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How Love Became Big Business: Internet Dating and Me

 

The internet has transformed every aspect of our lives, from the way we connect with everyone we’ve ever been vaguely acquainted with to the way we do business. It seems that, by browsing online, you can find everything you could possibly desire. Even love.

Article by Roz M. 

Call me old fashioned and cynical – you certainly won’t be the first – but I have always regarded internet dating as the ideal place to meet socially inadequate Norman Bates types; the kind who have an unhealthy interest in tree-felling implements and stuffed animals. Yet, recently I had cause to question this long held perception when I experienced a classic “it wasn’t like that in my day” moment.

Modern Love

While I mourn the passing of my youth, I should explain the seemingly innocuous event that led to the realisation that I no longer have “my finger on the pulse”. In fact, when it comes to love, it seems my outlook belongs somewhere in a Jane Austen novel.

It all began as a harmless conversation with a friend and an enquiry as to the well-being of her 16 year old son who had broken up with his first love the previous weekend. The love lives of angst ridden teenagers do not usually concern me; however, the young Romeo had been at my house when the break up was initiated during an emotional phonecall, leaving me to administer tea and sympathy. With sage like wisdom, I consoled him with all the usual clichés; plenty more fish and all that. So while I was glad to hear from my friend that he hadn’t spent the week moping around, I was surprised to find that, not only had he found someone new, he’d met her online.

Have things changed so much that teenagers now rely on scrolling through their friends’ social media contacts in order to find a date? Maybe it’s less painful than choosing to sit through applied maths, solely because the object of your unrequited love is an A-grade genius whose eye you hope to catch; if only you could muster some understanding of differential equations.

Algorithms vs. Serendipity

When the heck did dating becoming so cold and clinical? Probably at some point during the years I was happily ensconced in a marriage that began back when Tim Berners Lee and the bods at CERN were still refining the life changing invention otherwise known as the World Wide Web.

Surprisingly (to me at least) market research specialists Mintel forecast that the UK online dating market will grow to £150 million by 2014. They estimate that 5.2 million UK adults are using internet dating sites, with over a fifth of 20-34 year olds showing an interest in finding love on the web. It seems that singletons are no longer putting their trust in fate and serendipity, but rather in the algorithms of dating sites that promise to match them with a suitable romantic partner. No wonder the Office of National Statistics have included dating fees in the Basket of Goods and Services used to measure inflation.

Forget locking eyes with a mysterious stranger across a crowded room, or shyly admiring someone from afar for months before plucking up the courage to speak to them. Okay, more realistically, forget the old fashioned dating ritual of meeting some gorgeous hunk in a nightclub and hoping he will still appear as gorgeous a) when the lights are turned on and b) when you sober up.

Nowadays, you can log on and browse for a partner, dismissing those who don’t live up to your ideals. And with the myriad of sites available, covering every niche market from single parents to silver surfers, there’s no excuse not to find your “perfect match”. In fact, finding yourself a date is apparently as easy as ordering your weekly groceries online; although your groceries may last longer than your virtual relationship.

Internet dating - Train spotting

First date in the pub went well? Somewhere like this could still be the venue for your second meet-up.

Image by: nmorao

Young Widow Seeks

Having been thrust rather abruptly and unexpectedly into singledom following the death of my husband, dating was the last thing on my mind. However, after a while I found well-meaning, and less well-meaning, friends seemed keen to “fix me up”. I’m not sure if this was because being single meant I was a social pariah, or whether they thought I might steal their husbands, or, quite frankly, they wanted to me to be as miserable as them.

Unfortunately (in my friends’ eyes) suitable single men of a certain age are few and far between. Several have therefore suggested internet dating, while a number of my single friends have resorted to the web in an attempt to find their soul mate. I have resisted the lure of scrapingthebarrel.com, but watched with bemusement as friends have invested time and effort in their quest for Mr He’ll Do.

One friend had so many dates in one week, all of whom she insisted in meeting in a local pub, that the landlord was beginning to suspect she was a high class call girl. While some may see five dates in one week as a sign of success; I can’t help thinking what a tedious waste of time it is to spend so many evenings in the company of people I never wish to see again.

Yes, I know that life is all about grabbing every opportunity, but I can’t help feeling there’s something a little contrived about spending your free time attempting to make small talk with someone a computer has identified as your perfect match. And while it may seem wonderful to be matched with someone who has exactly the same interests and who may be as obsessively tidy as you, what about chemistry and passion?

No dating site would ever have paired me with my husband. Although his innate inability to find his keys and wallet, coupled with his blatant lack of punctuality would drive me to distraction, I can’t envisage being happy with someone who is as obsessive about these things as me. There’s only room for one person to be always right in a relationship, and as a Virgo, that’s me!

Internet dating - screenshot of dating website

A dating site, earlier today. We were going to use a screenshot of that ‘uniform’ one, but it’s just a bit too weird. Not as weird as datemypet.com though.

Rate my date

Having watched with fascination from the sidelines as several friends have tried, and failed, to find love online, I’m wondering if Amazon could improve the dating experience? As the internet site that pioneered customer reviews, maybe they could diversify into dating and save singletons from wasting precious evenings feigning interest in the life story of their latest date. Think about how helpful it would be to read a review of your potential date before you decide to leave the house.

Greekadonis73

The meal and restaurant were lovely. There’s nothing like an all you can eat pizza buffet, on a summer’s evening in the Bullring, to evoke the spirit of Tuscany. However, from his picture, I was expecting my date to be a blond haired, young fitness fanatic with a six-pack. Instead, I was greeted by a slightly greying middle-aged man with a party seven. Despite this, the evening was very informative; I am now fully conversant with the intricacies of the British railway network.

As I feel this user is obtaining his dates by deception, due to his refusal to display a recent profile picture, I am only giving one star out of a possible five.

Maybe I’ll leave it to fate after all. Or maybe I’ll start my own site – love is no longer a many splendoured thing – more a multi-million pound business. Kerching!!!

Are you one of the lucky ones to find your soul mate online, or do you have an internet dating horror story? Let us know, leave your comments below.

Roz is a part-time blogger with a love of travel. Sadly lacking a millionaire to fund her travel ambitions and still unconvinced by the internet dating scene, she is attempting to set up her own online dating website .

Featured image by: cassiopeian 

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