Finding that someone, online

Avoid the awkward conversations in bars or parties. Online dating sites are a sensible and economical alternative.

ItâÄôs been more than 10 years since âÄúYouâÄôve Got MailâÄù was in movie theaters. Of course if you revisit the film today, Meg Ryan remains irresistible and Tom Hanks perpetually witty and charming. However, AOL looks entirely different, and the Internet as a whole became exponentially useful. The concept of meeting another individual through the Internet is no longer taboo. ItâÄôs popular. And profitable. At 30 percent of all paid content spending, online dating is the currently the leading paid content category on the Internet. Indeed, by the first half of 2003, more than 40 percent of American singles had tried online dating; this translated to $215 million, a 76 percent increase from the same term in 2002. By 2005, reports from a University of Bath study in the Science Daily noted that of relationships built via e-mail, a whopping 94 percent generally proceed to a second date. Online dating magazines and an online dating industry journal have popped up, peppering a blog with continuous updates for the industry and its trends. An annual Internet dating conference has even been incepted. Today, it seems the floundering economy is even playing a role in this. At the end of December, Los Angeles Times journalist Susan Carpenter noted , âÄúSingles are wading into the online dating pool in record numbers.âÄù and saw increases between 20 and 22 percent after the Dow Jones plummeted during the month. Why? Because itâÄôs cheaper to weed the dandelions out of the flower bed before testing to see if their pollen will leave your wrist yellow. IsnâÄôt it easier to decide via cyberspace that a World of Warcraft aficionado wouldnâÄôt be the right match before you make the discovery on your socially awkward first date? The process of pre-approval seems both convenient and efficient, especially when weâÄôre reluctant to open our wallets. Eighty-four percent of 1,500 on are more selective for first dates in todayâÄôs economy. LetâÄôs just say the rise in online dating might mean weâÄôre preparing to hunker down to avoid any unnecessary expenses. ItâÄôs not to say people arenâÄôt still looking for love. DidnâÄôt that happen to Ryan and Hanks? When in a bind economically or professionally, nobody wants to do it alone. Just remember this isnâÄôt a creepy Facebook marketplace ad or a Craigslist posting. Consider the typical places where people first meet: Bars (where you might look your best, but see a slightly rosier perception of the same or opposite sex); parties (see bars); work (a place to tread tepid or taboo waters); Church; arranged marriage (oof); blind dates? (ermâĦ) The situation gets direr as the list lengthens. But letâÄôs say youâÄôre out at the bar on girlâÄôs night or boyâÄôs night. Foremost, you have an agenda: to be with friends and to meet someone. But the problem is that nothing in the bar scene is based on an experience further than a first impression. There are the awful pick-up lines. Then you must try to decide whether someone is worthy enough to sleep with you. YouâÄôre gauging your attraction on a scale, making wagers to yourself âÄî âÄúWell, heâÄôs got nice shoes even if his hair is nappyâĦâÄù âÄúShe sounds like sheâÄôs screaming when she speaks, but her shirtâÄôs hot and her jugs are niceâĦâÄù Not the way to find someone special. Evan Marc Katz, the leading customer relations consultant for MatchNet, who owns AmericanSingles and JDate, writes this in his online dating book: âÄúThe InternetâÄôs job was to merely introduce me to people, and it served the function well. Over the course of four years I met women that I never would have met while standing at a bar or sitting in front of the TV.âÄù His company is one of the largest publicly held online dating companies in the world. People are drawn to dating sites by a basic, universal pursuit of love. Katz notes that a 2002 poll reported that leading the trend are online daters who fall into higher income brackets and college educated households. So now what? Maybe donâÄôt expect to find your truest love or a date by Saturday night, but youâÄôre certainly not going to find them in a bar this weekend. ThereâÄôs surely a site out there that fits into your interest. From âÄî where I happened to be successful âÄî to eHarmony, dating sites can be as specified or as broad as you might imagine. After all, itâÄôs a hot market. ItâÄôs generally free to create a profile, and when you finally find someone worth speaking with, maybe try a monthâÄôs subscription before you jump into a yearâÄôs subscription. Present yourself well. Consider your profile kind of like a résumé; while youâÄôre not taking out a personal ad or dropping a line at a bar, you are presenting a first impression of yourself, and if you know anything about résumé writing, like it or not, employers generally make a judgment about you in five seconds or less. But do remember, when wading into the dating pool, tread the sensible line between optimism and caution. For every 98 normal people out there, there are a couple of nut cases, and there are married individuals looking for trouble. If someone is elusive, donâÄôt exhaust yourself. Create a new e-mail address to protect your own identity, and err on the side of caution. And one more thing: There isnâÄôt any specific protocol. Conversations may very well begin with a question of your sanity, and chances are the other individual doesnâÄôt know the protocol either. If your conversation begins with, âÄúSo, am I supposed to convince you that IâÄôm not crazy?âÄù consider yourself on the right track. Use the phone before accepting a date, and do meet somewhere in public. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected].