Logging on and looking for love


Online dating? Come on buddy, it hasn’t come to that. You’re 23-years-old,” I remember saying to one of my best friends.

She was an intelligent, good-looking girl with a great sense of humour and a promising future ahead of her. I thought she was crazy for even considering going online for a date – wasn’t that just for the kids who were home-schooled and the less fortunate looking of society?

I was going over this theory with a guy friend of mine when he sheepishly admitted to looking online for love as well. I was floored. This guy was also attractive, intelligent and one of the funniest people I had ever met. By all societal standards, the guy was a catch, and I was intrigued.

Maybe the online dating world had more to offer?

I went home and powered up my Mac, typed in the web address for what claims to be the worlds largest free dating site, Plenty of Fish, and filled out a profile.

The protocol for filling out a POF profile is to disclose your height, hair and eye colour and body type.

A picture isn’t required but the site states that if you upload one you receive 10 times the number of profile responses.

POF then asks you to pick one word to describe yourself out of a list including; coffee snob, player, princess, tree-hugger, yogi and yuppie.

You’re also asked for your income and birth order, which are used to set you up with “top matches.”

I was still a skeptic or, to put it more plainly, it seemed like a shallow way for guys looking to get laid to narrow down their hunting ground.

Checking in on my messages and "top matches"

Checking in on my messages and “top matches”

Shannon Smith, the advertising and public relationships coordinator at POF, explains the profile process as something that helps to save members time.

“If you enter that you want a relationship then you will mostly see users who want relationships, if you will not date a smoker then you will not see smokers,” she said.

The site boasts an impressive 10 billion page views per month, with 24 million messages sent per day.

Within minutes, my inbox exploded.

Over the next few days it was a continuous onslaught of online courtship.

“Hey cutie, let’s chat.”

“ You’re gorgeous, wanna grab a drink?”

And my personal favourite, “my roommate just walked in on me looking at your profile and told me that if I don’t message you she will. Believe me she’s straight, and because I always respect my mom’s opinion, I figured I’d shoot you a hello.”

It was entertaining if nothing else, but I still wasn’t sold. I needed the opinions of people with personal experience.

“It was an interesting experience to say the least,” said Natalie Carmichael, who signed up for POF at the age of 22 and was active on the site for eight months. “There’s way more creeps than actual good guys. I got offered money for sex, and a lot of people asking for threesomes. The longer you’re on there, the more weird stuff happens.”

But 24-year-old Alex Burke sees it differently. “You have a lot of good conversations and you can make a lot of really good friends,” he said, recalling friendships that he has maintained since jumping into the Plenty of Fish pool.

Maybe it’s because of successful connections like this that has made the site so popular in recent years.

“No matter how you look at it, POF has been a success. We went from 15 million users in 2008 to 60 million today.” said Smith. “Even in-house, we’ve grown so significantly, from 10-75 employees in the last four years.”

Markus Frind founded the company in 2003 out of his Vancouver apartment, after being laid off from the dot com site he was working at. He was learning to code and had begun online dating, and decided he could build a website of his own.

He built it and the single people came.

Plenty of Fish reels in about 50,000 new users per day

Every day, 3.3 million singles log on.

The site produces one million couples annually.

These numbers are appealing to some young adults, who are feeling the pressure to commit, and the real world can make for a discouraging dating scene.

For a close friend of mine, work takes up a lot of her time. Another acquaintance says he doesn’t go out and drink, so he doesn’t meet too many new people.

“It’s hard to meet people in real life. Where do you find a nice, decent guy?” said Carmichael. “Do you go to the library to meet a smart one? Do you go to the bank to find someone good at math?”

Not only does online dating eliminate some of the search, it also takes off a bit of pressure.

In our Internet-obsessed era, Burke is one of many young adults who feels a sense of safety online.

“I used to have this anxiety of approaching people,” he said. “Doing it online changed my whole mentality. Striking up conversations with girls on the Internet made it easier to go to bars and approach people.”

“People are just more comfortable behind a computer screen,” said Carmichael. “You don’t have to face that awkward confrontation, and there’s a whole list of other people right there in front of you,” Burke said.

For Carmichael, the site held some successes, but didn’t end with anything significant.

Burke deleted his account two weeks ago, after finding the girl he refers to as the love of his life.

“We’ve both found something very special in each other, it’s going really nicely,” he said. “I wouldn’t have met her if it hadn’t been for POF.”

So as I sit here and sift through the list of messages from my potential e-Romeos, it’s true that there is a fair share of suckerfish in the sea.

But there are a few who seem genuine, humorous and legitimate enough to make me want to reel in the catch.

Who knows if I’ll find my prince charming in the online dating pond, but I’d say its still worth casting a line.

Would you consider joining an online dating site?

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