Well, it’s that time of year again. No, not time to shovel the driveway — time for the chubby cherub to work his magic; i.e., align the planets, take aim, and deliver your soulmate to you on the most romantic of all American holidays.
But if Cupid’s been slacking off this Valentine’s Day, you may have to take the matter into your own hands. After all, we’re on the threshold of a new century, here — it’s time to expand our horizons and follow the catch-phrase of the new millennium: Think global.
And how does one go global with one’s search for the perfect mate? Forget the personals, the singles bars, and video-dating services of yore (not to mention the produce aisle of the local grocery store). If you’re on the lookout for postmodern love, jumping into cyberspace is really the only option.
After all, there are reportedly more than 100 million Internet users — and thus potential partners in the game of love, reveals author Nancy Capulet (an apt pseudonym, don’t you think?) in her on-line-dating guidebook, Putting Your Heart Online (Variable Symbols, Inc., 1998). And with that number growing every day, it seems that the possibilities for online dating and everlasting love are endless — limited only by your imagination and your computer skills.
On-line dating is e-commerce at its height, and the pastime is booming. One site alone (people2people.com) boasts “New Members This Week — 7,211; Total Active Members — 967,134” in its headline graphic.
Entering just the keywords (“online dating”) will produce more sites than you can click a mouse at. It also brings up such oddities as “syriaonline.com,” a Middle-Eastern marriage market, and “cd-sales.com,” a site for lovelorn music aficionados.
But fairly well-established Internet-dating Web sites do exist. In her book, Capulet lists some of the better-known sites, including Cupid’s Network (www.cupidnet.com), Hearts Online (www.HeartsOnline.com), SingleSites (www.singlesites.com), and Safedate (www.safedate.org).
These, as well as assorted other sites, all offer various forms of participation. You can become a member — for a fee — or stay a casual browser. But those who choose only to browse might stay lonely (members receive far more privileges and benefits). Some on-line dating sites are free — but remember, you get what you pay for.
The most appealing benefit of cyber-dating, of course, is the anonymity factor. Members choose a “handle” (cutiepie, Iamyours, etc.) with which to make initial contact. The Web site funnels e-mail to members, blocking real names until daters decide to reveal themselves.
Any outside contact is strictly your own call. Sites caution members to “use common sense” in the process of Internet dating — offering suggestions for the first in-the-flesh rendezvous, such as meeting in a public place and, if possible, with a group of friends. They also caution that, once you meet in person, you shouldn’t give out too much personal information until you feel comfortable with your prospect.
All sites aim to convince browsers that becoming a successful on-line dater entails joining a mailing list (read: marketing tool), placing an ad (a pithy promo), creating a dynamite personal profile listing your interests and goals (your version of the meaning of life), actively e-mailing, responding to e-mail, and joining chat rooms and discussion groups (whew! you do have another life, don’t you?), as well as uploading a photo of yourself (get those Glamour Shots ready!).
Most larger on-line-dating sites even offer therapy groups and “relationship specialists” whom you can contact on-line or by phone (on your own dime, that is) to answer your most perplexing love questions.
Capulet encourages all serious computer daters to get organized in their pursuit of on-line love. She suggests tracking your on-line dating responses by keeping personal files, maintaining spreadsheets of biographical data, and performing regular on-line background checks of all potentially interesting mates (for safety’s sake).
All this cyber-energy directed at selling yourself will — according to the on-line love experts — somehow increase your potential response ratio and desired love matches. Not only will your diligent commitment to this on-line-love quest hopefully net you the mate of your dreams, but you will, with the stroke of a keyboard, have arrived at the next wave of e-commerce — a virtual (pun-intended) e-small business.