Are you sitting alone at your PC or Mac reading this blog? That’s okay. I forgive you. In an age of overtime, job transfers, and clawing your way up the corporate ladder, no one seems to have enough free time any more for leisure activities like going out, having a drink, or, most importantly meeting new people to do these things with. But believe it or not, with the aid of modern (and not so modern) technology, we can squeeze even this into our hectic lives.
Let’s start with the obvious: computers. Not only can you check your email alerts from the comfort of your own cubicle, but there are online dating sites for everything from your own personal geekdom (SweetOnGeeks.com) to body type (LargeAndLovely.com) to any of the major religions on earth (JDate.com, ChristianSingles.com, and BuddhistOnlineDating.com just to name a few). Literally any kind of matchmaking site can be found with the right search engine. Even typing “flying spaghetti monster dating” into Google lands you a few interesting results.
Evenamong online matchmaking sites there is great variety. At a site like Plenty of Fish, users are encouraged to not only fill out profiles but actively post in the site’s forums, which range in topic from relationship and dating issues to science and philosophy. (There are even a few active anime threads for the geek in you.) OKCupid offers its users a variety of fun tests and quizzes, and awards badges, such as “more
independent,” “less old-fashioned,” and “more political,” that are displayed on a user’s profile, and can be used as conversation starters as well as a rudimentary screening process of a user’s personality. Both if these sites are free to use, as are countless others, so do not be dissuaded from joining the online dating phenomenon due to lack of funds.
Sellingyourself through online personals sites is not the only way to meet people through the internet, however. Couples are meeting and hooking up every day by posting on forums, joining newsgroups, exploring 3D virtual worlds (such as Second Life and Entropia Universe), and yes, even playing online games like World of Warcraft can help find you a mate. At least one young gamer proposed to his lovely lady at BlizzCon 2008, much to the delight and cheers of fellow congoers. (The happy couple originally met as rivals posting on RPGamer.com.)
Basically, by being active online as you would be in real life had you the time (or in some cases adequate self-confidence), you can meet a wide range of people, many of whom you would not even have the opportunity to meet offline. The internet doesn’t just offer new ways to meet people, but ways to meet new kinds of people.
But the internet isn’t your only avenue to a new and interesting social life. Due in large part to the high success rate of people meeting online, the more traditional print form of the personal ad is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and should not be overlooked by the less computer savvy. Responding to an ad over the phone, though perhaps more daunting than email, forces a connection much sooner than digital communication, and gauging another person’s reactions and emotions is much easier through hearing his or her voice than reading words on a screen. It also forces you to maintain a conversation, while email sits in your inbox awaiting your attention.
Printed personal ads offer just as much versatility as their online counterparts. Most newspapers across the country offer a personals section, which allows you to look locally, but there are also specialty magazines for various interests and religions that also run personal ads.
Personal ads also, much like Twitter over LiveJournal, force you to be short, sweet, and if you can manage it, clever in hopes of catching that special stranger’s eye. Anyone glancing through a personal ads sheet can attest to the creativity used by many of its users, but this should by no means be a deterrent to the feint of heart. Personal ads are just another tool in your arsenal.
In this on-the-go world, another old technology has come back to haunt us: the phone. More to the point, the rather passé telephone has been replaced by the more modern cell phone and text messaging. Yes, this includes the dating scene. For over fifteen years the Canadian company Teligence has offered social networking over the phone through services like Livelinks, Interactive Male, Fonochat, and a number of others.
Now, sites like Match.com are getting into the phone business, too, with services like Match.com Mobile. Many sites are now combining online and offline options. Prime examples are Crush or Flush and Zogo, both of which users can access using their cell phones or PCs.
Crush or Flush allows you to look at pictures and miniature profiles of singles in your area. If you like what you see, you “crush” them and hopefully make contact. If not, you “flush” them and move on. (People will not be notified if they are ever flushed, so you may surf guilt-free.)
Zogo is perhaps the only totally free dating service for your cell phone (though this doesn’t mean your cell phone service provider won’t add on their own fees, depending on your terms of service). After searching through available profiles, you may add people to your favorites list, or invite them to talk to you. If you both agree to talk (via semi-anonymous text messaging provided by Zogo), you each receive a call from a third number to secure the anonymity of your phone number.
Crush or Flush, Zogo, and their fellow SMS dating services are perhaps even handier than online-only sites, such as those listed in the above paragraphs, given that cell phones are more portable and get wider reception than even a laptop. Double bonus if your cell gets internet!
Much like e-trading has done for the casual investor, modern technology adds far more than serendipity and well-intentioned coupled-up friends to our dating arsenal. Much as we might sometimes wish it otherwise, there really are no longer excuses for not meeting people other than our own apathy.