Archive for Monday, October 22, 2001

Online matchmaking

Cyberspace increasingly a place to snare a soul mate

October 22, 2001


Turn-ons? Good spelling, proper grammar and long walks on the beach.

Turnoffs? Wordy sentences, no punctuation and greasy hair.

Welcome to matchmaking in cyberspace, where a blatantly misspelled word is worse than a piece of spinach stuck on your front tooth and a world of love prospects is just a click away.

Singles site claims there are more than 85 million single Americans. The online matchmaking company boasts an average of 350,000 new subscribers a month and that is only one site out of hundreds.

Trish McDermott, vice president for romance, said online personal sites offer single people access the way they want it quickly, efficiently and effectively.

The site's average subscriber is a college-educated professional earning about $50,000 a year and living in a major metropolitan area, she said.

"They are great romantic catches," McDermott said. "Most of our subscribers are people coming into their 30s who work long hours and have serious careers. These people know what they want and are not satisfied with the opportunities at bars and nightclubs."

Scripps Howard News ServiceWhile online dating services may lead to love and romance, they also can lead to danger.Trish McDermott,'s vice president of romance, said safety is an important issue with her company."We have very strict standards," she said."We do remove people if they behave inappropriately on site."Richard Voce, a detective in Tacoma Police Department's computer forensics lab, has some advice for meeting people offline."Use some common sense," he said.When you do meet someone for a first date:Meet in a public, crowded place.Keep it short.Tell a friend where you are going.The Internet is awash with matchmaking sites. For those who don't want to sift through them all, author Eric Fagan has bookmarked the sites that had the most people registered as of January

Finding love online

For Kathy Anderson, finding love online was easier and more realistic than relying on fate unplugged.

As a single, working mother, the 46-year-old Anderson, of Tacoma, Wash., was looking for a serious relationship.

"I used to go to parties, and I would be lucky if I had a conversation with one interesting person," she said.

About a year ago she placed an online ad strategically titled "Search for Intelligence."

"I knew what type of person I wanted," she said. "I just had to find him."

Her strategy paid off. Anderson will be getting married this month a little more than a year after she placed her first ad. Her fianc49-year-old Geoff Sakahara, lived in Spanaway, Wash.

"I kissed 25 frogs before I met a prince," Anderson said. "But the last one turned out to be Mr. Perfect."

Anderson's story may have a happy ending, but she said getting there was harder and took more work than she expected.

"I started with a checklist," she said. "I was really upfront about what I wanted, as were most of the people online."

For the serious Internet dater, a checklist is only the beginning.

Author Eric Fagan of San Diego realized with the plethora of singles online he could afford to be picky.

"The amount of people can be overwhelming," said Fagan, who wrote "Cast Your Net: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding Your Soulmate on the Internet" (Harvard Common, June 2001, $14.95, paper).

Fagan used his own online search for love as the basis for his book, and the fact that he found his wife, Ute, online adds to his credibility.

He suggests making a series of lists from the A-list "must-haves" to the C-list "no-no's" as a way to sift through the ads.

"You need to define the ends of the spectrum," said Fagan, whose own list of "must-haves" included a woman who was fit, intelligent and a bicyclist.

Figuring out what you want is easy, he said. It's figuring out what you have to offer that gets a little tricky.

"On the Internet, there is no handshake or smile, just what you write," Fagan said.

Honesty and organization

The author's chapter on creating personal profiles begins with a telling quote by the late media guru Marshall McLuhan: "Advertising is the greatest art form of the century."

Fagan's book exhausts the intricacies of creating an online persona, and every section of instruction is peppered with his own experience.

Two words of wisdom the soul mate-seeker should never forget, Fagan said: honesty and organization.

"The Internet preserves things because people can go back to e-mails again and again so be honest," he said, recalling a few instances where some potential matches had tried to fudge their age, weight or, in one case, a hatred of dogs.

"I have two (dogs), so that couldn't work," Fagan said.

Beyond honesty, Fagan said online singles should describe what they are looking for in a relationship, the activities they enjoy and include a picture.

After writing a profile, the next step is wading or perhaps cannonballing into the vast pool of wired singles, which is where the organization comes in.

Fagan estimated that he looked at 1,000 to 1,500 profiles and e-mailed more than 400 women before finding Ute, who was living in Hawaii. After a few mishaps of responding to the wrong woman or getting photographs mixed up, Fagan decided he needed a system.

He kept track of his SMCs (he calls them "soul mate companions") with charts, lists and series of well-thought-out questions with each SMC's answer recorded in columns.

Beyond the first date

Anderson said she liked the way the Internet allows you to get to know a potential date before meeting him.

"The Internet lets you talk about things you wouldn't normally talk about on the first date," she said. "So when I finally met Geoff, it wasn't like a first date it felt more like the 10th."

Did she feel embarrassed about telling people she met her significant other online?

"It's better than saying I met him at a bar," Anderson said. "Geoff and I joke that we would somehow have found each other, but honestly I wouldn't have met him any other way."

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