By Randy Hecht
Is online dating safe?
We’ve all seen the sensationalist news reports. The way sweeps-week TV shows
portray it: Online dating is either a sea of married men pretending to be
single, unusually kinky or unsavory characters and pasty-faced internet
addicts who haven’t left their homes in months. Even people who are engaged in
online dating sometimes joke that if they meet their true loves online,
they’ll have to lie to their friends about how they met. But as more and more
perfectly normal singles become perfectly normal couples after meeting online,
the truth is becoming clear: this new technology is just one more route to
good old-fashioned romance.
Some remain wary, though.
Industry expert and Match.com VP of Romance Trish McDermott has seen it all
before. "The stigma that was initially attached to print personals," she
remembers, "was that you must be a 'loser' to 'resort' to using newspapers to
advertise for a date, and there was so much uncertainty involved: How would
you know anything about the person you were going to meet? It was scary, and
it was kind of a mark against your ability to get a good date in the real
world. Of course, what happened was that personals became extremely popular.
It worked; many people fell in love and got married... and because of that the
stigma has gone away."
Looking for love in all the right places…
So how does it work? On
Match.com, members select a username or handle that is
incorporated into an email address available for use only by subscribers. The
company’s email server strips subscribers’ real email addresses from messages
before they are forwarded to their recipients. This double-blind system adds a
measure of security to the process of online dating, as subscribers need not
reveal any personal or contact information until they’re ready. Members post
(and have the option of hiding) a
free profile that includes text and photographs. Certain criteria — age,
height, body type, religion, marital and parenthood status, and smoking and
drinking habits — are used to sort out the best matches by percentage, and
members can add descriptions of themselves, their interests, and their ideal
"Everyone I met was nice and normal," says Laura Banks, author of Love
Online, of her own online dating experiences. "I had a couple of close
encounters with men that didn't work out, but they were reasonable guys. One
was a respected author, and another was a lighting designer — very attractive
and literate. Not a geek." Banks also talks about one online connection that
changed her life in a very unexpected way: "Through someone I met online, I
got turned on to traditional church, which is kind of funny for such a
Match.com's own statistics tell us a lot about who is searching the Web for
a relationship. The median age of subscribers is in the mid-30s, the company
says; non-paying members and those who log on as guests are younger. The
male-to-female ratio is more balanced than you might think, too; women account
for nearly 50% of
Match.com's members and more than one-third of its
subscribers. Gay and lesbian
Match.com users account for 7% of membership, and
their numbers are growing, approaching the estimated 10% of gay people in
society at large.
McDermott reports, "Match.com subscribers are well-employed and
well-educated. 62% have college degrees, 53% hold managerial/professional
jobs, and an additional 17% are in technical fields." Of course, education and
employment status aren't absolute indicators of someone's behavior in social
or romantic situations, but they are among the first indicators of
compatibility most people in any forum seek when connecting with prospective
dates or other new social contacts.
Let’s get serious.
"Lots of demographic information tells us that people who are using the
Internet are college-educated, intelligent, highly functioning in terms of
their ability to navigate both in terms of communication and technology,"
McDermott adds. "These are certainly not what we'd call losers in life. These
are people with jobs, people who can afford computers, people who are in a
profession where they're using computers."
What draws these people to a medium that still makes so many people so
nervous? The same thing that leads to their investing a small fortune each
year in other singles services: They want to fall in love. The Internet offers
them 24-hour access from home or work, the ability to be anonymous and secure
in ongoing interactive conversations, a level of immediacy newspapers cannot
offer, and an opportunity to screen prospective dates.
"There are over 80 million singles in the U.S. alone," McDermott says, "and
that number is expected to break 100 million within a few years. Trends in the
workplace (issues with sexual harassment, smaller companies, etc.) make it
difficult to date or find someone at work. Older singles are tired of the bar
scene and are looking for something new. On
Match.com, precisely because we
are more upscale than chat environments and because we require a subscription
fee, our members are a bit older. This makes sense because it is not until
people approach their 30s that they become more serious about finding a
Finding the right relationship is hard work. This technology is another
tool for helping to get the job done — and done safely, using the same common
sense rules you would exercise with someone you met at the gym, a PTA meeting
or the grocery store. More and more people are finding success in their online
romantic searches. Of course, just as not all marriages end as successful
relationships, not all successful relationships end in marriage. But those of
you who are seriously marriage-minded will delight in knowing that
has sparked more than 1000 marriages and countless meaningful relationships.
Match.com and other online dating services, more and more people
can look forward to ordering that takeout meal for two.
You've heard the facts, so what are you waiting for?
Search for local singles today today!
1. Research online dating sites. Keep in mind that online dating sites
that you have never heard of before will have a minimal database and won't
be worth your time and money. Try the big online dating sites with name