Online dating service for U draws hundreds

GopherSingles.com provides a forum for University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to chat and find a date.

FBy Jens Manuel Krogstad For technology senior Jason Durheim, a lack of time and his natural shyness sometimes make it difficult for him to meet potential dates.

“I work a lot, and I have a lot of school and not much time,” he said. “And I’m a little bit too shy for my own good.”

To meet people, Durheim became one of a few hundred people to post a profile on GopherSingles.com, an online matchmaking Web site for University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.

Posting information on the Web site is free, but users have to buy a subscription in order to contact anyone else on the site. A one-month subscription to the Web site is $19.95.

It has taken some time for online dating services to be widely accepted, said Heather Haberman, who led a two-day class last month on issues related to cyber dating. This is the latest example that “normal” people are using these Web sites, she said.

Haberman, a family social sciences doctoral student, said stories from the early days of online dating services still stick in people’s minds.

“People hear weird horror stories through the media,” she said. “But you’ll be fine if you take the precautions you would normally take when meeting anyone else for the first time – like not meeting in a secluded place.”

Although college students typically use computers more than others, they are the group least likely to use online dating services, she said. Because a college campus already provides a sense of community, students are less likely to look to the Internet to meet that need, she said.

Despite that sense of community, some people appreciate the online service.

Recent graduate Dane Anderson said he can no longer rely on the campus community, so he posted a profile on the Web site last week.

“You don’t really know what’s going to happen in the next six months,” he said. “You don’t know who you’re going to be surrounded with.”

The Web site is one of a handful run by White Buffalo Ventures, based in Austin, Texas. Most similar sites are geared toward university populations, but there are also sites for runners and cycling enthusiasts.

White Buffalo Ventures sued the University of Texas in May after the university blocked e-mail communication between its e-mail users and the company, according to the Austin Business Journal. The block was issued shortly after White Buffalo sent e-mails in February to approximately 57,000 University of Texas accounts.

The company was granted a temporary restraining order in early May to continue communication with students. The ruling was overturned later that month, and the e-mail block is still in effect.

A week ago, White Buffalo Ventures sent a mass e-mail to several University students and faculty members.

The University’s Office of Information Technology could not be reached for comment Friday.

White Buffalo Ventures’ founder and CEO Brad Armstrong said his company legally obtained e-mail addresses.

Armstrong said his company is hoping to add 200 to 300 new Web sites in the next few years. He said online dating has become increasingly popular in the last few years, and using new technology can be more conducive to a lasting relationship than traditional dating.

“In the old days, people would say, ‘wow, she’s cute. I wonder if she has a brain,’ ” he said. “And now people will say, ‘wow, she’s smart, I wonder if she’s cute.’ “

Laura Gurak, head of the University’s Department of Rhetoric, said it is debatable whether meeting someone online before meeting in person results in a longer-lasting relationship. People in online relationships focus solely on ideas rather than physical aspects of the relationship, she said.

Director of the Institute for New Media Studies Nora Paul said the popularity of online dating was inevitable.

“Just like online shopping has taken off, online dating – a kind of shopping for people – has also taken off,” she said.

The Institute for New Media Studies focuses on new communication technologies including Internet communication.

Not everyone has accepted online dating as a viable alternative to traditional methods.

“It’s kinda creepy,” psychology sophomore Josh Socks said. “You don’t know what you’re getting. Even if they send you a picture, how do you know if it’s real?”

Durheim, noting the relative youth of the Web site, said he has yet to find a date on GopherSingles.com.

Jens Manuel Krogstad covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]