Match.com, Friendster, eHarmony, Cybersuiters and even AIM are just a few in the growing army of Internet tools designed to help you find that special someone.
Suddenly, dating has never been so technical.
Go to Match.com and answer a series of questions, everything from the mundane (cheerful people, turn-on or turn-off?) to the more titillating (do you sometimes wish other people would fail?). Click on the submit button and wait for your psychological profile to load, be compared with millions of others, and paired off methodically, like something out of a Huxley novel.
At Friendster, your friends can even write you a letter of recommendation telling the world of that drunken night in Cancun or explaining why you would make a wonderful father. Nicole Cruz, a third-year international studies major, jokes, ‘It really reinstates that sense of ‘yes, people do like me’ within yourself.’
All this makes a person wonder: Whatever happened to meeting someone in the checkout aisle of the grocery store?
In 2004, where no one has time to stamp an envelope much less go on a chain of bad blind dates, Internet dating might be where it’s at. With that said, I give you Internet dating: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Janette Kim, a third-year communications major at Cal State Fullerton, was the ultimate critic of online dating.
‘I’ve never been one to meet a person from the Internet. I mean 6’1, clean-cut, business major is just code for fat, bald man with no teeth. As a girl these days, you have to be safer than that,’ Kim said.
Returning from a public relations class in May 2002, to her surprise, she found a new e-mail message on her computer screen.
‘It was from some guy named Tom, who said he had found my livejournal online. Livejournal is a place where you can go and make entries about things that are going on in your life or what you did that day. You update every once in a while and your friends do the same. Mostly I just use it to keep in touch with high school friends,’ Kim said.
Tom explained that he had found her journal through a friend’s journal in a ‘six degrees of separation’ scenario.
‘It was against my usual judgment but he seemed harmless enough. We started talking on AIM and then we couldn’t stop talking,’ Kim said.
After a month of this, Tom popped the inevitable question of meeting. By this time Janette had let down her guard, but still only agreed on the premise that they meet in a public area.
Long story short, Tom and Janette met and had a wonderful first date at Santa Monica Pier.
‘Because he had read my journal there wasn’t first date awkwardness. He already knew my interests, fears and sense of humor. No introductions, just fun.’
They have now been dating steadily for two years and plan to marry after graduation.
‘He lives out in L.A. so there is little chance we could have met without the Internet.’ Kim said.
Over Thanksgiving dinner that first year, her family was eager to hear of the Tom she spoke so fondly of. ‘How did you meet?’ her mother asked, forcing Janette to explain livejournal the best she could: ‘You put your picture up, write things, and sometimes meet people. It’s a good way to fill time.’
To this her confused Korean parents replied, ‘If you were lonely in college you should have joined club. No meeting boys on Internet!’
Ken Wilson, a fifth-year social science major at Concordia University in Irvine, had few prospects in the dating field. Fed up with too many nights at Dave and Buster’s, he visited Match.com where he met ‘sweetpea.’
Her profile read that she was a 19-year old from Huntington Beach, blonde, 5’3′, loved the Violent Femmes and hockey. She seemed to be his deal mate.
After the usual online courting, they decided to meet for a movie. At a designated spot at the Block he waited, adjusting the collar on his shirt several times.
Twenty minutes later, still waiting, Ken saw his little sister’s best friend Sandra. She also looked lost so he went over to say hello.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were waiting for each other. Egos bruised, they both decided to laugh it off and go watch a movie anyway.
‘I went to stand in line for popcorn, turned around to ask her if she wanted a drink, and she was gone. Not that I cared, but it made me feel pretty stupid standing there alone.’
The next day ‘sweetpea’ e-mailed with an apology for her disappearance.
‘She said that she was so sorry, but knew that [Wilson’s sister] Misty would kill her if she found out,’ Wilson shrugged. ‘The whole thing was lame.’
‘I met Brian through my psych class and we just went to grab coffee or whatever,’ said ‘Natalie,’ a UCI student who does not wish to reveal her identity.
‘No, that’s actually not how it happened.’ She stopped. ‘That’s just the story I tell people so they don’t freak out on me. I actually met him online. Before freshman year, I put up a personal profile that said something like ‘going to UCI next year!’ I think that’s how he found me.’
Natalie chatted with Brian for a couple months. ‘I wasn’t romantically interested in him, but he was a sweet, interesting sort of guy.’
One night he ‘AIMed’: \”Want to go out tonight and hang out with me and my friends?’
Natalie was busy that night, plus it didn’t feel right meeting up even though they had been talking for some time.
After the initial invitation to meet, Brian stopped talking to her. Once in awhile he would AIM her to tell her that he was rushing a frat or busy with schoolwork, nothing consequential.
Then one day Natalie picked up a copy of the New University. On the front page, spanning several columns was Brian’s face with a story of a frat boy convicted of raping a 15-year old girl underneath.
‘I just kept looking at it and thinking ‘no way.’ They must have gotten it wrong