We’ll always have eHarmony

Christopher Hook

Everyone wants to meet the perfect person, that individual whose soul is a perfect complement to your own, who makes you whistle happy songs on rainy days and draw flowers in your notebook and give money to beggars on the street; the person you just want to be with after a long day, who listens to your thoughts and dreams and makes you feel so secure in your own skin that you wonder how you ever lived another way. Movies like “The Sound of Music” and “The Notebook” detail amazing adventures of love and “that special feeling” that comes with it.

But not everyone, as much as we don’t want to admit it, will be enthralled in an amazing love story that involves escaping from Nazis or paddling a rowboat through a South Carolina marsh in a thunderstorm. Whether you are juggling two jobs and school or you are a bit socially insecure or the right person has simply not come along yet, it can be difficult to meet anyone who piques your desire, let alone your “true love.”

One solution has emerged: using the Internet to meet people. According to The National, an English-language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, roughly 40 million Americans, or 17.9 percent of all Internet users, used online dating services to meet potential mates in 2009. EHarmony, the most popular dating site with 20 million active subscribers, charges members upwards of $100 to, by its own guarantee, match you up with a person compatible with your characteristics, as determined by a lengthy personality test. Match.com, another dating site, offers members (who pay a much smaller fee) counseling for “profile creation assistance,” as well as online dating tips. Other platforms, like Plenty of Fish, are free for everyone but leave the user on his or her own to develop a profile and find possible matches.

But despite the popularity of the Internet, there seems to be quite the taboo around online dating. Not that long ago, my friend confided in me with the news she had a new boyfriend. Like a good friend should, I inquired about him.

“Where did you meet?” I asked her.

She said, not a bit sheepishly, “I met him online…”

“Oh, that’s cool…” I said lamely, scrambling to hide the scorn in my voice.

It’s just we as a culture have created a stigma about online dating. If you do it, we say, you’re desperate, and you’re obviously inept at finding someone in real life. What’s more, online dating, with its structure and ease of use and pay-per-service, appears to be cheapening what has been the traditional quest for love and courtship. Can you imagine Romeo typing passionate love e-mails to Juliet, trying to strike the right tone with well-placed emoticons and flirtatious syntax?

But this stigma seems to be changing. As Facebook, Twitter and texting become further entrenched in our lives, we are growing more and more comfortable with the idea of a physical “self” and an online “self,” the latter of which we express in profile pictures and status updates. One online dater with whom I talked said our generation is more open not just to technology, but to talking with random strangers. We are able to hide behind our custom-made online identities until we are ready to showcase our physical one, too.

Is this a bad thing? In some respects, yes. Online identities allow us to show to the world who we want to be, and not necessarily who we are. But on the other hand, online dating platforms are simply places for people with social limitations to meet others in their spare time in a pressure-free area and explore a possible relationship with them. Online dating is, as one friend put it, “emotionally efficient”: If you don’t feel like continuing with an online contact, delete his or her e-mail. If you worry about creepy old men patrolling your profile page, you have direct control over how much information you divulge. Be smart about it, just as you would be at a bar, club or coffee shop.

And in the end, even though you and your mate may not have the best “how we met” story for your friends and family, this should be a small price to pay for a satisfying relationship, albeit one that began on the Web. So go ahead, whistle a little.

Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and

French major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].