Screens for attention: Online dating has hit the mainstream. Photo: Getty Images
Is technology a blessing or a curse when it comes to finding love in the 21st century?
Certainly, it can make meeting people a lot easier, especially when using online dating networks such as RSVP and OKCupid.
RSVP's Date of the Nation Report 2012, which surveyed 3325 Australians, suggests online dating has well and truly hit the mainstream, with nearly half of all single people saying they've tried it. It also found that it's currently the third most popular way to meet new partners, coming in after meeting through friends or family and via interest-based clubs and teams.
''If you want to meet single people, you're going to find a lot more of them through an online dating site than you ever would by going to the pub on a Saturday night,'' general manager of RSVP, Glenis Carroll says. ''For a lot of people who aren't able to get out there and socialise, being able to go online and chat to single people has been a very simple way to get over some of the barriers for meeting people out and about.''
Online dating networks enable users to be very specific about the sort of person they're looking for. If you're only interested in tall brunettes between 30 and 45 who are vegetarians, don't smoke, and like alternative music, you can plug that criteria into the search to narrow down your options.
There are also dating websites that fit many niches, such as catering for religious preferences, married people looking for a discreet affair, and young women looking for sugar daddies.
But does searching for partners based on criteria rather than real-world chemistry take some of the magic out of the process? ''Serendipity can still happen in an environment that some people feel is quite contrived,'' Carroll says. ''You might see someone's photo or read their profile and decide that you'd like to contact them, in the same way that you'd see someone interesting-looking at a bar and decide to approach them.''
Eliza Sum, 24, says she's had more than her fair share of horror stories when it comes to online dating, from one man who offered to pay for sex to another man who threatened to kill himself if she stopped seeing him. Despite these experiences, she still recommends it as a good way to meet new people. ''You have to keep an open mind and just be careful,'' she says.
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