Sunday, 1 May 2011

And the only rule is that there are no rules!

By waiting and waiting and waiting to commit to someone, our capacity for love shrinks and withers. This doesn't mean that women or men should marry the first reasonable person to come along, or someone with whom they are not in love. But we should, at a much earlier age than we do now, take a serious attitude toward dating and begin preparing ourselves to settle down. For it's in the act of taking up the roles we've been taught to avoid or postpone––wife, husband, mother, father––that we build our identities, expand our lives, and achieve the fullness of character we desire. -- Danielle Crittenden, 1999
Teenagers and college-aged students tend to avoid the more formal activity of dating, and prefer casual no-strings-attached experiments sometimes described as hookups. It permits young women to "go out and fit into the social scene, get attention from young men, and learn about sexuality", according to one report by sociologists. The term hookup can describe a wide variety of behavior ranging from kissing to non-genital touching to make-out sessions; according to one report, only about one third of people had sexual intercourse.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Computers as matchmakers

  • Computer dating systems of later 20th century, especially popular in the 1960s and 1970s, before the rise of sophisticated phone and computer systems, gave customers forms that they filled out with important tolerances and preferences, which were "matched by computer" to determine "compatibility" of the two customers. The history of dating systems is closely tied to the history of technologies that support them. The first large-scale computer dating system, The Scientific Marriage Foundation, was established in 1957 by Dr. George W. Crane. In this system, forms that applicants filled out were processed by an early IBM card sorting machine. In the early 1980s in New York City, software developer Gary Robinson developed a now–defunct dating service called 212-Romance which used computer algorithms to match singles romantically, using a voice–mail based interface backed by community-based automated recommendations enhanced by collaborative filtering technologies. Compatibility algorithms and matching software are becoming increasingly sophisticated, according to one report.
  • Online dating services are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide. They charge a fee to enable a user to post a profile of himself or herself, perhaps using video or still images as well as descriptive data and personal preferences for dating, such as age range, hobbies, and so forth. One report suggests that online dating businesses are thriving financially, with growth in members, service offerings, membership fees and with many users renewing their accounts, although the overall share of Internet traffic using online dating services in the U.S. has declined somewhat, from 2003 (21% of all Internet users) to 2006 (10%), and that dating sites must work to convince users that they're safe places having quality members, according to Jupiter Research. While online dating has become more accepted, it retains a slight negative stigma, according to one writer. There is widespread evidence that online dating has increased rapidly and is becoming "mainstream" with new websites appearing regularly. One study suggested that 18% of single persons had used the Internet for dating purposes. Reports vary about the effectiveness of dating web sites to result in marriages or long–term relationships. Pew Research, based on a 2005 survey of 3,215 adults, estimated that three million Americans had entered into long-term relationships or marriage as a result of meeting on a dating web site.  While sites have touted marriage rates from 10% to 25%, sociologists and marriage researchers are highly skeptical that valid statistics underlie any such claims. The Pew study (see table) suggested the Internet was becoming increasingly prominent and accepted as a way to meet people for dates, although there were cautions about deception, the risk of violence, and some concerns about stigmas.  The report suggested most people had positive experiences with online dating websites and felt they were excellent ways to meet more people. The report also said that online daters tend to have more liberal social attitudes compared to the general population. In India, parents sometimes participate in websites designed to match couples. Some online dating sites can organize double dates or group dates. Research from Berkeley suggests there's a dropoff in interest after online daters meet face–to–face. It's a lean medium not offering standard cues such as tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. There is substantial data about online dating habits; for example, researchers believe that "the likelihood of a reply to a message sent by one online dater to another drops roughly 0.7 percent with every day that goes by". Psychologist Lindsay Shaw Taylor found that even though people said they'd be willing to date someone of a different race, that people tend to choose dates similar to themselves.
  • Internet "QQ" chat rooms. This type of dating approach, cheaper than traditional websites and agencies, is gaining ground in China.
Online website usage survey
Estimate Percentage
Internet users who've used it romantically      74%
Know somebody who found long-term partner via Internet      15%
Know someone who's used a dating website      31%
Know someone who's gone on a date after visiting a website      26%
Agree online dating can be dangerous      66%
Don't think online dating is dangerous      25%
Believe online dating is for those in "dire straits"      29%
Gone on a dating website      10%
*Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project (2005)
  • There are dating applications or apps on mobile phones.
  • Virtual dating: A combination of video game playing and dating, where users create avatars and spend time in virtual worlds in an attempt to meet other avatars with the purpose of meeting for potential dates. (which is similar to online dating although this practice is not usually accepted by other players)
  • Mobile dating/cell phone dating: Text messages to and from a mobile/cell phone carrier are used to show interest in others on the system. Can be web-based or online dating as well depending on the company.
  • Singles event: Where a group of singles are brought together to take part in various events for the purposes of meeting new people. Events can include such things as parties, workshops, and games. Many events are aimed at singles of particular affiliations, interest, or religions. A weekend flirting course in Britain  advised daters to "love the inner you" and understand the difference between arrogance from insecurity and "true self-confidence"; it featured exercises in which students were told to imagine that they were "great big beautiful gods and goddesses" and treat others similarly.

Friends as matchmakers

Friends remain an excellent way for people to meet people, according to sociologist Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago, who wrote that "A real person––whatever his relationship to you, be it friend or kinsman or co-worker––is still far and away the most reliable kind of way to meet someone." However, the Internet promises to overtake friends in the future, if present trends continue, according to an article in USA Today. A friend can introduce two people who don't know each other, and the friend may play matchmaker and send them on a blind date. In The Guardian, British writer Hannah Pool was cynical about being set up on a blind date; she was told "basically he's you but in a male form" by the mutual friend. She googled her blind date's name along with the words "wife" and "girlfriend" and "partner" and "boyfriend" to see whether her prospective date was in any kind of relationship or gay; he wasn't any of these things. She met him for coffee in London and she now lives with him, sharing a home and business. When friends introduce two people who don't know each other, it's often called a blind date.


People can meet other people on their own or the get-together can be arranged by someone else. Matchmaking is an art based entirely on hunches, since it is impossible to predict with certainty whether two people will like each other or not. "All you should ever try and do is make two people be in the same room at the same time," advised matchmaker Sarah Beeny in 2009, and the only rule is to make sure the people involved want to be set up. One matchmaker advised it was good to match "brains as well as beauty" and try to find people with similar religious and political viewpoints and thinks that like-minded people result in more matches, although acknowledging that opposites sometimes attract. It's easier to put several people together at the same time, so there are other candidates possible if one doesn't work out, according to Hannah Pool. And, after introducing people, don't meddle.

Dating advice and strategies

Dating can be confusing, difficult, fun, challenging, unpredictable, and there is a wealth of tips and advice, sometimes contradictory, on the web and in books and elsewhere. Dating adviser Heidi Banks wrote:
There is truly only one real danger that we must concern ourselves with and that is closing our hearts to the possibility that love exists.
  • Flirting. There are numerous tips for successful flirting, including body language cues such as copying another's posture or mirroring, sending shyness signals interspersed with confidence signals such as standing up straight and maintaining eye contact; don't cross your legs or avert your eyes.  Take a peek at their mouth and back up to suggest kissing, according to Judi James; lowering the vocal tone can work as "subliminal advertising" for later sweet-nothings. Men exaggerate their height,  soften their facial expression; erect thumbs are a male sign of enjoyment, and chest-touches and fleeting skims over hair and splayed legs send out positive signals, according to James.  Women can use "pseudo-infantile motions such as the head-cock" and gaze intensely with widened eyes and laugh often, touch, and move in ways to emphasize their body's roundness, such as shrugging their shoulders or sit hugging their knees, to mimic buttock imagery. The act of smoking outside while flirting has been termed smirting.
  • Humor can be used, but requires caution, according to dating expert Ron Louis, particularly if it involves sexual innuendo; Louis in his book How to Succeed with Women argues against using self-deprecatory humor if it causes a falling-off of prestige. However, director Blake Edwards joked in parties about the persona of film star Julie Andrews, by saying that her "endlessly cheerful governess" image from movies such as Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music gave her the image of possibly having "lilacs for pubic hair"; Andrews appreciated his humor, sent him lilacs, married him, and the couple stayed together for 41 years.
  • Date often. Advice guidelines often suggest dating multiple times; one writer suggested at least 34 dates with different people before finding a partner.
  • Keep trying; don't get discouraged.
  • Choose cities with more pedestrians such as Berlin, London, Melbourne, Barcelona or New York.
  • Online dating tips include: be authentic, accurately represent your relationship status, don't talk about your ex or divorce or financial settlements, get organized, post recent photos and create a terrific profile.  Guardian writer Marc Zakian advises e-flirting email messages to be "friendly, funny and flattering" since it's hard to estimate what people are thinking since you can't see their faces, but don't reveal too much or "write a tome" and don't be too eager to meet right away. But Zakian advised not to wait too long to meet someone otherwise there was a risk of falling in love without first meeting them or seeing what they look like. When an online dater isn't interested in somebody else, an unwritten rule is that it's acceptable to "ignore mail from people who don't interest you" since it's difficult writing somebody that they're unsuitable to you as a potential partner in a way which doesn't hurt their feelings. Any kind of emailed reply, even a rejection, may trigger a reply in kind, and end up wasting one's time.

Meeting places

There are numerous ways to meet dates, including blind dates, classified ads, dating websites, hobbies, holidays, office romance, social networking, speed dating, and others. A Pew study in 2005 examined Internet users in long-term relationships including marriage found many met by contacts at work or school. The survey found that 55% of relationship-seeking singles agreed with that it was "difficult to meet people where they live." One writer suggested that meeting possible partners was easier in pedestrian-oriented cities such as Berlin or Barcelona rather than Los Angeles since there were more chances for face-to-face contact.  Work is a common place to meet potential spouses, although there are some indications that the Internet is overtaking the workplace as an introduction venue. Some couples met because they lived in the same building and shared a common bathroom. Hobbies can be an informal way for people to meet. In Britain, one in five marry a co-worker; half of all workplace romances end within three months. In India, there are incidents of people meeting future spouses in the workplace. One drawback of office dating is that a bad date can lead to "workplace awkwardness".


Dating is a form of human courtship consisting of social activities done by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several senses, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country. The most common sense is two people trying out a relationship and exploring whether they're compatible by going out together in public as a couple, and who may or may not yet be having sexual relations, and this period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage.