Imagine four average American couples, all identical — happy, successful and in love with 2.5 children and a white picket fence.
The only difference? One out of those four couples determined their futures with a blind date from a dot-com.
Online dating platforms are becoming increasingly popular, and Americans are jumping on the bandwagon — even the young.
OkCupid, a rapidly growing and free Internet dating site, was invented by Harvard graduates Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, Max Krohn and Christian Rudder, according to its website.
Essentially, the site differentiates itself from other online dating forums by welcoming same-sex and heterosexual relations or friendships, as well as featuring quizzes and questionnaires as a way to facilitate matches between people.
In addition, sites like DateMySchool, an anonymous, safe and exclusive dating platform, have been making it easier for the younger, college-going demographic to find love.
“Columbia University classmates Balazs Alexa and Jean Meyer founded the company in November 2010 after a woman in the nursing school complained that her department was 90 percent female,” Melanie Wallner, DateMySchool’s director of public relations, said via email. “They realized that there was a bigger market — lots of students want to meet across departments and campuses.”
For all the Match.coms, E-Harmonies and OkCupids, there seems to be good business.
But there’s also a catch — many don’t want to talk about it.
“I feel like online dating is so taboo,” Sydney Grau (freshman – liberal arts) said. “It’s even weird for me to admit that I did it.”
Grau isn’t the only one. A majority of students reported feeling “uncomfortable” or “unsettled” discussing their online dating lives.
Does it not seem counter-intuitive that, as a generation born into technology, and one so likely to discuss personal matters all over social networks (in a relationship; single; it’s complicated), that so few are open about their online dating activity?
What gives online love that element of taboo, pushing it into the territory of unspeakable?
“I feel like society makes it into a joke, being young. It’s like, you can’t just go meet someone? You have to use a website to meet someone?” Grau said. “People look at others as being weird for having an online dating profile.”
“It’s kind of accepted that you shouldn’t have to think about doing things like that,” Nick Novacco (sophomore – political science) said. “By using other options such as online dating you’re seen as an outsider.”
The irony of online dating lies in its simultaneous creation, perpetuation, and scorn by society, but is there actually a reason to be concerned?
“I do think there is a stigma about the lack of safety, privacy and efficiency of online dating sites,” Wallner said via email.
Sixty six percent of Internet users think online dating is dangerous because people tend to be dishonest in their profiles, according to the 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project provided by Wallner.
With this lack of dialogue occurring between users of these online dating platforms, the businesses are failing to capture a large part of the market. After all, a major way to garner business is through word of mouth, and many people are unwilling to have a conversation about it, let alone consider it as a valid option for meeting a life partner.
Slowly, however, as awareness increases, companies are tailoring their sites to accommodate the needs of their customers.
DateMySchool continues to amp up safety and privacy by requiring that students register with their active university email addresses, verifying alumni identities through collegiate databases and allowing users extensive privacy controls, Wallner said.
Sites like OkCupid offer settings such as “Crazy Blind Date” and anonymous browsing to make user experience fruitful as well as safe.
And according to the numbers, it’s working.
Of the 16 million people who have been to online dating sites, 52 percent say they had mostly positive experiences, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
“We're responsible for more than 50 percent of the dates that happen at some schools like Columbia University and New York University,” Wallner said. “We receive tons of success stories including some marriages.”
In some ways, the ability to find dates online can be helpful and even preferable to traditional methods.
“I didn’t have enough time to go out and meet people. I work and go to school full time. I’m over the whole bar scene,” Novacco said. “It’s just normal. Even more so, because at least you have some background information about your common interests. It helps you get past the whole awkward-finding-out-what-to-talk-about because you already know about what to discuss going in.”
As more people find successful love through unconventional means, perhaps the stigma against online dating will dissolve.
But until then, the brave, candid few find themselves with a blinking green light next to their profile, next to which are two words: “Online Now.”