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February 14, 2014

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It's that time of year again. Time for flowers, candy, and, more importantly, romance. But, if you don’t actually have someone to spend the day with, it can definitely put a damper on whatever flames of passion you might have hoped to fan.

So, what’s a lonely Chattanoogan to do? Well, this is the “Gig City”. Why not skip all that church-mingling, bar-hopping, supply-closet-fumbling and supermarket-grocery-cart-crashing and try to meet someone online? 

Even though it’s been around for almost 50 years (the original computer dating service, “Operation Match,” was cranked up in 19651), computer dating has only become mainstream in the last decade or so. In fact, with the rise of the Internet and the availability of inexpensive computers, online dating has flourished since the turn of [the most recent] century. There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of sites for online dating, many of which cater to one or more very specific niches of the human experience. For example, if you are Jewish, you can try jdate.com. Christian seeking same? Try christianmingle.com. There’s even a dating service for clowns and circus performers. (Oh, it’s real…and it’s called clowndating.com. If clowns frighten you, don’t go there.)

Of course, many folks are still a little skittish about online dating because, well, c’mon, you’re dating people from The Internet, and “The Internet” is a scary place, right? In an effort to dispel some of that fear and open up new avenues to romance for our readers, I interviewed 12 different folks, all of whom have had various levels of success with online dating.

If demographics are your thing, here’s some quick data: Our 12 interviewees consisted of five men and seven women. One of the women, Mary, is recently transgendered and is married to June. Three of the other women, and one of the men, self-identify as bisexual. The rest identify themselves as heterosexual. Ages of the interviewees ranged from 24 to 50 and all had been living here in Chattanooga for at least two years. Most were lifelong residents, but there were a few transplants from New York, Alabama and Georgia. Finally, while a wide variety of services were cited during these interviews, almost everyone primarily uses okcupid.com or match.com for their online dating. (Note that, while this info is interesting and provides some context, this wasn’t a scientific survey in any sense. I just sat down with each person for conversations about their online dating experiences.)

If you are of a certain age, you probably remember the days when “computer dating” was something that only the hopeless loser/nerd would attempt. And, if anyone found out, well, that was it for your reputation. But these days, online dating is simply a fact of life. Pretty much everyone does it. Only two of the younger people I interviewed were worried about teasing from their friends. But even then, Rachel and Leah both described it as “good natured” teasing.

In many cases, online dating is now actually the preferred means for setting up dates. For example, if you meet someone through an online service and things don’t work out, you probably won’t ever have to see that person again. Contrast that with someone you date from work, school or church. You have to see that person on a regular basis and you just know the details of the whole thing are going to spread like wildfire.

Does it really work? 

It certainly seems to. More than half of the folks I interviewed had actually had one or more long-term (six months or longer) relationship as the result of online dating. Also, three of the people I interviewed, Lee, June and Mary, had actually gotten married as a result of online dates. (As mentioned earlier, June and Mary were recently married to each other. Lee has been married to Christine [who wasn’t interviewed for this article] for almost 10 years now.)

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February 14, 2014

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