?

Obviously the demand is there, but so are the ultra conservative religious extremists and the lawmakers that they keep in their pockets. Which explains why prostitution is still illegal in most states and certain sexual acts between consenting adults are illegal in the privacy of their own homes. The fact that consenting adults cannot do whatever they choose in the privacy of their own homes, without causing harm to anyone, is outrageous!

This is also why Janet Jackson was persecuted for her wardrobe malfunction during the Superbowl a few years back (the most replayed moment in TiVo history) and Chicago TV reporter, Amy Jacobson, was persecuted for doing an interview in her swimsuit. Exactly what is wrong with a breast and a belly button anyway? Really… Stop and think about that for just a moment.

When will we say enough is enough?

Wait. Visit http://www.AskDanAndJennifer.com today.

Dating, Relationships, and Sex. Tips, Advice, Articles, and Videos.

Copyright 2007, http://www.AskDanAndJennifer.com. All rights reserved.


Steaks.  It’s what’s for dinner…

Golly!  Can being vegetarian now be not cool?  Thank you, thank you, for all the times I’ve had to adjust dinner party menus for assorted dietary wierdnesses.  BTW, I ate vegetarian for about 10 years (with occasional nights off if I couln’t resist BBQ).  Gee whiz, New Yorkers, stop reading so much into everything.  Let women have what they want to eat, okay?  I’d go at least three dates before I made too many assumptions about anyone based on what they ordered to eat.  Well, maybe not if they drank a gallon of Pepsi with the whole business....

Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye

Published: August 9, 2007

MARTHA FLACH mentioned meat twice in her Match.com profile: “I love architecture, The New Yorker, dogs ... steak for two and the Sunday puzzle.”

She was seeking, she added, “a smart, funny, kind man who owns a suit (but isn’t one) ... and loves red wine and a big steak.”

The repetition worked. On her first date with Austin Wilkie, they ate steak frites. A year later, after burgers at the Corner Bistro in Greenwich Village, he proposed. This March, the rehearsal dinner was at Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street, and the wedding menu included mini-cheeseburgers and more steak.

Ms. Wilkie was a vegetarian in her teens, and even wore a “Meat Is Murder” T-shirt. But by her 30s, she had started eating cow. By the time she placed the personal ad, she had come to realize that ordering steak on a first date had the potential to sate appetites not only of the stomach but of the heart.

Red meat sent a message that she was “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” she said, “that I’m not obsessed with my weight even though I’m thin, and I don’t have any food issues.” She added, “In terms of the burgers, it said I’m a cheap date, low maintenance.”

Salad, it seems, is out. Gusto, medium rare, is in.

Restaurateurs and veterans of the dating scene say that for many women, meat is no longer murder. Instead, meat is strategy. “I’ve been shocked at the number of women actually ordering steak,” said Michael Stillman, vice president of concept development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, which opened the restaurant Quality Meats in April 2006 on West 58th Street. He said Quality Meats’ contemporary design and menu, including extensive seafood offerings, were designed to attract more women than a traditional steakhouse. “But the meat is appealing to them, much more than what I saw two or three years ago at our other restaurants,” Mr. Stillman said. “They are going for our bone-in sirloin and our cowboy-cut rib steak.”

In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike. For some women, that is still the practice. “It’s better not to have a jalapeño fajita plate, especially on the first date,” said Andrea Bey, 28, who sells video surveillance equipment in Irving, Tex., and describes herself as “curvy.” “You don’t want to be labeled as ‘princess gassy’ on the first date.”

But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.

“It seems wimpy, insipid, childish,” said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. “I don’t want to be considered vapid and uninteresting.”

Ordering meat, on the other hand, is a declarative statement, something along the lines of “I am woman, hear me chew.”

In fact, red meat on a date has become such an effective statement of self-acceptance that even a vegetarian like Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Random House, sometimes longs to order a burger.

“Being a vegetarian puts you at a disadvantage,” Ms. Crosley said. “You’re in the most basic category of finicky. Even women who order chicken, it isn’t enough.” She said she has thought of ordering shots of Jägermeister, famous for its frat boy associations, to prove that she is “a guy’s girl.”

“Everyone wants to be the girl who drinks the beer and eats the steak and looks like Kate Hudson,” Ms. Crosley, 28, said.

Not all red meat, apparently, is equal in the dating world. The mediums of steak and hamburger each send a different message. Dropping into conversation the fact that steaks of Kobe beef come from Wagyu cattle, but that not all steaks sold as Wagyu are Kobe beef, demonstrates one’s worldliness, said Gabriella Gershenson, a dining editor at Time Out New York. It holds the same currency today that being able to name Hemingway’s four wives held in an earlier era.

Hamburgers, she added, say you are down-to-earth, which is why women rarely order those deluxe hamburgers priced as high as a porterhouse.

“They’re created for men who want to impress women, so they order the $60 burger, then they let the woman taste it,” Ms. Gershenson said. “The man gets to show off his expertise and show that he can afford it.”

When Paris Hilton was arrested for driving under the influence, she announced that she had been on her way to In-N-Out Burger, the Southern California chain revered for its gut-busting Double-Double, as if trying to satisfy a craving for two slabs of meat and cheese was an excuse for drunken driving that anyone could understand. And twice last year, Nicole Richie, persistently facing rumors that she suffered from an eating disorder, was photographed biting into burgers in Los Angeles, an effort that seemed designed to demonstrate her casualness toward calories.

Of course, there are always those rare women who order what they want and to heck with what a man might think.

Saehee Hwang, 30, a production director at Artnet.com, found herself out with friends at DuMont restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when she started feeling attracted to a new guy in the group. She said she had wanted to order a burger, but started having second thoughts. “I didn’t want to appear too much of a carnivore,” she said. “It might be off-putting.”

But then she decided she should not change her order to fit a preconceived idea of what a man might want. She ordered the house specialty, a half-pound of beef on a toasted brioche bun with Gruyère cheese. “We started dating afterward,” Ms. Hwang said. “And he told me he liked the fact that I ordered the burger.”

What about when the tables, so to speak, are reversed? Can a man order a juicy New York strip on the first date and make a good impression? Gentlemen, be careful. Real men, it seems, must eat kale.

“When a guy sits down and eats something fatty and big, you wonder if they eat like that all the time,” said Brice Gaillard, a freelance design writer. “It crosses my mind they’ll probably die early.”


The Role of the Decieved

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t find anything at all online or otherwise about Internet dating.  I love it when mainstream magazines come out with great articles like the one below.  The author here is a firm supporter of online dating and knows why—she does it herself.  But she also treats the issue off lying and deception, and interestingly, the willingness of the receiver of the deception to believe it.  Have a read and let me know what you think.

Best, Kathryn Lord
Your Romance Coach

Online Dating Not Just a Trend
Your computer as effective matchmaker. But beware, the internet leaves plenty of room for deception.
By:Hara Estroff Marano

Surely you heard about the Kassem Saleh, the “Army Romeo” who while married and making Afghanistan safe for democracy found time to propose to 50 or so women electronically, all of whom he had “met” via email.

The internet leaves plenty of room for deception on both ends. On the sending end, anybody can describe himself falsely, although I’m not sure why he would—if a flesh-and-blood meeting is the ultimate goal. Sooner or later there has to be a reckoning. This aspect of the internet has received a lot of attention, maybe more than it deserves.

More intriguing is the deception that occurs at the receiving end of e-mail. It’s there that the power of emotions and belief and need can commingle to deceive one into believing that a real and durable relationship exists purely in unverified words.

Part of the problem is that you read e-mail in private. It’s just you alone with your own psyche, its dreams and its hungers. Many of the usual brakes on human behavior are absent. There are no friends around to reality-test against. Your mind is free to run away with itself.

And there is in fact something about the my turn/your turn rhythm of exchange of e-mail, and the slow revelation of self it allows, that is exciting. I think of it as slow dancing at the cyber café. It’s truly seductive.

All the more reason why critical faculties should go online as well as hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams are not enough to build a relationship on anytime, anywhere, on or off the internet. Colonel Saleh isn’t the first to dupe women; it started long before the internet was ever conceived.

I am concerned less with Saleh than I am with the women he toyed with, although there has to be some psychic flaw that would encourage someone to a) spend that much time online and b) get his kicks by deceiving, and thus harming, others. It’s called sociopathy in the psych biz. I’m not sure that it’s punishable by court martial, as his contacts are now demanding.

The sad part may be that the wooed women were drawn from tallpersonals.com, targeted because they were guaranteed to be needy, placed by the accident of height in a Darwinian social universe that made them less sought after as potential mates. And of course, that would have given them a whole lot less practice at love and a lot less knowledge about it.

I consider myself a romantic, but romance for me isn’t glass slippers and overwrought declarations, as it seemed to be for Saleh’s conquests. “He made us feel like goddesses, fairy princesses, Cinderellas. We had all found our Superman, our knight in shining armor,” said one disappointed bride-to-be.

Maybe it’s because I have had long-term experience with the real thing, enough to know that love isn’t about finding Superman. Superman doesn’t exist. We love in spite of someone’s flaws. It’s much sexier and allows moments of unalloyed transcendance.

I would throw up if any guy said to me, whether to my face or in an e-mail, as Saleh reportedly did to his correspondents, “You and the thought of you have created a desire so deep within my soul that I cannot fathom a time I will ever be without you.” I would be embarrassed to tell another human being that I might actually have fallen for such a line. I would wonder about the sanity of any guy who proposed to me online without ever having met me.

Most of all, I don’t want someone who can’t live without me; I want someone who can live without me but chooses not to. Someone with a stronger sense of self than Saleh’s messages suggest. That’s what real love demands.

If Saleh’s declarations didn’t seem overblown on their own merits, there was a dead giveaway to deception. He told at least one woman that as a result of parachute jumping he had actually shrunk from over six feet to about five foot nine. I’m sorry, that’s just a howler. Still no suspicion?

I suppose that I am truly annoyed at Kassem Saleh—but mostly for giving internet dating a bad name. Online daters are not all losers longing for Superman. I demand a personal apology.

I not only think posting an online personals ad is a great idea, I’m actually doing it. I’m a 60-year-old widow who is busy working, volunteering, living a life. I had a great long-term relationship; I know how good love can be. I want to go through life with a partner.

By the time one reaches adulthood, one is hopefully spinning down some reasonably interesting, possibily individualistic, path in life. You have some special facets you’d like to more or less align with someone else’s interests. So the pool of possibilities shrinks considerably. I just don’t encounter that many eligible males now in the course of a day. The intelligent use of the internet opens up possibilities of people who might live a block away but whom I might not ordinarily encounter.

Before I leapt online, I researched personals sites, read ads posted by males and those posted by females. Most were boring (is there a guy who doesn’t want to cuddle by the fire, walk barefoot on the beach or believe in “chemistry,” whatever that is?)

I wanted my profile to work hard for me, to entice the kind of guy I might actually like—while screening out unsuitables. A good profile, I decided, provides an accurate picture of a person, in words.

I have met a few extraordinary guys. There are definitely some world-class guys out there. So successful was the first profile I posted online that I urged a newly divorced friend to follow suit. I drafted her profile, an appealing—and accurate—verbal snapshot of her. Four months ago I was matron of honor at her wedding.

I am now back in the market, and I’ve posted a new personals ad. I like to think it captures my essence, conveys my wit and spunk—demonstrates it rather than my having to declare it—and so keeps away the humorless and the insecure.

ROAD-TESTED. HANDLES WELL!! I’ve been around the block but I’m in excellent condition. Maybe even better than new. Powerful, smart and very lively engine. Fully automatic, .... You get the picture.

Warped Romeos need not reply.


Lie About Age? Never!

Any form of lying has an heavy “Ick” factor.  It is beyond me why anyone looking for a long term relationship would lie about anything.  Of course, maybe that’s part of it: The liar is NOT looking for a long-term relationship (which are based and built on trust—ie no lying), but for something short-term and exploitive.  What do you think?

From the New York Post:


July 8, 2007—So you’re 41 but know you’ll probably get a lot more interest if you post your age as 38. Or maybe you are a 52-year-old who shops at Urban Outfitters and listens to the same music as your college-age kid; would it really be so wrong to post your age as “40-something?” We take a closer look with this roundtable made up of single people like you and some online dating experts.

Q: Why is age so important anyway? Is it more important in the online dating world than out at a party or bar?

Stacy Kravetz, author of The Dating Race: An Undercover Report from the Front Lines of Modern-Day Romance: Age is an issue, no matter what age you are. Just when you’ve swallowed the big 3-0, it seems like every celebrity on the cover of People magazine is barely out of her teens. Online dating only magnifies the issue, because we’re given the option of pre-selecting for all the characteristics we find important, including age. And we get all this information about a potential date before we’ve even decided whether to meet them. So age becomes even more important, because we’re using it as a criterion before a date, rather than a piece of information we learn on the date itself. Also, men tend to worry that women between 35 and, say, their early 40s are bound and determined to have kids. So even if they’re 35 themselves, men tend to look for women who are younger just to take the pressure off the situation. Not that women over 35 are all looking to mate for life on the first date-but to see the way men run for cover, you’d think they were.

Jack Conway, author of the eBook, Guaranteed To Get A Date Guide: We live in a youth-obsessed culture. Whether we like it or not, our society equates youth with beauty. But it goes beyond that: In order for a relationship to work, people need to have common interests, goals and lifestyles. These things tend to be age-related. So there’s very little chance that a 20-year-old woman will view her interests, goals and lifestyle as similar to those of a 40-year-old man.

Q: Exactly how many years do online daters typically shave off their age?

Cozette, online dater, 38: I delete four years-it’s closer to the age most people guess I am, and it’s closer to the age I feel. When I posted my real age, I didn’t get any emails for the first two months. Not one. So I changed it to 34 and within days I had literally hundreds of responses. So far, no one has ever questioned it.

Debbie, online dater, 53: I say I’m 47 because that’s around the age I’m looking for in a date. I’ve had a lot more emails since I adjusted my age. Now people I’m interested in - and the ones who are interested in me - are actually finding me.

Pamela, online dater, 50: I reduce mine by three years. We all discount our ages-you have to since people are using age ranges as part of their search criteria. If you’re fit, attractive and hoping to meet the same, you have to lower your age.

Jerry, online dater, 53: I’ve been tempted many times to fudge my age online, but I think it’s a mistake because once you start lying, you’ve got a big mess on your hands. But I do steer around the issue when I meet someone face-to-face. If I sense that the conversation is moving in that direction - like, what year I graduated college - I’ll change the subject. Women usually misgauge my age by about five years.

Q: When, if ever, is it time to fess up with your actual age?

Debbie, 53: Once someone contacts me by email and it looks promising, I tell the truth before we meet. I explain why I lied in the first place, and it’s never been a problem.

Pamela, 50: At the first meeting, so the truth is on the table as soon as possible. As long as you fess up right away it’s not really lying. More like truth in lending.

Cozette, 38: I think I’d fess up over the course of becoming friends. This way we’ve already made a connection, and hopefully he’s less likely to bail. But sometimes the truth comes out before you get the chance to confess. Last weekend I took one of my online dates, who was 28, to my brother’s birthday party, and my brother slipped my real age. Luckily, we already had a rapport, so my date didn’t seem to mind too much. It’s funny… he wants to be exclusive now. He doesn’t seem to care about the age difference at all. But I might.

Q: How do dates react to the confession?

Pamela, 50: Actually, my date was relieved. I was 49 at the time, but I could pass for 38. I told him I was 46. When we first met I was wearing this short skirt - I tend to dress young - I looked really cute. We sat down, started talking. I said, “Look. I have to be honest with you. I’m not 46. I’m 49.” And he said, “Thank you.” It turns out that he’d lied, too. He claimed that he was 49, but he was really 52.

Kirk, online dater, 40: Lying of any kind was an absolute deal-breaker for me. This happened to me twice with women I’d met online through a dating service. They had some system where they divided you into age categories and assigned every group a letter of the alphabet. I was an F because I fell into the 35-39 bracket. I found interesting women profiled in the F’s. But in both cases, they admitted over dinner that they’d altered their age because they felt they belonged in the younger category. One of them was truly the most beautiful woman I’d ever met. She said, “I just couldn’t consider myself a G. All the other women in G look so much older than me.” She really did look a lot younger than her age, but that insecurity about her age was not attractive.

Let me tell you a quick story: Last October, I got married to a wonderful woman I met online. She was 42, I was 39. She was honest about her age and I was absolutely charmed. She said, “I treasure my maturity,” and when I heard those words, I knew I’d met the woman I wanted to be with.

Q: How do you handle it when dates turn up looking older than they say they are-should you say something?

Jack Conway: If you’re having a good time with your date, you may not want to bring it up at that very moment. But you don’t want to start off a possible relationship with a huge doubt, either. If the date goes well, you’ll most likely be talking with this person afterwards, probably by email, maybe on the phone. That could be a good time to bring up your concerns. But subtlety is the key. That way they feel at ease and are more likely to spill the beans. One way to bring up the issue might be - and you’ll want to say this with a bit of humor - “You know, I know you’re only 34 years old, but you come off as someone who’s a bit older and wiser.” I’m not saying you have to say this word for word, but if you have any concerns at all, about age or anything else, it’s in your best interest to deal with it early on.

Stacy Kravetz: It would be tough to broach the subject. Some people just look older. And once we reach a certain age, say, over 30, it’s pretty hard to tell how old anyone is based purely on looks. You could try to be subtle. Get into a conversation about awful music from the 80s, for instance. Couch it in terms of what life stage you were at then-grade school, high school, college, first real job… Anyone who was in high school in the mid-80s is under 40 years old.

Erin, online dater, 42: I’ve come up with a surefire way of getting them to fess up. When a man tells me his age and I suspect he’s lying, I’ll say, “That’s really too bad because I prefer older men.” Right away they’re scrambling to explain why they lied and even breaking out IDs to prove that they’re older.

Q: What should you do if you spot a profile of a person you’d love to meet, but they’re looking for someone younger than you-should you contact them? And should you lie about your age?

Jack Conway: I’ve found that most people use these age ranges only as loose guidelines. So, I’d say go for it. Don’t lie about your age, but go ahead and make the first contact. Most of the time, if two people are connecting and really seem to enjoy each other’s company, it won’t be a concern.

Kirk: I firmly believe that if you can’t be honest in online dating, you shouldn’t be dating at all. It’s not fair to the people out there who are being honest and trying to meet someone they can be with.

Jerry: Women are skittish enough-you tell them you lied about your age and they’ll be wondering what else you’ve lied about. Next thing you know, they’re wondering if you served time in San Quentin.

Stacy Kravetz: Most men can get over knowing that the person they’re dating is older than she says more easily than knowing she lied about it. If you see an amazing profile asking that only younger women apply, why not just send a light-hearted email admitting that you’re having the 5th anniversary of your 30th birthday and see if he’ll raise his age bar? But I don’t think you should lie. The problem with lying is that if the relationship works out, you’re eventually going to have to get honest-or perpetually hide your driver’s license. How long can that go on?

Debra Kent is a freelance writer and author of The Diary of V series of books.


Just the Facts, M’am

If you are a “Just give me the facts, M’am” kind of person and you want to know just what is going on in the Internet dating world these days, this article below is for you.  Yeah, I know it is long, but it is CRAMMED full of info that curious online daters love.

The secret world of online dating
by Jennifer Litz

Google bought YouTube last fall for 1.65 billion, according to its press center; Time magazine’s last person of the year was “You,” for all “your” participation in online communities—from the MySpace juggernaut, to its many niche offspin communities, like the new “Eons” community targeted to 50-plus-somethings.

A majority of online daters is younger, employed and slightly more liberal than the rest of the population.
People are spending a lot of time online. But more specifically, people aren’t just paying bills, researching papers, and buying books or clothes there. People spend a lot of time as online voyeurs, looking, laughing at, and talking to people they may or may not even know.

Online dating is a natural in this sociological climate. According to a March 2006 report on Online Dating from the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2004, “dating Web sites created more revenue than any other paid online content category, as they netted roughly $470 million in consumer spending, up from about $40 million in 2001.”A flurry of institute research confirms that online dating emerged as a viable dating alternative several years ago.

In full disclosure, I will tell you that I have had a taste of online dating, but it took me a while to accept the “online dater” label. (A Pew report has spelled out the criteria of an online dater: “Looking at the total Internet population, 11 percent of all American Internet-using adults—about 16 million people—say they have gone to an online dating Web site or [a site] where they can meet people online. We call them online daters in this report.”) As the former resident blogger for an online dating site who met a guy by perusing user profiles, even I am considered an online dater—even though my examination of his user profile was part of my research to write those blogs.

Who Dates Online?

A majority of online daters is younger, employed and slightly more liberal than the rest of the population, but older people are online daters too. A February 2006 paper from the MIT Sloan School of Management called “What Makes You Click? – Mate Preferences and Matching Outcomes in Online Dating” surveyed 22,000 users of an unnamed “major” online dating service; users were located in the Boston and San Diego areas. The study involved observing the daters’ activities for three months, including introductory “profiling” information the users supplied to the sites, such as age, height, income, and other demographic and physical characteristics.

The MIT report found that online daters tended to be younger than their “general population” counterparts; the median age for a site user was 26-35, while the general populations of Boston and San Diego’s median age ranges were in the 36-45 range. The study also found that site users tended to be more educated and have slightly higher incomes than the general population and online users who did not go on dating sites.

The Pew study confirms these findings—to an extent. Surveying a “representative sample” of 3,215 phone-owning Americans in the continental United States, among the results found was that the online daters tended to be younger and employed. No reports of higher education or income levels were reported. Rather, since the largest segment—18 percent—of online daters were determined to be in the 18 – 29 range, those earning slightly lower incomes were determined to be online daters. Age breakdowns for the rest of site users were as follows: 11 percent in the 30–49 year age-range, and nine percent in the 50- plus range.

That study also found online daters were more likely than the general population to support gay marriage and women’s rights; less likely than the general population to be religious.

As mentioned earlier, about one in 10 Internet users have gone to a dating Web site; more specifically, 37 percent of a group who said they were single and looking to “meet a romantic partner” claimed having gone to a dating Web site, which represents about four million people.

But what is the perception among Internet users about those who used online dating services?

According to the Pew study, 61 percent of adults online do not think that online daters are “desperate”; 29 percent believe that online daters are in “dire straits,” and 20 percent think that online daters are “losers.” The Pew study says that the latter group has less experience online and tends to be less trusting of people in general.

What about the physical characteristics of online daters? It’s hard to ascertain physical attractiveness of online daters, as not everyone posts the optional picture with their profiles—though according to practically every “how-to” online dater’s guide, those with pictures posted get more messages and responses than those who don’t. Liz Edelbrock, a spokesperson for Match.com, says that Match.com members who post pictures get 15 times more attention, in the form of views, correspondence, or “winks,” an acknowledgment feature their site has.

There is, however, the “Reported Physical Characteristics of the Users.” According to the MIT report, 27.5 percent of assessed online daters posted their pictures. For the rest of the non-picture posting users, a survey was used for online daters to rate their own looks. According to the report, 19 percent of men and 24 percent of women reported possessing “very good looks,” while 49 percent of men and 48 percent of women reported having “above average looks.” Those who selected “looking like anyone else walking down the street” included 29 percent of men and 26 percent of women. Less than one percent of users claimed “less than average looks”; a few joked, “bring your bag in case mine tears.”

But are they being honest? According to the MIT report, there is a discrepancy between certain physical characteristics survey respondents supplied and those corresponding to national averages. For example, the average survey-stated weight of women tends to be six pounds less than the national average, while the stated height of men is 1.3 inches taller in the online survey than in national averages. Either online daters are a skinnier, taller, more attractive bunch than the rest of us, or they may be stretching the truth.

One thing certainly rings true in both real and online dating, according to the MIT report: physical attraction is the biggest predictor of dating proliferation.

What do Online Daters Want?

The MIT report found that online daters tended to be younger than their “general population” counterparts; the median age for a site user was 26-35, while the general populations of Boston and San Diego’s median age ranges were in the 36-45 range.

Much like the real world, physical attraction is the biggest predictor of having a prolific online dating experience. Those men and women in the lowest “looks” decile, according to the MIT report, received only half as many e-mails from other online daters as members whose rating were in the fourth decile; users in the top decile were contacted twice as often. Echoing what Edelbrock said about pictureposting daters being more active, the MIT study showed that women with photos received at least twice as many e-mails as those without, and men received 60 percent more e-mails than those without who described themselves as having “average looks.”

The data goes on to confirm that men in the 6’3” – 6’4” range receive more messages from users than those in the 5’7” – 5’8” range, while women from 5’3” – 5’8” fare better than their counterparts. The report even pinpoints the optimal BMI for men and women to receive optimal email messages from online daters: for men, it’s the slightly overweight BMI of 27; for women, it’s the underweight BMI of 17. That latter figure corresponds with that of a supermodel. According to the report, a woman with a BMI of 17 received 90 percent more first-contact emails than a woman with a BMI of 25, which is considered healthy by the American Heart Association. These sorts of physical preferences bear themselves out even in hair length; men with long, curly hair and red hair fared worse than their counterparts with “medium straight hair”; women with long, straight hair faired better than their shorter-hair contemporaries.

Conclusion? Online daters are a picky bunch. What they are, according to many, is serious about finding a mate. “I think Match.com is generally for the serious dater,” Edelbrock says. “We have 400,000 people a year resigning, saying they met the person they were seeking on Match; once they find that person they’re not staying online. People who put themselves ‘out there’ online are saying, ‘I really want to meet someone’—if not for marriage, then at least a serious or long-term commitment.” The MIT’s study corroborates that statement.

How Does Online Dating Work?

Usually, there’s a physical/demographic portion to fill out, followed by a variety of “compatibility tests” to help with member pair-ups. And there’s usually a charge, too—with a cheaper monthly rate afforded to those who sign up for multiple months.

According to comScore Media Metrix, Match.com was only second to Yahoo! Personals as of January 2006 in attracting the most users. It won that distinction with 3,893 unique users that month. Match.com capitalized on its popularity last February by launching Chemistry.com.

According to Chemistry.com press releases, this site is for serious daters who want to be matched with someone compatible, instead of having to search for matches. The “Chemistry Profile,” a lengthy survey the potential site member fills out about his or her personality, likes and dislikes, is common among online dating sign-up protocol. It may be different from other online dating surveys in that “renowned biological anthropologist, author and expert in the science of human attraction” Helen Fisher, PhD, created this particular survey.

Who else but such an “expert” could compile dating questions dealing with the comparative lengths of one’s ring and index fingers? Or have a “sensory perception” interlude that has respondents match figure shapes and sizes…

Then there’s the question in which survey takers are asked, after seeing a book cover with a man and woman— one backgrounded, one in the foreground, and both looking off over the sea—to label it with one of the following titles: “Adventures on the Rhein”; “Anatomy of Friendship”; “Power Plays”; or “Things Left Unsaid.”

Despite questions like this—which some men and women may find off-putting—many people who sign up to find love on the Web do get their wish. According to the people polled for the Pew study, “Three percent of the Internet users who are married or in long-term committed relationships say they met their partners online. That represents about three million people.”

If three percent sounds small, realize that in the Pew’s “representative” study of thousands of Americans, less people reported having met their spouses at church, at a “recreational facility” like a gym, or through a blind date or dating service, to name a few traditional meeting venues.

Of course, online dating is not for everyone. Three years ago, Christine, a Texas-based art director, logged onto eHarmony®. She had just broken up with her off-and-on boyfriend of six years, and was ready to meet the “love of her life” the Web site promised to find. She completed the elaborate entry questionnaire that had asked about her beliefs, ideals, characteristics and upbringing. She then pressed the button that asked if she was ready to find her ideal mate, and waited patiently for twenty minutes while the site combed through its thousands of user profiles to deliver her perfect match.

“We have no matches for you. Try expanding your search area,” the result said. She had already put the whole world. She married her ex-boyfriend.


Heavy Reading, But Interesting…

Here’ s a turn from an Australian scholar about Internet dating....

The commodification of intimacy
By Millsom Henry-Waring - posted Monday, 9 July 2007

The increasing popularity of online dating is self-evident. We live in a global consumer-oriented world. We appear to be comfortable with the idea of effectively shopping online for love. Yet something remains missing.

Instead of offering radically new options for connecting, online dating merely reinforces traditional forms of intimacy, where “man still meets woman” according to explicit and implicit social criteria. Some innovative online dating technologies can offer us a real opportunity to reshape the ways in which we connect intimately, but so far, any developments have been curbed primarily by the commercial interests of the online dating and to a lesser extent, technology industries. And this is a real failing.

We all know someone who has dated someone they have met online. Yes, we do. It is OK to own up - really. Everybody’s doing it. Online dating 21st century style might create an occasional titter or a knowing look, but there is no longer a deep-rooted social stigma attached to finding a partner online.

Unlike traditional forms of dating via newspaper ads, or introduction agencies, online dating is no longer viewed as an activity of sad, lonely, or desperate people. Such unflattering perceptions are firmly a thing of the past. More often than not, the image today is more likely to be a professional, mobile, technologically literate person who may be time and “intimate network” poor, but who has a thoroughly postmodern, consumer, criteria-driven idea of what to look for in a partner.

As a consequence, there has been an exponential rise in the number and type of online dating sites to meet and connect individuals with each other, both locally and globally. Today, most people meet and connect with someone through specific online dating sites such as RSVP, Matchmaker.com and LavaLife.

Many of these online dating sites charge an average monthly subscription of between $40-$50 for members. Members have to place a brief written profile (usually with a photo) of themselves online, based on a prescribed set criteria such as age, gender, “racial” heritage and occupational status. Members can then browse and search through the site to find likely matches. In addition, members can then contact each other via the sites’ many interactive communication tools such as email, chat and SMS services.

This is where online dating sites make money. It is big business. The online dating industry is a major global commercial enterprise. According to Jupiter Research in 2006, the online dating industry had a turnover over US$649 million.

As with most market-driven enterprises, the online dating industry has responded to demands from people with a diverse range of needs. There are now a plethora of niche or speciality sites, which attempt to cater for a wide range of preferences such as “race”, religion, sexuality and disability - such as Blacksingles.com, CatholicMatch.com, Gaydar.com.au, Planet Sappho or CupidCalls.

In addition, a number of online dating sites which claim to be more selective have emerged. These include sites such as eHarmony which aims to attract singles who are serious about finding a long-term partner based on highly selective and detailed compatibility measurements. And the True.com site which endeavours to ensure that members are bona fide single people of good repute, with warnings about being sued if they are not. And more recently, the rise of online dating sites like Meet People With Herpes (MPWH), or Prescription4Love for people facing the stigma of special conditions, such as HIV or Herpes.

While all of these sites appear to be responding to demand and supply in the marketplace, they do raise more serious questions about the lack of any liberating or emancipatory vision for online dating. More on this in a moment.

Recently a number of economic commentators have claimed that the online dating industry has reached its financial peak. This is linked to the variable nature and quality of dating online and the unwillingness of singles to pay to remain online for the long-term. In addition, the emergence of social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Udate, Club Intimate have enabled people to find, meet and connect, intimately or not, for free.

So what are the factors that have led to this change in perception and behaviour? They are many, but the key drivers are the developments in new technologies alongside fundamental global changes in our economy which are impacting not only on the ways we trade, but also more crucially on the ways in which we live. Sociologists such as Ulrich Beck, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim and Anthony Giddens, have pointed out that there are now many more risks and far less certainties, in both our public and personal lives.

We live in a time which sociologists describe as characteristic of the post-modern global society, where there is a decline in traditional norms and values that used to guide society and individuals - moving from one which was more collectivist in nature to a focus which is now more individualistic.

For those of us fortunate to live in a country like Australia, we know that we have greater prosperity than in the past and compared to some parts of the globe. We know that our standards of living and health are higher. And like other affluent countries, we also enjoy and demand the right to consume.

Yet, we also know that despite this material wealth, we are more likely to face uncertainties in our careers. We are more likely to move several times for work across towns, regions, the nation or the globe. We are also more likely to be in and out of intimate relationships. It should not be a surprise to find that people are actively seeking different ways to meet, to connect, to date and ultimately to form intimate and other relationships with.

While there are some positives to this social shift, such as more personal forms of freedoms and choices, there are also some negative consequences, particularly in the ways in which we connect intimately and otherwise.

Leading sociologist Zygmunt Bauman for example, laments the type of intimate relationships that now exist. Bauman talks negatively about love in postmodern societies - love has become so fluid that it is “liquid”, devoid of real shape and meaning.

Another prominent sociologist, Anthony Giddens takes a slightly modified view of relationships in the 21st century, by explaining how we now enter relationships no longer out of obligation or duty, but out of a demand for reciprocal partnership as an end in itself. Thus, if relationships do not work out, we simply leave. Both regard the rise of online dating sites as evidence of the commodification and ultimately, the disposability of intimacy.

This commodification of intimacy has been aided by the commercial nature of the online dating and technology industry, which inevitably regards dating as a type of commodity in which individuals can consume each other. The market is therefore a key influence shaping online dating. Unfortunately, this has meant that any liberating or radical changes to conventional forms of dating have been neglected. As a result, the online dating and technology industry has been a major obstacle to truly altering the ways in which people can connect intimately.

For example, most features of online dating sites tend to reinforce existing norms about dating, especially from a gendered or racialised perspective.

Often the act of dating online involves browsing and filtering the visual cues of photos, which tends to prize beauty and attractiveness through a largely exclusive western, Anglocentric lens. You do not have to go far to read from the front pages on, whom or what is rated as an attractive male or female.

Further, on some of the online dating sites, the assumption remains that men do most of the courting or chasing via “kisses” and “smiles”. In a collaborative study on online dating in Australia, a colleague (Dr Jo Barraket) and I found that while the possibilities offered by new technologies should enable individuals to meet others regardless of geography or conventional social criteria - people are still focused on finding people whom they would otherwise meet in a conventional sense.

Despite the opportunity to shop for love then, it appears we are still looking at the same labels or brands, with only a few of us willing to take the risk of trying on a new label.

The online dating industry at the moment reinforces the status quo of how “man meets woman” (or woman meets woman and man meets man). A key example can be found on almost all online dating sites as they focus on conventional forms of beauty, age and attractiveness - some are more explicit such as BeautifulPeople.net, GorgeousNetworks.com and MillionaireMatcher.com. Or sites like WildMatch.com or IwantU.com who draw a fine line between dating, sex and soft pornography. Even those which appeal to singles who want to meet others from different cultures are problematic, as they often stereotype groups of people as the exotic, submissive Other. These include sites such as InterracialSingles.net or InterracialMatch.com, AsianSinglesConnection and CherryBlossoms.

What I find disappointing and frustrating is that although there is a huge potential for technologies to connect people more innovatively, online dating sites have largely ignored any efforts to challenge the very ways in which we date. This neglect has been detrimental. So the status quo remains. Men still look in a certain way. Women still are objectified. Businesses make money as people consume.

Key questions remain - what about finding viable alternative ways of really connecting with people outside the square? Why don’t we demand more positive ways of connecting, intimately and otherwise?

Connecting to each other is a key human activity in the 21st century. We just all need to work much harder at connecting in the real world. It is too easy to shift tack and forget the real world in favour of alternative worlds offered by SecondLife and others. We know that humans desire and actually need to meet others physically to connect, especially in an intimate way. Despite all the promises of cybersex, there is something very false, alienating and artificial about it. Nothing can replace skin-skin contact. Anything else will always be second or third-best.

Online dating via deliberate or social networking sites looks set to continue to be a way in which people connect. Online technologies still have the potential to offer new ways of connecting. I believe that we just need to find much more radical and inspiring ways in which we can break free from traditional stereotypes about dating which particularly continue to place women and Others as objects and commodities rather than as equal, active partners.

In order to be viable in the long-term, the online dating (and the technology) industry will have no choice but find more innovative ways of encouraging us all to connect. Until then, maybe some of the answers lie firmly with all of us to find practical, creative and transformative ways of truly connecting with each other, intimately or otherwise.

Dr Millsom S Henry-Waring is a Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Political Science, Criminology and Sociology at the University of Melbourne. She has conducted a small study on online dating entitled “Virtual Connections” with a colleague Dr Jo Barraket also from the University of Melbourne.


Tossible Digits Provides Anonymity

Another resource for anonymous phone numbers, provided by techie son Paul…

Preserving your personal safety is always an issue for online daters, and getting a non-tracable phone number is one of the ways you can do it.  Here’s a resource for you:

From the Tossible Digits website:

Tossable Digits offers anonymous, disposable telephone numbers that give you complete control over who can reach you and when. With Tossable Digits, you’ll get a new phone number that only rings when and where you want it to ring. You decide where your calls are forwarded. You decide what hours to accept calls. You decide how long to keep your phone number active.



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