In 1727, Helen Morrison, a lonely spinster in Manchester, England, placed the first lonely hearts personal, advertising for a husband in the local weekly newspaper. In response, the town mayor committed her to a lunatic asylum for a month. But in hindsight, Helen Morrison was a pioneer.
Exactly 240 years later, and just a few miles away, the Beatles recorded “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” One year earlier, their “Eleanor Rigby” (“All the lonely people/Where does they all come from?”) had half the world humming to Helen Morrison’s dilemma. The Beatles were pioneers too. Flash forward 30 years, and the explosion of online dating services has created a new way for lonely hearts to wait at the window, looking for true love.
It sounds pathetic when you phrase it like that, but people sitting alone in front of their computer screens are only one side of the coin. On the other, I’ve heard about many happy couples who met online.
Internet dating is here to stay, and it’s only going to grow. Here are some thoughts to take into consideration. First we’ll run through the advantages and disadvantages, and then I’ll suggest some maxims for making your search more productive.
There’s no question that everyone on the site is looking to meet someone. So, there’s none of the awkwardness and uncertainty you have in some social situations, where a person’s relationship status or even sexual orientation may not be obvious.
* By reading people’s profiles closely, you can quickly weed out people whose interests, age, values, religion or whatever else doesn’t appeal to you. Ditto when posting your own profile: Describing yourself honestly and being clear about your values and interests makes it more likely that someone compatible will write to you.
* Typically, a photo or even multiple photos will accompany a person’s profile. The eyes truly are the windows of the soul, and being able to pair a face with the words in the profile definitely helps give you a clearer idea of the person you’re writing to.
* The initial anonymity of the ‘Net empowers shy people to approach people and make moves that they never would in person.
* You can meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet because your social and/or business circles don’t intersect, or because you don’t frequent the same places.
* You can get hung up on Internet flirting: It’s addictive and it’s easy, and it’s a short-term remedy for loneliness or boredom. But it’s essentially blind: Our instincts about a person are based not just on what ideas they want to communicate, but on appearance, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice — all subtleties that are lost when communicating via computer, no matter how many emoticons you use. Unless you get beyond the e-mail stage, the Internet will do you no good at all.
* Internet dating is limiting in the sense that you’ll only be meeting folks who spend time on the Internet, which excludes a whole raft of people.