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We’re always saying that technology is changing everything…and it is. We’re connecting with new people everyday through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and so many more internet media services. Everything that we could bring online, we have; stores, banks, books, maps, mail, even schools, all have a strong presence online. Dating has shifted online as well.

Online dating is one of the more controversial internet services. I have no personal stance on internet dating, as many people have great success with it, but it just isn’t for some.  My interest in online dating is in the social implications - aren’t online dating websites social media platforms?

Online dating websites, such as, bring people together based on a limited amount of information, which is self-disclosed. They allow users to reach out to other people they do not know, and try to connect with them.

So far, aside from the agenda of the users, online dating sites aren’t any different from other popular social media platforms, such as Facebook.  Dating sites have the potential to affect our behavior and life experiences.

Online dating has turned an often awkward process into a streamlined progression similar to online shopping…but shopping for people. An algorithm brings you matches based on your interests, and it takes into consideration much more quantitative data indicating compatibility than a friend who was setting you up with her second cousin might.

The appeal of online dating is that you will be matched with someone who has similar values, interests, and goals. Ok, it’s really more than interests and goals. specifically asks about your astrological sign, body type, whether you’re a “meat and potatoes” or “keep it healthy” kind of person, and on and on - even whether you might want kids in the future.

With all that personal data, you should meet someone compatible! For many users, the best benefit is bypassing all those bad dates and bad break-ups, as many relationships end because one person doesn’t want kids, and the other does, and it took them 15 months of dating to realize it. Great, cut to the chase! With online dating, it’s all out on the table. If you know you want kids, and you come across a match that doesn’t, toss ‘em. You just saved three years of your life…Right?

On the other side of the coin, something to consider is the actual effectiveness of a data-based match. There may be a match for several explicit goals or ideals, but is it enough to make for compatibility? Two women can be very different in their personality, but both want to have kids.

Also, the issue of self-disclosure not only affects online dating, but most internet social media platforms. Profiles are designed with attraction in mind, and like Facebook profiles, they are can often be an embellishment of the person it really represents. Does he really like long walks on the beach, or is that what he thinks a potential connection wants to hear? Is she really a “fit build”, as self-reported?

So my question is this: is the efficiency of social media, including online dating, better than the wasted dates, or even wasted years of an ultimately unsuccessful relationship? Or, if we leave our fate in the hands of technology, will we miss out on those learning experiences because with compatibility matches, it’s more likely that the first one could be the right one? Is it even that the first one IS the right one?

If we are using technology to better other daily aspects of our lives and make them more efficient, should we apply it to dating, which is arguably the most time consuming, costly, and draining component of our lives?

What do you think about online dating in terms of social media?

Check out the piece I wrote over on the Pop!Tech blog about Ranjit Bhatnagar’s 28 hand-made musical instruments.

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