For newer generation, online dating becoming the norm

Online dating sites have taken the internet by storm, and more and more people are turning to the web to find that special someone.

Type the words “dating website” into the Google search engine and roughly 46,800,000 results will emerge. It may seem normal these days to hear your friend talk about this new guy she met online the other day with technology in the forefront, but is it really normal to talk about a date over the Internet through a web cam?

Online dating ranked third on the Match.com and Chadwick Martin Baily 2009-2010 research study in terms of how married couples met over the past three years. One-in-six people met his or her spouse through an online dating site, falling shortly behind through work/school or through friends/family.

In the last year, more than twice as many marriages occurred between people who met on an online dating site than met in bars, at clubs and other social events combined, according to the study. The study also reported that one-in-five single people have dated someone they met on an online dating site.

CSULA student Danielle Bleser, of Pasadena, found relationship success through match.com, where she met her boyfriend Josh.

“I honestly think online dating is a really good thing. I was very skeptical before I did,” she said. “But I actually found there’s a lot of professional people on there who maybe don’t have time to go out all the time … or are sick of meeting people in bars and just not really having any connection.”

Online profiles have redefined the meaning of first impressions.

“I think instead of there being one first impression, there ends up being two or three first impressions,” Bleser said.

The impression of Josh that stood out the most to her was when she first talked to him on the phone and got a better glimpse at him as a person, rather than through exchanging e-mails.

When finding someone online, the first thing people see is someone’s profile; they don’t get the opportunity to hear their voice, listen to what they have to say, or watch them interact with others. Match.com publicist, Jaklin Kaden, said that a first glance at a picture isn’t necessarily a make-it-or-break-it decision for users.

“We know that members are successful when they take the time to carefully read a profile before they compose their initial email, when members connect on levels of common interest, activities, sense of humor, etc.,” Kaden said . “Physical attraction plays a role, but it’s only one part in the chemistry between two people.”

Along with this shift in technology is a shift in the way people interact with one another. An intellectual conversation over chicken marsala and a glass of wine has now become a technology-based relationship through which good conversation may have become lost.

Skyecandy, a site that uses Skype for video speed dating similar to Chatroulette.com, gives users five minutes with a stranger to decide whether or not to continue getting to know them. After five minutes, you can say “yes” or move along to the next person with a “no.” People aren’t even having full conversations with this site, but rather judging on initial impressions.

Electrical engineering major Leslie Hernandez met her current boyfriend online, but she didn’t meet him on a site intended for dating.

Hernandez said she started talking to Joe on Tumblr, and their friendship led to a long-distance relationship.

The idea of online dating was weird before she began dating Joe, she said. But she said there is more communication, rather than less.

“You really get to know the person a lot better I think,” she said. “The relationship feels a lot stronger, because there’s like a thousand times more communication.”

Hernandez said she manages the long-distance relationship with her boyfriend from Colorado with Skype and talking on the phone when they are not visiting each other in person.

The popularity for online dating has grown so much over the past few years that mobile devices now carry applications for dating at the press of a touch. You can talk on the phone with your friend while scrolling through potential life partners in your hand.

One major category that may be frightening with these sites is the safety behind online sites, not knowing how truthful someone is or how trustworthy that individual may be. Take for example the case of Philip Markoff, the infamous Craigslist killer. Three different women placed ads through Cragislist, offering their erotic services, and he responded, met them and robbed all three, killing one.

EHarmony gives users tips on how to remain safe through the process on its website. These tips include using your best judgment on someone’s character and what they ask of you, being cautious when giving out your personal information, being responsible about where and when you first meet someone in person on a date, taking your time and reporting any concerns you may have about someone to the site’s administrators.

So, is it worth it to spend the same amount as a monthly gym membership to begin the hopes of finding that special someone? While some sites are free, such as Plentyoffish.com or Okcupid.com, others, such as Match.com, claim to offer a chance to spend a small sum for a large amount of happiness.

Through payment, Match.com members receive added benefits, such as sophisticated matching and searching algorithms, first-class customer serviced,  fraud protection and 24/7 monitoring, Kaden said.

Perhaps with the advancement of technology, there is a better chance of meeting someone special, a potential mate whom you wouldn’t have otherwise met, as Bleser suggested in her case with Josh. One can only hope with this change doesn’t come a decrease in people going out or socializing in person or even the loss of a good conversation.