The science of desperation?

I found more creepers than Valentine’s Day dates in the cyber realm.

The American consumer culture has the ability to make you feel really crappy if youâÄôre dateless on ValentineâÄôs Day, even if youâÄôre totally unsentimental about sap-fest holidays and couldnâÄôt care less about receiving a $12.99 special of a dozen red roses and some Hallmark card. But I know there are people who feel awful if theyâÄôre sans dinner date on V-Day, so I thought IâÄôd step in their shoes and make a profile on an online dating site to help you decide if itâÄôs worth risking A/S/L and possibly self-esteem. Since I couldnâÄôt pay, the most famous sites like Match.com were out, but luckily for me, Match.com has a free offshoot called DowntoEarth. It looked honest enough; in fact, the site stresses accuracy and honesty, and makes you double-check your profile picture several times before cementing it as truth. Yes, DowntoEarth, thatâÄôs what I really look like. First I am subjected to a battery of stereotypical questions. WhatâÄôs my religious background? Do I want children? What am I looking for in an ideal mate? Can he be heavyset? Auburn-haired? Well, I just want a date, so I donâÄôt make it too difficult âÄî any religion is OK, thank you. As soon as I set up my fledgling profile, I get an e-mail from âÄúJacob Solotaroff,âÄù founder of DowntoEarth.com. âÄúJacobâÄù tells me a little about the site: âÄúTo help us keep each other honest, we’ve developed the RealRatings system.âÄù This is a touchstone of the DowntoEarth dating service; honesty is the best policy, after all. If youâÄôve met someone face-to-face through the website, you can âÄúcall outâÄù their outdated pictures or âÄúlittle white liesâÄù to keep DowntoEarth âÄúhonest and respectful.âÄù Sounds a little better than I was hoping for from a free site, but most of the profiles I trolled didnâÄôt have any sort of rating yet. People create profiles and then deactivate pretty quickly, which makes it difficult to make a âÄúreal connection.âÄù I talked to the real Jacob Solotaroff about his brainchild, which was started in January and already counts 88,000 members, with 1,500 new daters signing up every day. âÄúWe created DowntoEarth so younger people could try online dating,âÄù said Solotaroff, citing similar free sitesâÄô âÄúlewdnessâÄù as one of his reasons for creating DowntoEarth. Married people are not allowed to create profiles on DowntoEarth, either, keeping the seas single and friendly. Call me jaded, but IâÄôm skeptical about finding true love online, despite having an uncle who met his wife that way. âÄúThereâÄôs a stigma about online dating,âÄù Solotaroff said. âÄúI, myself, used to think youâÄôd only go online if you couldnâÄôt meet people at bars or parties. Then I realized I wasnâÄôt meeting the type of person I wanted to meet at the bars or parties. Why not try to meet someone online? You have no idea how much money I wasted going out every Friday and Saturday night.âÄù So how does DowntoEarth work? You set your search criteria (age, location, looking for, etc.) and check out the smorgasbord of options they present to you; you can message or âÄúflirtâÄù with someone who sparks your fancy. A âÄúflirtâÄù is akin to a Facebook âÄúpoke,âÄù so itâÄôs basically harmless. I get a few messages pretty quickly from (older) guys spanning the nation from California to Georgia, and IâÄôd be lying if I said I wasnâÄôt a little uneasy about this whole thing. ThereâÄôs a fascinating quirk in the way DowntoEarth users describe themselves; there are the âÄúfaith-basedâÄù folks who quote Scripture in their profiles, and then thereâÄôs a smattering of divorced dudes and widowers who are actually in the market for a real connection. A real connection will not be made with âÄúbabyjohnny,âÄù a 45-year-old from New Jersey who has poor punctuation skills and compares me to âÄúKate Hutson [sic], a movie star.âÄù Nice compliment, but the mustache is a no-go. âÄúBabyjohnnyâÄù describes himself as a âÄúunion ironworker, 180 lbs, good looking.âÄù Another guy, who says heâÄôs a âÄúpro athleteâÄù from the Twin Cities, chose his well-sculpted abdominal region as his profile pic, which skeeves me out. If you want to date me, letâÄôs keep the mystery alive for a while, huh? Looking back the next day for a response, he seems to have disappeared. Hmm. Most of the dudes sending me âÄúflirtsâÄù and messages are older, and the one nearest my age is a smirking redhead. I didnâÄôt specify any hair color preference, but redheads are not my thing, so heâÄôs out. So is the man from Georgia, whose profile picture features him in front of a Confederate flag. Uh âĦ thanks, but no thanks, pardner. So maybe none of my prospective Romeos were quite up to par for a ValentineâÄôs date, but hey, it could still work for you.