In theory, it was a perfect match. They laughed at each other’s jokes, they were pursuing similar careers and they both had a nice smile. Most importantly, there seemed to be chemistry between them. After two weeks of correspondence over the phone and the Internet, it was time to meet.
Alumnus Josh Breidbart ’07 recalls the date as having no chemistry whatsoever.
“It was just an awkward evening of each of us trying to impress the other, and neither [of us] were getting anywhere,” Breidbart said.
It didn’t help that Breidbart had planned what was to be a romantic walk when, unbeknownst to him, his date had recently broken her leg.
As a movie production assistant, Breidbart works 12- to 18-hour days, leaving him with little free time to socialize. He’s not one to frequent bars or clubs despite living in New York City. The alternative for him and a growing number of other singles is online dating sites, like Match.com.
The idea first came to Breidbart two years ago when he went to see the play “Jewtopia,” which details the Jewish dating scene and often references the popular online dating site, “Jdate.” Consequently, Breidbart created a profile on Jdate — a decision he now refers to as his gateway drug to Match.com and, more recently, OkCupid.com.
“People look to online dating as kind of like an alternative or a new form,” Breidbart said. “It’s just harder because people lie, they pad it. I could put online that I work with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. I don’t necessarily have to say that it’s getting them coffee.”
Overall, Breidbart said his experiences have been more disappointing than successful and have only raised his standards. Seeing a list of romantic prospects, he said, tends to make someone meticulous.
According to a study by the Online Publishers Association and comScore Networks, online dating sites made more than $500 million in 2005, and an article in Time magazine Jan. 19 cites the number as more than $1 billion. Add free sites like Craigslist or OkCupid to the mix, and that’s a whole lot of activity.
Unlike Breidbart, Elmira College freshman Tanya Craig is pleased with her experience in meeting others online. As a triple major in political science, philosophy and English literature, and a double minor in theater and business management, Craig said time restraints make it difficult to meet people. On Jan. 21, she logged on to Craigslist to find friends or possible dates and has had mostly positive outcomes.
“I’ve only had one date out of six that was negative,” she said.
On that one negative date, Craig had been called part of the “unholy corrupt” for her refusal to perform a sexual favor on her date. She said many of the men on Craigslist are looking for sex, which isn’t unlike her experiences with meeting men offline. Craig said the Internet does allow her to remain anonymous and ignore certain propositions, a convenience hardly allowed in face-to-face conversation.
“If you go to a bar and you’re good looking, you will get hit on by every jerk possible,” Craig said.
Meanwhile, she said, the nice guys don’t even get a “hi.” By talking online first, both parties are more comfortable and open, and these are the sort of guys, Craig said, that girls dream of.
But there is a veritable stigma about relationships prompted by a mouse click and one that has not gone unnoticed by Craig. She saw a personal ad in which the creator had warned that if a date goes well, they would have to fabricate a story on how they met.
“There’s so much negative hype about the Internet and meeting people online,” Craig said. “This is the kind of age we’re going into, the technological age. I think it’s normal.”
Cornell graduate student John Norwood is another Craigslist user who has had some luck with the personal ads. Because he’s not particularly interested in undergraduate students, and his peers in the real estate and city planning program are notably older, Norwood said he decided to give Craigslist a shot.
Norwood said he initially used the site to advertise and form his band, Upstate Escape. After looking at the “missed connections” tab, which allows people to try and connect after a missed opportunity, Norwood laughed.
“Everybody who knows Craigslist goes to the personals, but posting is the next step,” Norwood said.
The next step ultimately led to a one-month relationship for Norwood, until she graduated and they were forced to part ways. Though the rest of Norwood’s experiences were unremarkable, he said none were exceptionally poor.
Whereas Breidbart may take a week or two to get to know someone, Norwood and Craig said they try to meet as soon as possible. Norwood said this helps eliminate the discrepancy between someone’s online self and offline self, which Breidbart noted is a problem.
“[Online dating] is not going to solve all your problems,” Norwood said. “If you can’t deal with people one-on-one, doing it online will only postpone the inevitable.”
Though he still logs on to OkCupid.com, Breidbart said he doesn’t see online personals as helping whatsoever. If someone posts his or her picture, it’s not about being attractive, he said, but being photogenic.
“Don’t do online dating,” Breidbart said. “I get nothing but frustration out of it.”
This frustration is something he would like to limit and eventually discontinue, but for some strange reason, he said, he keeps coming back.
Craig, who doesn’t post her picture, appreciates the opportunity to meet others online and learn their personalities before going on a date.
“You get a chance to get to know the person before you jump to conclusions,” she said.
She got to know one person during a date in Ithaca, where the two became lost for almost an hour, eventually giving up and sitting down in a Chinese restaurant to eat.