by Rima Thompson
The Internet allows people to do just about anything online, from buying groceries, managing finances, making bill payments and even finding love. Through instant messengers, e-mails, message boards and chat rooms, there are endless opportunities for finding Mr. or Ms. Right.
So why is online dating so popular? An article on abcnews.go.com, quotes Kate Wachs, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationship issues and consults on America Online’s relationship section, as saying online dating services offer an easier way to meet people at an inexpensive price.
“Using these services can take the feeling of desperation away from someone who is recently single or has been getting discouraged by dating,” Wachs said. “You don’t have to feel that you must meet someone in a bar, laundry room or grocery store or at a local dance.”
University of La Verne freshmen, Katie Apfel, met her fiancé online three years ago in a Yahoo chat room. They continued talking through Yahoo’s instant messenger.
“I never really intended to try it. I just met a really great guy; we were friends for about a year, and then we decided to try the whole dating thing,” she said.
A positive thing about online dating is that you get to know a person without the pressure of a physical relationship, she said.
However, Apfel said “you can’t be completely sure who you are talking to until you meet the person face to face, and it ends up being a long distance relationship from the get go.”
Long distance relationships are something that Wachs advises against. She said they tend to be intense and can be a letdown when two people finally meet and neither lives up to the other’s expectations.
Karen Remedios, a senior at Cal State San Bernardino, said that she has talked to guys online many times and even met a few of them, but she has only dated two.
“The way I went about meeting guys online was through different chat rooms. Sometimes I went into a 20s only chat room, sometimes I went into a Los Angeles chat room and sometimes I picked chat rooms called “Alone at Home” or “Friends First,” she said.
The first guy Remedios dated for over a year, but the relationship was not a success, she said.
“He was coming off a five year relationship and ended up just using me. It was a terrible relationship,” she said. “But I do have to say some of that was my own fault because I used him too. Up until that point, I had never had a boyfriend so he was my answer to that.”
Remedios said the second guy she met online appeared to be nice at first, but as the relationship progressed she knew that his feelings were not the same as hers.
The only positive thing about online dating for shy people like Remedios is that it allows her to show her personality, and that it is easier for her to talk to people online than in person.
“I think the negatives of online dating outweigh the positive,” Remedios said. “You really don’t know the kind of person you are talking to, especially when they don’t have a picture for you to see. There are just too many negative aspects to online dating that just make it not worth the risk.”
California State University, Los Angeles junior Lawrence Lloyd, said his online dating experiences have been positive.
“I’ve tried online dating more times than I can count. But I’ve been doing it for about three years now, with the first and last persons being two of the best,” he said. “It’s convenient. Not everyone is into the club or bar scene, and it’s easier to try things from the comfort of your own home.”
Lloyd’s main resource for finding men online is the AOL chat rooms.
“There are several of these available on a variety of interests, but I stick to the LosAngelesM4M (male for male) chat rooms,” Lloyd said. “In addition, there are online dating sites. The only one I’ve used is PlanetOut (www.planetout.com). You can search and respond to personal ads.”
Just as people should be cautious when dating in person, they should be just as cautious when dating online.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust on The National Charity for Personal Safety Web site lists several safety precautions for online dating such as: not to give out personal information like your full name and address; to meet in a public place that is busy; bring a friend along; tell someone where you are going and how they can reach you if you do not take a friend; not to go home with your date; and most importantly, if you feel uneasy or that the person is lying to you, chances are you are right and should not arrange a second date.
“My advice to people who would like to try dating people online is not to do it. I think you are better off meeting people the old fashioned way at clubs, bars and parties,” Remedios said.
Ilana Lerman, who is a freshman at Stern College, said that several of her friends have tried online dating, and she does not see anything wrong with that.
“It’s okay as long as you’re cautious and take it slow. Perverts aren’t very patient, ” she said.
“I’ve never tried meeting a guy online, but that’s only because I’m happy being alone. If I was desperate for a boyfriend, I’d probably try it,” she added.
Another popular way of finding romance online is through online dating services.
For a small cost, people can chat with other people via e-mail services provided by the dating service until they are ready to give out their personal addresses.
Subscribers to these services typically fill out a questionnaire that asks them about their interests, geographic location and the type of person they are looking for.
“The con of this is that people lie about their age, height, weight, drug habits or any other factor that might make them more or less appealing,” Lloyd said.
To get the most of these services and to increase your chances of having a positive experience, Wachs said to be honest about your appearance and interests, and hopefully the other person will be just as honest in return.