Lonely this Valentine’s Day? Thinking about filling the void with a kindred soul, scientifically plucked from the rat race of humanity via a meticulously crafted love algorithm to be your permanent soul mate and snuggle bunny, forever and ever? You’re better off going to a bar – at least, according to an article about the effectiveness of online dating websites commissioned by the Association for Psychological Science.  The report has harsh words (PDF) for the current structure of online dating; an overemphasis on “profiles,” psychologists say, creates a “grocery store” mentality, causing potential daters to become overly picky, and de-emphasizes the face-to-face meeting, which is the key aspect to compatibility and cannot be determined by an online profile.  The best way to meet a future partner, then, is still to meet for drinks.  Or coffee.  Or both.

Online romance

Without the advantage online dating purports to hold over the ancient, get-out-into-the-world-and-do-things strategy of dating, regulating the safety of online daters becomes even more important, not only because of, you know, safety and morality, but also to the future viability of sites like match.com and eharmony.  To that end, legislation is pending in Illinois that would force online dating websites to prominently disclose whether they conduct background checks on their members, mirroring similar laws passed in Texas and New Jersey (who says nothing good comes out of New Jersey?).  Currently, most major online dating websites do screen members against federal sex offender registries, but the proposed legislation would call for them to do even more, checking criminal court records, for example, and disclosing to users what the website does with members who have prior criminal convictions.

All in all, online dating in America may be becoming more trouble than it’s worth.  One alternative: move to China. Those guys seem like they would pass a background check.

– Shane Valenzi

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2 Responses to The Internet Is For…Love? Not So Much…

  1. JL says:

    While enhanced screening of members of dating websites is likely a good idea in order to better ensure user safety, I am wondering about the increased costs associated with heightened screening practices that are sufficient to fulfill the proposed legislation’s background check posting requirements. Would dating websites realistically be able to shoulder the monetary and temporal costs of conducting in-depth background checks on each and every user?

  2. Caitlin Angelette says:

    To avoid being too personal, there is an upshot to online dating- the chance to communicate before taking the step of meeting face to face (or even revealing your full name, email address, phone number, etc.) Everyone I know who has done online dating (and they’re all female) has had little trouble separating the wheat from the chaff as it were, well before the face to face stage.

    Sure, the anonymity could be worrisome- but so is meeting a stranger at a bar. It’s not as if bars screen the people who buy drinks from them.

    At some point, you have to actually meet the person, or it isn’t really dating. But, perhaps what online dating is replacing, or at least adding to, is the practice of dating within a group of acquaintances? You still need to see if you’re compatible romantically, but online allows pre-screening the way dating only people you know does.