Yesterday’s research group in The Internet Course took a look at online dating. This is a fascinating topic because it has a historical aspect (computer matchmaking goes back to the 60s), an economic aspect (apparently it’s a bigger business online than porn) as well as a sociological aspect (for which there is a ton of research, including a large scale survey on How Couples Meet and Stay Together). The discussion managed to touch on all three.
There was some discussion of the pros and cons, but it was a bit one-sided: the pros seemed to have the edge. As a coincidence, I had just seen this Metafilter post a couple days earlier, which discusses the creep factor. It’s about an OKCupid user who keeps a Tumblr of messages she gets from weirdos (Do I need to warn about the potential content?). I’m not sure how big the creep factor is – at one point she says, “The majority of the messages I get ARE decent. The scum bag idiots are a small percentage” but elsewhere in an interview she said, “Seventy percent of the messages are straight-up blunt, vulgar shit.” Someone did mention the Craigslist Killer, but truecrimers might recognize that murder-by-personals isn’t exactly a new thing.
I think it makes sense that that online dating has been around as long as the web. Tim Berners-Lee once said, in a different context, that the web was always about connecting people to people. And dating is one way people connect.