Sex, Lies, and Online Dating
Safeguarding Your Love Life – Part I
Online dating is hardly a radical activity these days. If you have not tested the waters yourself, chances are you know someone who has. Even amidst the present commonness of the activity, however, the prospect of two people discovering one another and connecting romantically has far from lost its luster. “Connecting,” as it has since the beginning of mankind, maintains a fascination for us that is unsinkable. Romance, sex, attraction — they have a never-ending allure. They capture the imagination, intrigue us, and never lose their mystique.
Humans are social creatures. At our core we are curious. And nothing seems to interest us more than relationships. We are prurient. We are voyeurs. We are gossips. We hate. We love. But perhaps most of all, we relish romance. We revel in the complexities of one another’s private lives and are gluttons for saga. And when the lives of those around us are no longer interesting enough, we reach for more distant ones. We follow celebrities, voraciously consuming any juicy details about their personal relationships that we can possibly lay our hands on instead.
When it comes to our own lives, however, one axiom remains true across the ages: The prospect of finding one’s own soul mate, no matter how remote, is an idea that never loses its appeal. The hunt for that one special person – the possibility of true love – it captivates us. It stirs us. It draws us to action.
With the introduction of the internet, yet a whole new dimension opened up to us. The mere possibility of an additional avenue for social and sexual connection was so captivating it instantly captured our imaginations, inspiring popular works of fiction that quickly seized hold of the concept and explored the potential for romance to the max. Who can forget the charming duo of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail?” Or Diane Lane and John Cusack in “Must Love Dogs?” Or the even quirkier characters like Kip and Lafawnduh in the campy “Napolean Dynamite.” More recently, in the popular reality series “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” Kim and Kourtney even set Kloe up on an Internet dating service. The internet and dating were a match made in heaven – as natural a combination as peaches and cream. Their destiny was instantly sealed. They were inextricably intertwined.
In 2002, a Wired magazine article forecast that, "Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love without looking for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because ‘the right books are found only by accident.’ Serendipity is the hallmark of inefficient markets, and the marketplace of love, like it or not, is becoming more efficient.1
According to one study conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and comScore Networks, online dating is now the largest segment of paid content on the web other than pornography. In fact, in 2011 the U.S. online dating market is expected to spend as much as $932 million! 2
Inside the online universe, the online-dating and social-network phenomena go hand in hand. In fact, dating sites are really just a subset of social networks – so-called “specialty” social networks that charge fees for membership. Social networks as a whole are proliferating like mushrooms – even further evidence that our fundamental need to connect is far from being stifled by technology. If anything, technology only seems to enhance it. According to some estimates social networks now number in the thousands, many with memberships as high as one million or more. There are many different types of these sites, but no matter what the variety, virtually all offer the potential for meeting someone. Still, when it comes to making a purely romantic connection, dating sites seem to offer one clear advantage: You know why people are there.
When you join a generalized social network, the motivation for membership can run the gamut, and though some aim to make “friends,” the nature of those friendships is generally up for grabs. Online dating sites eliminate much of the guesswork. On these sites it is generally understood that those who join one do so in hopes of making a romantic connection – if they are honest. And therein lays the caveat.
While dating sites may have some advantages, they also have some drawbacks. One of the problems often mentioned is “bait” profiles – attractive profiles designed to lure members to join and pay fees, but which are not real. Perhaps an even bigger risk with these sites, however, is that they make it easy for individuals to claim to be someone that they may not actually be – a problem which those seeking to meet potential partners may encounter not only online, but in real-life social situations as well. Interestingly, this is where traditional social networks like Facebook, but especially people-search engines like Spokeo, can really help. Through these sites one can find out all sorts of information about prospective dates. TO BE CONTINUED…
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