Dating in cyberspace – perilous like face-to-face

http://www.thevistaonline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/02/18/3e53b0d69d67d

Dating isn’t what it used to be.

Meeting a guy or girl at the soda fountain has been replaced by meeting someone in cyberspace through an Internet dating service or in a chat room. An ever-growing number of American singles are finding first dates online.

But, “Buyer, Beware.” The pitfalls of cyber-dating are more prevalent than the traditional method, said Cody Vignal, a UCO public relations junior.

Vignal said his first attempt at cyber-dating was last year in a Yahoo! chat room. He had always been interested in things technological, and natural curiosity led him to try getting a date on the Internet.

“I was open to it, but I wasn’t really prepared,” Vignal said. “I had never experienced it before and I wasn’t sure what to expect.”

He met a girl from Tulsa in an AOL chat room. They began to get to know each other through frequent telephone calls and e-mail messages. The girl sent Vignal numerous photographs; he said he liked what he saw in them.

Then it came time for their first face-to-face meeting, which was to take place in Tulsa, at her home. When the moment came, Vignal said he saw someone quite different than the photographs portrayed.

“I was kind of blown away by how mislead I was about the whole thing,” Vignal said. “I’d recommend it, but check out the other person really carefully before you meet them. People who mislead on the Internet do it as kind of a last resort. I think there’s blind faith there on each person’s part.”

Vignal said he had several dating experiences through the Internet, including a positive relationship.

Match made in cyberspace

Eighty million singles live in the United States and many of them are seeking a lasting love connection online, said Trish McDermott, Match.com’s vice president for romance; Match.com also has a director of dating.

Singles looking for that special someone on the Internet can subscribe to a multitude of services such as Datingclub.com, Love@AOL or Singles Love Connection.

Match.com’s website boasts that it has more than 653,000 paying customers and another eight million who either post profiles or are active users. More than 500,000 new members register each month at Match.com, which also delivers Internet personals to AOL, MSN and CitySearch.

The cyber-dating busy season begins about New Year’s Day and continues through Valentine’s Day, McDermott said. Other peaks in traffic occur throughout the year depending on the level of company advertising, she said.

“It’s very busy,” McDermott said. “This is the best time of the year, when everyone’s thinking about love and romance. Not everyone’s seeking love, but a lot of people want to ‘hook up.'”

Match.com has united hundreds of thousands of couples with an untold number of them leading to marriages, McDermott said. Some subscribers found out they actually lived in the same neighborhood together, others right next door, she said.

In some cases, a mother found love and marriage through Match.com, then her daughter followed suit, McDermott said. Match.com receives about 75 wedding announcements from satisfied customers monthly, she said.

On average, 7,000 users each month get dates through Match.com, McDermott said. During the last week of January 2003 alone, 65,000 users posted new profiles with the service. Some Match.com employees and entire groups of friends have found true love online, McDermott said.

“Well, I never thought after the end of a 30-year marriage that I could feel like a teenager again, but I do and I owe it all to Match.com,” a customer wrote in a testimonial posted on the company website.

“I met someone in July who actually lives only a few minutes from me and we have been inseparable ever since. We just became engaged over this past weekend.”

First-time visitors to Match.com have the option of posting a free profile, which comes with the benefits of advanced searching, two-way matching, email notification of potential matches and free photographs.

Visitors may also subscribe to the service for less than $24 per month, which gives them access to anonymous e-mail and instant messaging.

Half of Match.com’s subscribers are aged 18-34, McDermott said.

Fifty-seven percent are male, 43 percent female. Fifty percent earn at least $50,000 and 28 percent earn at least $75,000. Eighty-one percent attended or graduated from college.

Most singles are looking for a relationship that will lead to either a long-term commitment or marriage, McDermott said.

Nine out of 10 singles had five or fewer first dates last year.

Thirty percent of singles say Valentine’s Day is the most stressful holiday of all.

Vignal said that to him, Valentine’s Day is just another day.

McDermott concluded with a simple wish for singles.

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