Online dating is a relatively new phenomenon. It arose during the late 1990s, at the same time that the Internet itself was becoming increasingly popular. Despite being a relatively young industry, online dating has already become one of the most profitable types of business to be found on the Internet. Online dating services currently attract millions of users every day, and the industry as a whole is making hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Online dating provides an efficient way for people to meet prospective partners and to get to know them through e-mails and chats. There are various positive aspects to be found in the experience of online dating, as compared to the traditional methods of dating. These include, for example, convenience, safety, and a sense of anonymity. However, the online dating experience can also have certain negative aspects, such as a lack of personal contact and the risk of being deceived. This paper will start out by providing an overview of the online dating industry, including a brief history and a description of its current status. The paper will then discuss why people use online dating services as well as the opportunities and pitfalls that are associated with the experience. The paper will conclude with an evaluation of the effectiveness of the online dating experience. It will be seen that online dating can be successful in terms of forming long-term relationships; however, as a general rule, a great deal of trial-and-error is also involved in this process. Overview of the Online Dating Industry
Long distance courtships (by telephone, letters, etc.) existed long before the rise of the Internet in the 1990s. Nonetheless, the Internet, which enables people to instantly communicate with others around the world, has changed how people go about meeting potential mates and forming relationships. It is impossible to say when the first couple fell in love by communicating with one another over their computers’ modem connections. However, it is possible to pinpoint when the first online dating service was launched. Match.com, which began in April 1995, “is considered a pioneer in bringing online dating into the mainstream” (“History of Online Dating” n. p.). Soon, other dating sites opened, and the phenomenon of online dating started growing in popularity. As early as 1996, articles about happy couples that had met online began to appear in popular magazines (Gwinnell xv-xvi). Despite such articles, there was a bit of a stigma to using online dating services during the early period of their development. Many people felt that only a hopeless loser, a desperate geek, or a sexual predator, would try to get dates in such a manner. However, as the Internet itself became increasingly popular over the years, so too did the idea of meeting and getting to know people online. Today, online dating is regarded as a commonplace activity. This can be seen, for example, in the responses to a 2002 survey conducted by Lycos Matchmaker. As reported in the findings of that survey, “70% of singles polled say that online dating today is more mainstream, compared to a few years ago” (“Online Dating Soars in Popularity” n. p.). In addition, the poll showed that 59 percent of Lycos users were interested in joining an online dating service, compared to only 29 percent in the year 2000. Another indication of the present-day acceptance of online dating can be found in the responses to a survey of nearly 2,000 singles, conducted by Match.com in 2002. In response to the question “If you met the love of your life online, would you admit to your family and friends how you met this person?,” 92 percent said yes and only 8 percent said no (“Online Dating Usage” n. p.). Thus, the stigma that was originally attached to the idea of online dating has by now pretty much disappeared. In 2002, an article in the Hollywood Reporter noted that dating sites had...