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By Nicholas Boothman
In 1727, Helen Morrison, a lonely spinster in Manchester, England, placed the first lonely hearts personal, advertising for a husband in the local weekly newspaper. In response, the town mayor committed her to a lunatic asylum for a month. But in hindsight, Helen Morrison was a pioneer. Exactly 240 years later, and just a few miles away, the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." One year earlier, their "Eleanor Rigby" ("All the lonely people/Where do they all come from?") had half the world humming to Helen Morrison's dilemma. The Beatles were pioneers. too. Flash forward 30 years, and the explosion of online dating services has created a new way for lonely hearts to wait at the window, looking for true love. It sounds pathetic when you phrase it like that, but people sitting alone in front of their computer screens is only one side of the coin. On the other, I've heard about many happy couples who met online.

Internet dating is here to stay, and it's only going to grow. Here are some thoughts to take into consideration. First we'll run through the advantages and disadvantages, then I'll suggest some maxims for making your search more productive.


You can get hung up on Internet flirting: It's addictive and it's easy, and it's a short-term remedy for loneliness or boredom. But it's essentially blind: Our instincts about a person are based not just on what ideas they want to communicate, but on appearance, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice -- all subtleties that are lost when communicating via computer, no matter how many emoticons you use. Unless you get beyond the e-mail stage, the Internet will do you no good at all.

Internet dating is limiting in the sense that you'll only be meeting folks who spend time on the Internet, which excludes a whole raft of people.


There's no question that everyone on the site is looking to meet someone. So, there's none of the awkwardness and uncertainty you have in some social situations, where a person's relationship status or even sexual orientation may not be obvious.

By reading people's profiles closely, you can quickly weed out people whose interests, age, values, religion or whatever else don't appeal to you. Ditto when posting your own profile: Describing yourself honestly and being clear about your values and interests makes it more likely that someone compatible will write to you.

Typically, a photo or even multiple photos will accompany a person's profile. The eyes truly are the windows of the soul, and being able to pair a face with the words in the profile definitely helps give you a clearer idea of the person you're writing to.

The initial anonymity of the 'Net empowers shy people to approach people and make moves that they never would in person.

You can meet people you wouldn't otherwise meet because your social and/or business circles don't intersect, or because you don't frequent the same places.


Here are a few good rules that should help those just getting their feet wet with Internet dating and also those who may have been using a service but haven't gotten the kind of results they'd hoped for.

All Internet dating sites are not created equal. Just like bars or clubs, different sites tend to attract different types of people, but that isn't often obvious until you've read a number of profiles.

Make sure your profile serves you well. You want your profile to reflect your best self, so invest the time to make it well written and lively. Also take the time to get a good photo of yourself. A survey commissioned by asked, "When looking at someone's online profile, what makes you want to contact them?" Men rated a great smile, a good sense of humor, and a good figure/physique as the top three turn-ons. For women, a good sense of humor and similar taste in music, movies, books, etc. took the top two spots, with strong family values and a great smile sharing third place. When it came to turn-offs, both men and women listed people looking to cheat, negative attitudes, couch potatoes and poor spelling or grammar as the worst offenses. And regarding the photo, the survey found that weight matters more to men than women; tacky clothes and a bad haircut matter more to women than men.

Don't fall into window-shopper syndrome. When you do a search and find 800 possible matches, it's very easy to start collecting people in your favorites folder, then end up never writing to any of them. Be bold: When you see someone whom you think you'd like to meet, write to him or her immediately. All it takes is a few sentences, because they'll be able to read your online profile to get the bigger picture. And remember, not everyone you write to will write back, just as you probably won't respond to everyone who writes to you. As in the real world, your odds of meeting people improve the more you put yourself out there.

Practice discretion. Don't reveal your full name, phone number or address in the early stages of a relationship.
By Nicholas Boothman

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