By Mike Salmon
With all the bars, restaurants, sporting events and social spots where singles can meet in Arlington and Alexandria, online dating is now more popular then ever. In fact, 31 percent of singles in this country met their last first date online while 25 percent met through a friend and only six percent met their last first date at a bar or club, according to a study by Match.com called “Singles in America: Match Releases Its Fifth Annual Comprehensive Study on the Single Population.”
For Arlington resident Melissa Nix, it took about 20 online dates before she found the guy she’s currently dating, and it took a chance meeting at a bar to rekindle a relationship that started as an online date five years ago. Love has strange ways of finding people. When they first met, “I actually thought one of his friends was cute,” she said, before getting a message through her account on the dating site OK Cupid. “We’ve been dating ever since,” she said.
OK Cupid and Match.com are joined by other dating sites such as eHarmony, Zoosk, OurTime.com, ChristianMingle, JDate, BlackPeopleMeet and Plenty of Fish as places to find “The One.” Sites like this may provide a chance to meet a wider variety of people. Dr. Jay Browne, author of Dating for Dummies, noted that “computers dramatically increase the pool of potential dates, giving people an opportunity to meet people from different social circles,” he wrote.
The Washington D.C. area is the metro area with the 4th largest number of searchable users in the U.S. on Match. Although some of the online dating services are nationwide with local chapters, DC Singles is exclusively for the Washington, D.C. area. It’s seven step romance system includes in-person screening and personal assessment compatibility to name a few.
Online dating has its share of success stories too, as Nix has seen through the years. One friend of hers met a man years ago Match, and “they have two kids now.” Another friend met a guy that Nix says is “potential marriage material,” and her friend just moved in with him. EHarmony claims “438 people get married every day as a result of EHarmony’s compatible matching,” their website stated.
Casting a Line
Sometimes though, it does take a lot of time, energy and courage before something happens with online dating. “You get rejected a lot,” Nix said. It wasn’t always the hotty that caught her eye. “I’ll try and always give people a chance,” she said. Recalling some of her more interesting dates did bring a smile to her face nonetheless although some of her online dates “aren’t worth remembering,” she said. Be careful of what you say though, the Match study shows that 73% consider airing emotional drama in posts as a turn-off.
Pictures are “very important,” she said. “Don’t write me if you don’t have the balls to put a picture up.” There were guys who sent pictures of their torsos, showing off muscles, and others that took selfies, which Nix says is a turn off for her.
Using a dated picture may be a trick used by real estate agents for their business cards but Herndon resident “Susan” found that online daters did this also. “One guy I had agreed to meet for coffee looked very young in the picture he had posted. When I mentioned that to him, he said he did look young for his age.” However, when the two met up for their date, she hardly recognized the man walking toward her calling her by name. “He looked much older in person! He finally admitted his profile picture had been taken about 10 years ago!” she said.
Being in shape is a factor for some too. According to Match.com, 50 percent of singles that exercise at least twice a week went on a first date in 2014 compared with 29 percent of singles that didn’t exercise. Although Nix is open minded, “everybody wants someone who takes care of themselves,” she said. A Match spokesperson said that 94% of singles have not sent a misleading picture, but that still leaves a small percentage that have done that trick, for one reason or another. The picture is pretty important according to internal Match data. Similarly-active users with photos get eleven times the views than users without photos.
A good sense of humor is important to both women and men. For women, 97 percent found that having a good sense of humor is just as important as being physically attractive, while 90 percent of the men believe a sense of humor is important.
Meeting In Person
Okay, once matched up online and initial contact has been made, meeting up in person is where the sparks either fly or they don’t. On Match and EHarmony, there are tips for dates and first impressions. “Pay attention, be pleasant, be positive, be agreeable, be specific and admit your flaws,” were first impression tips on Match.com. Nix said its best to initially meet at bars, coffee shops and cafes, noting that she “would never go someplace where I would be alone with someone new,” she said. Some of her first dates were shopping or playing Scrabble at a coffee shop. “That was fun,” she said, remembering other dates swing dancing or at a museum. To start getting to know someone “you’ve got to have a conversation,” which might be a problem at a movie or concert, she said.
In the United Kingdom, the Online Dating Association was formed in 2013 by a number of industry players who saw the need to step up and take responsibility for setting and maintaining standards. The Association is striving for a roll as a trade body like associations do, ensuring the sector is properly represented so that it has a stronger voice with Government, regulators, the media, financial service providers, social networks and others.
Ultimately, people are people though. “The computer definitely plays a role, but in the end, it does boil down to human desire,” according to Match’s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. Helen Fisher. “Technology is dramatically changing how we court, but it can’t change the brain systems for romance and attachment,” she said.