Students turn to a digital cupid

Online dating sites are beginning to trend among college students.

Megan Nicolai

Alex Broches  noticed something out of the ordinary while browsing Google Analytics. A large number of the users on the dating site he created for students in northern Illinois came from the University of Minnesota.

BrochesâÄô site, Collegejunkee.com, has 4,000 registered users from all over the country. The demographics are mostly spread out, he said. But a concentration of more than 200 users is University of Minnesota students, he said.

Broches said he doesnâÄôt know where the trend comes from, but said there is a trend of college students adopting online dating because of long hours of schoolwork and less time for a social life.

Josh Klapperick, a psychology major at the University, said the negative social stigma about online dating is still alive among college students. He said that heâÄôs had a tough time explaining his profile on the dating site OkCupid to some.

âÄúThey immediately perceive that you must have some weird thing about you,âÄù Klapperick said. âÄúBut I think, as a society, weâÄôve moved past the point where itâÄôs easy to walk up to somebody and just introduce yourself.âÄù

A busy schedule and his friendsâÄô successes with online dates led Klapperick to create his own profile.

âÄúIt was just an easier option,âÄù he said.

He said meeting someone online was sometimes an easier way to start a first date âÄî itâÄôs like sharing an inside joke, he said.

Online dating has been a lucrative business for many growing dating sites over the past decade.

Match.com, owned by the internet conglomerate InterActiveCorp, netted $400 million in 2010 revenue, and had more than 1.7  million subscribers. The parent company bought OkCupid  for more than $50 million in cash in February.

Rival site eHarmony.com made more than $250 million in  2009.

Broches is hoping to enter the industry on a more major scale, and is currently courting potential investors. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks, is a potential source, Broches said.

His site requires users to sign in through Facebook, which allows students to feel safe, and certain that they arenâÄôt being fooled by a fake profile, he said.

âÄúItâÄôs a very straightforward site,âÄù Broches said. âÄúItâÄôs really aimed at students who might be a little more shy in class.âÄù

Andy Burns, a business major at the University, also tried his luck online. He said he recently signed up for Datemyschool.com  after having little success on sites like OkCupid and Match.com.

The new site requires a college email address to join and has more than 20,000 users.

âÄúThereâÄôs no stigma with this site. ItâÄôs clearer who youâÄôre talking to,âÄù he said.

Burns said the growth of social media has made it harder to meet new people in real life.

âÄúEveryoneâÄôs getting away from face-to-face interactions and looking for less risky ways to communicate, like texting or Facebook,âÄù he said.