Daters aren’t feeling the virtual love

DownToEarth.com offers enhanced safety features, but students are still wary.

Singles looking to avoid spending lonely nights curled up on the couch with a pint of ice cream and the latest slasher film should run, not walk, to the nearest computer.

InterActive Corp., the creator of social and dating Web sites like match.com, launched a new dating outlet last month: DownToEarth.com. The free, Dallas-based Web site formed as a result of the increasing online competition among similar no-cost dating service sites.

Despite the perks it offers, it may not be as popular among the collegiate crowd.

Sophomore Nathan Walsh has nothing but contempt for online dating. The mechanical engineering major finds the concept to be “entirely too flawed to function in our society.”

“The system of online dating appears innocent and good-natured. However, it is quite a danger to those involved,” Walsh said. “In my experience, I have known marriages [that] have failed because the relationship began as an online confrontation.”

Walsh cited an incident in which a friend married a woman from Missouri he met over the Internet. After having a short relationship online, the woman moved to Pennsylvania for him.

“The marriage, due to complications that could have been foreseen had the couple met each other in different manners, did not last beyond a few years,” Walsh said.

Many relationships that begin online lead to marriage. The Online Dating Magazine Media Center estimates that more than 120,000 marriages per year result from online dating. In 2007, studies conducted from Mediamark Research Inc. reported that almost half of online daters consist of young people between the ages of 18 and 34, making them 59 percent more likely to date online than the rest of the population.

Many Temple students, however, are excluded from this group.

“I don’t use [online dating], and I wouldn’t unless I was old and lonely,” sophomore kinesiology major Cassandra Ford said.

Sophomore Meghan Meyers, an education major, is leery about finding dates online.

“I would do it when I’m older but not now,” she said. “I still don’t trust some of [the online dating sites]. How do you know who is real and who is fake?”

DownToEarth.com offers a feature called RealRatings. The feature allows site users to vote on an individual’s “realness” – rating the accuracy of users’ photographs, profile information and more after going on a date.

The online dating service also has a zero-tolerance policy for “lying and lewd behavior.” Misleading profiles and unsuitable photographs are grounds for banning from DownToEarth.com. It is also the only free online dating service that prohibits married individuals from signing up.

These features still haven’t persuaded many students to use the dating Web site. They do, however, produce more of a tolerance toward using DownToEarth.com.

“I don’t use it, but I’m not against it,” said junior communications major Kristin Thumma. “You see commercials on TV about it, making it sound successful. I don’t know if it’s just the site making up stories to get people to sign up. If it’s the only way you can meet people, it’s better than hooking up at a bar.”

Junior Christine McDermott, a film and media arts major, is not against online dating, but she thinks that college is a better place for young people to meet.

“I think [using an online dating service] is a great way for people who are older to go about finding someone,” she said.

While some students lack interest in online dating, a handful of individuals said they believe the Internet can be a legitimate avenue for meeting people.

In an e-mail interview, Kate Hall, a representative of DownToEarth.com, wrote that the site has “more than 2,000 daters in Philadelphia.”

Adrian Sierkowski, a senior film and media arts major, said the appeal of online dating is due to the “representative of the shift in overall communication and human interaction.”

“It allows instantaneous intimacy but also gives us just enough distance,” he said.

Among the non-online daters at Temple is Vicki Moore.

The senior women’s studies and history major has used online dating in the past.

“I met an ex-boyfriend who I ended up living with for three years through online personals that The Onion and Lions Gate Films use,” Moore said. “I know a lot of people who have used online dating at one point or another, and I think pretty much all the people I know who have used some form of online dating have wound up going on at least a couple of dates.”

Moore approaches online dating with a “proceed-with-caution” philosophy – simple, yet necessary in the Internet age.

“I think it’s just like if you were to go on a blind date. Use discretion, use common sense and meet in a public place. [Meeting people online] can work out for most people.”

Joshua Fernandez can be reached at josh.fernandez@temple.edu.

2 Comments

  1. There can be dangers in online dating but they’re a great way for people who are shy and don’t stand out in a group in a bar or club to meet people.

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