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Love, Money and Soul Mates Online

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love, in its many varieties, is big business, and it’s not just the flowers, candy and jewelry that sell well on Valentine’s Day.

Meeting and mating go on all year. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy a chance to meet potential lovers and spouses. About 30 million people--that’s 10 percent of the U.S. population--visit dating sites on a monthly basis, according to Nielsen, the market research firm. A Wall Street Journal Market Watch story by Quentin Fottrell reports that the internet dating industry is now worth about $1.2 billion, a 4 percent increase from a year ago. Fees have risen along with increased use and popularity. Match.com, which charged $9.95 a month when it opened in 1995, now charges $36 a month. EHarmony, launched in 2000, now charges $60 a month.

Not too long ago, the story notes, couples who met online didn’t mention that at their weddings. Now online dating is main stream, and the fastest growing segment of online daters is baby boomers---people over 50 years old who are more likely than younger people to be widowed or divorced. The AARP started a dating site for seniors in January.

Online dating services offer opportunities to meet just about every sort of partner. There are sites where singles can seek other single Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, artists and environmentalists. There are dating sites targeted toward athletes, farmers, and amputees. There are even sites for very vain hotties. BeautifulPeople.com is a sight people can only use if members considered them gorgeous enough to be voted in. Many tout algorithms they say will match potential partners according to interest, intelligence, values, beliefs and any number of personality traits.

There are also coaches to meet specialized romantic needs. A Wall Street Journal piece by JoPiazza describes widows and divorcees deciding to date after long term marriages. Flirting doesn’t always come naturally to those who haven’t done it in decades. And some needs are complex, such as coaching needed by formerly Hasidic men and women who are just entering the dating pool.

A market research company reports that more than half of American online daters lie on their profiles, according to Fottrell’s story. While most paid sites try to weed out sexual predators and scam artists, there are few ways to detect the small lies people tell to burnish their imaged or cover flaws. Some deceptions go beyond shaving off a couple years and a few pounds. AshleyMadison.com caters to married customers looking to cheat on their spouses. The site's motto is "Life is short. Have an Affair” and it boasts 17,850,000 members seeking extramarital adventure. AshleyMadison CEO Noel Biderman told ChicagoNow that many singles sites are overrun with married men who lie about their status and that monogamy is obsolete anyway.

Reuben J. Thomas, assistant professor of sociology at the City College of New York, told a writer for Match.com that internet dating is successful because "with technology eroding the face-to-face social scene, it's rare for people to accidentally meet in real life anymore.” Even kids know love can be outsourced. When students in an eighth grade class in New Jersey were asked to write an essay describing how the internet would make their lives different from the lives of their parents, one wrote, "You can get a new husband or wife online. Our parents had to go to bars for that.” The comment  wasn’t unusual.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Jorge Parada, medical director of the infectious disease unit at Loyola University Health System, told The Scientist.com "Mid-February is usually the peak season for infectious diseases, such as the seasonal and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, colds, and coughs." So instead of kissing, sharing dessert, or cuddling by the fire, he suggests the best valentine is getting and giving the gift of a flu shot. He insists that really says "I love you.”

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  networks  technology 

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