Technology and Dating: Internet Dating
You may have heard the ad campaign from Match.com, an Internet dating site, stating that as many as “one in five relationships start online.” This statement is backed by a case study conducted on behalf of Match.com by Chadwick Martin Bailey through a generically referenced online consumer research panel. The report is somewhat vague, and only includes one particular demographic: People who participate in paid online surveys. Still, it’s true enough that people are meeting each other through the web pretty regularly these days.
While it might seem to be a somewhat new development, people have been meeting online for a while now. The first time I encountered this situation was when my elementary school friend’s mom met a man in a chat room in the mid-1990s. They eventually married, and the relationship lasted three or four years. This of course does not reflect the norm for relationships established through the web.
Back then, what my friend’s mom did was seen as taboo – the concept of meeting someone through the internet was too new for many of her peers to accept. Today, the idea of online dating still carries stigma in some groups that there must be something wrong with people if they can’t meet others in the real world. On the surface, online dating seems faceless. Any brush with human psychology will reveal that just as much information is conveyed through words as our body language. We use intuition to decipher social nuances as we somewhat unconsciously process this information into non-empirical data, which we use to further along our conversation, or perhaps, inch away from an undesirable interaction. Essentially, we feel like we get to know someone best face to face.
Online there’s a different approach to take when attempting to perceive characteristics about an individual. It also depends on what you’re seeking and where you’re seeking your new love or fling. Sites like eHarmony and Match.com are meant for people to get to know each other and develop a real relationship. Both are paid services for people seeking real romance – not just sex. Here, people are expected to give an honest biographical sketch and lay out their expectations in a partner. Other sites take a different approach.
My experiences with meeting people online started with the social media site known as Myspace six years ago. The point of Myspace is social networking, not necessarily dating; yet it did provide a medium for singles to connect. My longest relationship started on this site. I happened to find her profile when cruising through other local profiles, and I recognized her because she was a customer at the Lenscrafters store where I worked. It was a year before she actually went out with me (she shot me down on my first attempt). Another year, another pair of glasses, and a new opportunity surfaced, which warranted a second try, and ultimately, success.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea
Having a small social network in Indianapolis caused me to pursue a new social network, Plenty of Fish (or POF to the elite.) POF is free for a basic subscription. Here you can upload a total of eight photos and plug in information to a data form that contains basic information about yourself. Some of the criteria will factor in other users’ search results. For example, one of the components to your profile allows you to select what you’re seeking in another user. Seeking an “Intimate Encounter” can omit you from search results of users who are seeking more than physical intimacy. POF gives you a bio section where you can reveal as much or as little about yourself as you see fit in addition to an area where you can describe your ideal first date.
When you first sign up, your account status will enable all the features of a paid subscription. Your profile will also populate higher in the search results of other users. It also adds capabilities to the messaging function, such as the exact time a user reads your message, much like iMessage. The “Meet Me” feature, which includes a user picture as well as the options of “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”, as to whether or not you would meet the user pictured, will place your profile higher in a query.
There is a mobile app available for iOS and Android as well. The app can connect you with mobile and online users, so you can message back and forth when you’re on the move. After setting up my profile and installing the app, I ventured out with a pal for a night of pool and beer. The app, which pushes notifications to your phone, started blowing mine up with messages. It was the perfect kick-start to a summer of fun.
First of all, as with any web based social tool: Be careful. It should go without saying, but always meet in public, no matter how big and burly you may be. You never truly know what is on the other side of the profile. Amanda could really be a man (duh!), who set up a false profile using old pictures of his ex-girlfriend. He’s now playing succubus, intending to rob whoever is careless enough to disregard basic common sense.
POF has a good variety of people from all walks of life. I’ve observed every social niche imaginable; there is something for everyone. It is both amusing and somewhat comforting when you encounter someone you know outside of the Internet. You never know – maybe you’ll find there’s potential to be more than friends.