Thursday, February 26, 2015

Love at First Byte

I was watching the tube when a commercial came on for "Match." Apropos of nothing, I thought isn't that "" Why are they dropping the I do not have an answer.

Then things got kind of hectic around the house, with two teenagers, a teenager soon to be, and a third grader raising a ruckus. 

I wondered, how the hell did this all got started? We were almost pioneers, and it was called You can look it up. So I did and here it is. I remember, someone from a Philadelphia paper called up. My only real complaint is that I'm not still 47.

Love at first byte: Personal-ad Web sites booming But some doubt quality of e-mail intimacy.

POSTED: April 20, 2001
Lorraine Kay, a 58-year-old business consultant who lives in the Poconos, tried placing a newspaper personal ad. She got one response.
Now she searches for Mr. Right online. "There are photos and you can get so much information so quickly," Kay said.
The World Wide Web might not be the place we want to go to buy pet food or bid on our groceries. But there is one thing we are flocking to the Internet to shop for, and that's love.
Online dating services are booming. According to Internet analyst Media Metrix, 5 million people visited personal-ad Web sites in December, up 57 percent since 1999. A search of the Web turns up hundreds of dating sites, with names like Americansingles, Atlastwemeet, Virtuallydating, and GetGaga.
One of the largest, (owned by Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch), claims 1.4 million subscribers. says it gets 40,000 new users per week (and is being purchased for $17.7 million by a competitor, Billing itself as the nation's largest gay personals site, has more than 250,000 singles ads.
Thanks to the Web, newspaper personals - where SWMs once went ISO LTRs with SFs - are going the way of the dinosaur. At newspapers, revenue from personals is down 50 percent since 1996, estimates Michael James of Minneapolis-based MicroVoice, which provides personal ad services to more than 400 daily and weekly papers.
Joining a trend among daily newspapers - including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Los Angeles Times - The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News in October discontinued personal ads. (An exception is the New York Times, which will start carrying them.)
The ads are even disappearing from alternative weeklies. This month, Philadelphia City Paper discontinued voice personals and instead runs a sampling of the ads placed by subscribers to, a Willow Grove-based online dating site focused on urban professionals in 12 cities.
"Voice personals have become obsolete," said City Paper publisher Paul Curci.
It's easy to see why.
Posting and answering personals is free on popular Internet sites such as Yahoo and America Online. On the online dating sites that do charge, the rates are low - say, $19.95 a month or $49 to $99 a year for unlimited use - compared with $2 per minute to call a 900 number and answer a newspaper personal ad.
Online sites let users post photos, and offer cautious singles the chance to communicate without revealing home e-mail addresses or phone numbers. Screen names serve as aliases.
"I have to read through every [newspaper] ad to find someone who meets my criteria," said Trish McDermott,'s vice president of romance. "On I can say, 'Show me all men between 20 and 25 within 50 miles of my home, that don't smoke, have a certain level of education and make this amount of money.' . . . And you're not restricted by the circulation of the publication."
"Online dating is the best thing that has happened in a long time," said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist who is's online romance expert. "There is a large pool of people out there who are isolated in their work, or in terms of geography, and have come to the end of their social network."
That's the case for Timothy Schneider, 48, who runs the electron microscopy lab at Thomas Jefferson University. "Let's face it, people in my age group spend much of our lives at work, and dating at work is a dangerous thing at best," said Schneider, who is divorced.
He's dated five women he's met through Metrodate, though none long-term. Finding a partner is complicated by Schneider's lifestyle: he lives on a yacht on the Delaware and doesn't own a car. "I have to admit, that is not going to have widespread appeal," he said. "I work about 10 months a year and then I sail. Basically, I'm looking for a woman to sail into the sunset with me. That is a niche thing."
And there is no shortage of niche services for online dating. There are sites aimed at animal lovers, disabled people, and seniors. Others target ethnic and religious groups - Catholics and Jews, African Americans and Latinos.*
Penn State student Rena Zoll, 23, has been trying Fitnessdate. "These are people who are into their bodies," said Zoll, who is from Newtown. "It's not like meeting someone in a smoky bar."
Sharon, a 38-year-old Main Line resident, also has used Fitnessdate. She is not comfortable publicizing her last name - for some people there is a stigma attached to finding dates online.Though her experience has been generally positive, she has gotten some risque messages: "There are really a lot of strange people who hide behind their computer screens."
The concern for security has given rise to services such as, which provides a background report on your cyber-suitor. Another site, 24/7 Unite, offers handwriting analysis and psychological profiles of would-be suitors.
"One of the big hurdles is the legitimacy of meeting people online," said Schneider, who asks dates to contact him at his work e-mail address, and uses his title and phone number. "Women are nervous enough about meeting strange guys. What I'm trying to do is take away a layer of uncertainty."
Kay, the consultant, has heard the warnings about people misrepresenting themselves on the Web - but hasn't encountered that problem in replying to about 20 ads in two years. She dated one man for 16 months.
"What I'm finding is there are lot of really nice people out there," said Kay. "To me, it is actually safer than meeting someone in a bar. If they live in my area, I get to check out who they are."
And, she said, "after six weeks of communicating about his family and what he likes to do, you know him in a way you'd never get to know him in a bar."
Some experts, however, say that e-mail can foster a false intimacy. They say that human beings are visual creatures, getting crucial cues and information only through observation.
Sociologist Robert Billingham, who teaches a course on marriage and relationship at Indiana University, worries that online dating services encourage the idea that there is a single "soul mate" out there for each of us. "The truth is that there are probably about 875,000 perfect people out there for you," said Billingham. "But relationships take a tremendous amount of work and personal sacrifice."
"My advice to my students is trust your friends and your parents to recommend someone for you," he said.
Despite the vast numbers of singles seeking love online, there's little information on how well the services work. "To anyone dumping on online dating," said Schwartz, "I'd say, 'Have they looked at the alternatives?' "
"If we're successful, we lose a customer," pointed out Brad Pliner, a founder of Metrodate, which recently celebrated the birth of its first Metrodate baby. Washington attorney Grady Foster, 47, met computer security specialist Teresa Wagamon through the site a little more than a year ago. They live together and now have a four-month-old daughter.
"The whole thing is just amazing," said Wagamon, 41. "We had no friends in common, and we have solitary types of hobbies. We never would have met."
Eils Lotozo's e-mail address is

They used to promote themselves with one of our baby pictures. All is well. Back to it now.

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