ATLANTA POST - May 3 - Online dating is now the third most popular way for singles to meet, ranking behind the workplace and school (#1) and friends and family (#2), but ahead of bars (#4), according to an eHarmony study. ~113M people visit dating sites each month. 6 out of 10 African Americans are unmarried, according to Packaged Facts, while according to the 2004 U.S. census, 42% of all black women have never been married. Such statistics make the black community a prime target for the online dating industry. BlackPeopleMeet.com, was the 11th most visited dating site in March, reaching 4% of the total U.S. black population, according to Experian Hitwise. Other sites targeting African Americans include BlackSingles.com, AfricaSingles.net, BlackPeopleLove.com and SoulSingles.com. ~90% of online daters stick to the top 100 dating sites though, according to industry consultant Mark Brooks. Among the world's top sites are PlentyofFish, Zoosk, Manhunt, eHarmony. These sites offer relationship services that social networks do not, Brooks pointed out. "Dating sites protect the name and identity of people until they're ready to give it up. Facebook is a handy tool for researching people. You can look them up on Facebook and see what kind of company they keep. So the two work hand in hand."
How are Internet dating sites changing society? In a number of significant ways.
People are able to weed out people with show-stopping attributes. Second, dating sites have leveled the playing field for men and women. Women are not penalized for making first moves. Third, as a research paper by Brooks points out, singles are becoming more picky because online dating allows them to be more selective.
Online dating has a well-known downside. People online tend to lie about themselves. According to a study by OKCupid, men fib about their height. Half of all daters lie about their weight, and most people inflate their salaries by ~20%. A danger to avoid is a tendency to mask faults by creating the perfect date in the mind's eye. "When you start talking to somebody and you really want them to be the perfect match, you might start projecting qualities onto them that you would most desire, and that's called the halo effect," said Brooks. "There's a huge fantasy element to this, which is one reason why the virtual world sites are big," he continued. "There's a mental need for this, for believing that virtual worlds are better than the real world. A lot of Internet daters are disappointed. And ultimately people need to get out on 20 dates before they ever make their choice. They need to go experience the real world first." Chemistry counts, and daters must meet in person to develop a close relationship. "Personally, I do not think we will ever take the mystery out of dating and intimate connection," said Dr. Thomas Bradbury, eHarmony advisor, professor of psychology and founder of the Marriage and Family Development Lab at UCLA. "We are hard-wired to connect, and the daily challenges of creating, maintaining, and improving that connection are likely to be always just outside our grasp."
by Steven Barboza
The full article was originally published at Atlanta Post, but is no longer available.