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article imageOp-Ed: The Online Dating Renaissance

By Christine Stoesser     Jun 23, 2011 in Lifestyle
Two weeks ago, I logged onto Facebook (actually I logged onto Facebook two minutes ago but that’s not where this story begins) and saw that one of my Friends had the broken heart icon beside his name indicating he had recently ended a relationship.
He had also shared with his personal Facebook sphere: “I’m single and on every internet dating site available.” On top of this, his Friends were suggesting their favourite dating sites in their comments.
I was a late bloomer in matters of technology—I only joined the 400 million (give or take a few) Facebook users on the planet six months ago and I still despise text messaging, although I know better now than to make a statement as bold as “I’ll never [insert technological verb, ie. ‘sext’],” as I don’t like being wrong about myself, and, despite daily advancements in not only technology but knowledge in general, the future is still undecipherable.
What isn’t mysterious are the statistics: the U.S. government earned $957 million in revenue from online dating in 2008, and, according to the Harper’s magazine Index, there is now a one in four chance that an American couple who met after 2007 made their first exchanges online. Top dating sites like Match.com or eHarmony sort through potential matches by asking questions about education (university or college?), physical appearance (slim or well-built?), hobbies (tennis or cinema?), employment (Toronto accountant or entrepreneur?), etc., as well as personality tests. When I was in high school, we used to run a ‘Matchmaker’ service on Valentine’s Day to raise money for the school band. It was an exhilarating thing for students—over 90% of the student body participated—and I would know, I was in the band. For $2 we were asked to answer about forty icebreaker questions and then wait a couple days to read our (hopefully) favourable results. But the results were always disappointing—I didn’t even know most of my suggested matches, and the ones I did know I felt no chemistry towards and am pretty sure the feeling was mutual—we subsequently avoided each other for the remainder of high school. Certainly my friends and siblings were equally disappointed and perplexed with their suggested matches. Since I’ve never tried an online dating service I know I have no right to dismiss the lot as shallow or ineffective, but I wonder, if the results were so off the mark in my high school matchmaking service (with less than a thousand participants) how could internet dating, which plucks matches out of a much larger pool of information (and not by IT staff with ephemeris in hand, but by computer), be much better?
“You should reinvent your image with attention to all seven components of image simultaneously as you look for companionship and love with someone very desirable, someone you may have felt incapable of meeting previously. The good qualities that you have today will certainly last you the rest of your life. By adding to them a newly reinvented and upgraded image, you will create the total package that will generate buzz, appeal, and friendship…and maybe even more,” wrote Dr. Stuart Fischer, M.D. and author of The Park Avenue Diet, on eHarmony’s advice page, in the ‘Chemistry’ section. It sounds like he’s referring to a car or the latest Apple product rather than a person, and who’s to say the “good qualities” will stick around when one focuses more on their packaging than actual content? And this doesn’t sound anything like a discussion about the chemistry between two people; in fact, it sounds more like patronizing instructions on how to get a passing grade on the ‘Hot or Not’ scale.
The latest advances in online dating, however, do target real chemistry between people and employ scientific principles in order to produce appropriate matches. Websites like ScientificMatch.com analyze DNA, specifically the immune system genes. Generally, the idea is that opposites do attract when it comes to chemistry—people are instinctively attracted to people with immune systems genetically different from their own because this creates babies with more variety in their immune system genes. The wider the reaches of a child’s immune system genetics are, the better its chances of health and longevity. ScientificMatch.com has this to say in its ‘physical chemistry’ section:
“Perhaps you know someone who looks just like “your type”, but somehow you just don’t feel that “sexual spark” when you’re together. They seem more like a brother or sister than a potential lover. It could be that you have too much in common—namely, your immune system genes. Conversely, maybe you’ve found yourself talking to someone who you distinctly did NOT consider to be your type, and yet with whom you distinctly DID feel a sexual spark. Again, your immune system genes could be at the source.”
Whatever your preference is, be it scientific or personality based online dating, friends to lovers or good old-fashioned love at first sight, I think it’s fair to say that most people are looking for someone to love and be loved in return by. There’s no point in dismissing or ridiculing the different ways others may look for love; ultimately we make our own choices and if, for example, you find the idea of online dating revolting, you’ll have better chances finding someone you love and respect at the bookstore. Alternatively, many people are far too busy to waste time on bad dates or guessing if the attractive person who flashed a seductive smile at them is actually married—dating sites do offer the obvious advantage of learning whether or not your potential significant other will eat a burger and fries with you, or if they’re a raw food vegan, before you take things to the next level and physically meet for a meal. However, online dating has been in the news recently in Canada over privacy concerns—federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart called out eHarmony on Tuesday for not allowing users who had had their fill of the site to delete their profiles consisting of name, photo and plenty of personal information. eHarmony is not the only culprit; many prominent dating sites don’t even have privacy policies!
There are pros and cons in every situation. Think about that perfect couple you know who met online—proof that modern love still gets you to the church on time. Now think about online dating as a multimillion dollar business; like the weight loss industry, this business is preying off your insecurities and emotions. Don’t let it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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