Monday, September 12, 2011

A Look At Internet Dating In The Modern Era


...yeah, it's still pretty creepy



For as long as the Internet has been around, it seems, the industry of computer dating has been a driving force behind the growth of Web use and technology. Chat rooms, web cams, and social media sites are all inadvertent spin-offs of applications and clients formerly dedicated to helping pimply Oregonians hook up with thunder-thigh Floridians through the magic of a 56K modem; in fact, one can make the argument that almost ALL of our major web addictions of the current (YouTube, Facebook, Craig’s List, etc.) stem from technology either lifted or stimulated via internet dating sites and services 20 years ago.

Although we tend to believe that internet dating is a pass√©, ’90s relic comparable to Blind Melon and Ally McBeal, online sites aiding and abetting in helping people hook up are still pretty lucrative and heavily populated sectors of the Internet. . .even if the demographics for such services have, ahem, changed considerably since the Clinton Administration.

The biggest change in Internet dating site trends over the last decade has been the age range of who’s actually uploading profiles to services such as eHarmony and Match.com. Simply put, online dating isn’t exactly a hobby of spring chickens anymore, as the aggregate age of the modern American Internet dating service user is MUCH closer to being around 50 than 20. . .meaning that randy profile cruisers are more likely to end up with Blanche from “The Golden Girls” than they are some 20-something seductress as so many a lackluster late-night HBO-movie has promised them. And speaking of weirdos and mouth breathers, one of the most commonly cited reasons as to why the Young Turks left dating sites en masse is because of the overabundance of creeps and Silence of the Lambs-ish figures lurking about in popular databases. Ever the proactive industry, it only took Match.com until last month to begin checking the backgrounds of clientele for trifling matters like “criminal records” and “accusations of abuse” - a business policy enacted when a service user discovered that her “dream date” just so happened to be a registered sex offender with a rap sheet longer than Veruca Salt’s birthday wish list.

Odds are, if a college-aged user is on a dedicated dating site, he or she is probably a member of one of the myriad “niche interest” sites on the ‘net. Sure, sure, we’ve all seen the banner ads promising us hot Protestant boys and sultry females with proclivities for Republican politicking, but if you ever did some sleuthing. . .I mean some SERIOUS Web scouring. . .you’d come to the realization that youth-targeted dating services are specific to the point of absurdity. An example? Try the contra to E-harmony, Juggalove.com, a dating database designed exclusively for fans of the perplexingly popular, hyper-violent rap group the Insane Clown Posse. The site, featuring the heartwarming tagline "dating for the wicked," doesn't seem to be reeling in the clientele in droves these days: as of Sept. 12, 2011, the site seems to be more of a glorified thumbnail ad for generic "weed-rap outfit #2,224" than it is a place for the grease-painted and the GED-educated to mingle and mix.

And lastly, there’s perhaps the last truly great steward of online love-connections, Ms. Gong Haiyan, founder of the EXTREMELY popular website Jiayuan. Jiayuan is the far and away the nation's premier online service for Hans hankering for some hanky panky, with approximately 1 million users signed up for the service. Unlike most American dating sites, Jiayuan users are charged a small fee (about $0.30 USD per message), and according to the Gongster, the aggregate Jiayuan client drops about 30 messages a day through the service. In case you aren't too keen on math, that equates a TON of Yuan for the operator and maestro of the service, whose labor of (e)love has an estimated market worth of $400 million. I don't know about you, but when I hear about numbers like that, it's enough to make me pine for the good old days of American courtship. . .you know, back when parlaying a Facebook friend request to that one girl you knew back in the eighth grade into a torrid, short-lived, and generally regret-filled romance was the only way to make magic happen. 

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