How the internet has changed dating

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013
Online romance
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TIMES HAVE CHANGED: Online dating is now a socially acceptable way to meet people.

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As technology becomes more and more important in our lives, logic dictates our real lives become more and more distant - text messages replace conversations and emails substitute for phone calls.

We have gradually become more isolated, living in a bubble created by our gadgets.

What does that mean for love? Logically, we should become less open to love and romance, distancing ourselves from human contact and shunning relationships with real people.

But, with Valentines Day looming, it's obvious more and more people need technology to help them find love. Gone are the days of meeting a nice young man at the neighbourhood barbecue or dance. As technology pushes us apart, it also brings us together.

Love online is becoming more and more common, with internet dating now a socially acceptable way to meet people.

Social media expert Ekant Veer says the internet has brought us together.

"Instant technology-mediated communication means that we can feel closer to people, even though physically we are on the other side of the world.

"Before the internet, you were forced to meet people at work or at a club or through friends - now, you can meet someone who may be completely outside your professional or social circles and really hit it off with them."

The saying, "there's plenty more fish in the sea", now has real meaning.

Like dating in real life, the system is far from perfect. There are still liars and con-artists, but the rules are roughly the same.

"Whenever you're faced with uncertainty, there's a level of risk involved. There are examples of horrible things happening when people meet up in real life after connecting online, but these occur far less frequently than people perceive them to."

Dr Veer says while there will still be the annual surge in alcohol (and chocolate) consumption on Valentines Day, it will now probably be followed with a surge in online dating memberships and vows not to be single next February 14.

VIRAL LOVE

It is not just online dating bringing us together all over the world. YouTube is taking love by storm. It seems not a week goes by when a recorded marriage proposal or declaration of undying love goes "viral".

Top 3 viral love videos

1) Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal: posted in May last year on YouTube, this marriage proposal has had more than 17 million hits in its original format and has been re-posted hundreds of times. Isaac had family and friends perform a lip-synced, choreographed rendition of I Think I Want to Marry You by Bruno Mars.

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2) JK Wedding Entrance Dance: three years and 79 million YouTube hits came after Jill and Kevin shared the video of their unique walk up the aisle to Forever by Chris Brown.

3) Surprise Ending - Flash Mob Marriage Proposal: Allison was proposed to by her boyfriend in New York with a full brass band and flash mob captured on camera. The video collected almost 2 million hits.

JOSH'S STORY

"I rubbished it at first, but then I went online and did it anyway."

Josh is only 25 years old and is in the process of proving online dating can work for young people. He is moving to Tauranga to be with a girl he met online. "I'd exhausted all my friends of friends and people I'd met in real life without finding someone. I guess, being a Christian and wanting to date a Christian girl, I was a bit limited.

"But with online dating you can meet someone anywhere in New Zealand. I didn't like some girls, and some of them didn't like me. After a few months and a few bad dates I got frustrated. I was about to give up."

But then he got a message from Sophie in Tauranga that changed everything.

"It didn't seem like she expected to go anywhere, being in different cities, and I guess I didn't either."

After a few phone calls and Skype chats, she had booked flights to Christchurch.

"But that was ages away so I flew up there about three weeks after we started messaging each other. I couldn't wait. When I think about it now, it was pretty fast but it didn't seem like that at the time. Because I had Skyped her, I was pretty confident she wasn't a man."

Josh is now moving north to "see how things go".

"I rubbished it, but really, what have you got to lose?"

ZOE'S STORY

"We met at a bar and that was that. We've seen each other almost every day since."

Zoe has a long history with online dating. She started about 10 years ago, before Skype was on every computer and before anyone admitted they'd signed up.

She signed up for FindSomeone.com at 25, looking for companionship in a new city. She met a guy online and they were married for six years. Eventually they divorced and she moved to New Zealand.

About 18 months ago, she fell in love through online dating again and has moved in with boyfriend Ed.

Things haven't all been smooth sailing, though - she's seen her fair share of liars and had plenty of bad dates.

"A lot of people lie. The craziest thing is the thing they most often lie about is their appearance, which is the first thing you notice when you meet them in real life. A few years ago Zoe went on a real-life date with a guy who'd messaged her online. "We were going to meet at the train station, so I got there and was walking up and down at the agreed spot, keeping an eye out for the guy from the photo.

"There was a guy kind of standing off to the side, but I'd automatically counted him out because he couldn't have been further from the photo.

"He eventually came up to me, and I couldn't have been more shocked. I would never have guessed it was him. I wanted to run."

The real-life guy turned out to be a lot larger than he'd said with a very misleading photo.

"It's not just about looks, though, it was that he'd blatantly lied, so much so, he couldn't even keep his facts straight when we were talking. After that, I couldn't give him a second chance.

"I think a lot of married guys go online, as well. I actually went on a date with a married guy in Wellington once. I wouldn't have known, except Wellington's a really small place and someone knew him and knew he was married. You just never know."

For Zoe, online dating is appealing because she has moved around a lot. Meeting people is hard, and not many people go for the pick-up lines in a bar. A night out is also expensive and hit and miss.

Just like dating in real life, online dating is hard. For every decent guy you don't connect with, there are 10 guys who are after a one-night stand. But, she still recommends it to everyone.

Zoe was moments away from taking down her FindSomeone profile when Ed messaged her.

"I was fed up by this stage, bad date after bad date. So I gave him my number but said I was taking down my profile. Well, we fell in love. We're planning on spending the rest of our lives together, and we both agree it's the happiest we've ever been."

ZOE'S ONLINE DATING TIPS

1. Be honest, completely honest – you will get found out in the end.

2. Check with your friends. Before you post your profile online, have friends read it over. Often you under-rate yourself or don't say enough about yourself. Also have friends look at the profile of any guy you might want to meet up with – they might spot something you don't.

3. Make the first date fun and keep it short – a walk in the park or a quick coffee – something you can escape from easily.

V-DAY APPS

1. Valentine Scanner (Android, Free) You and your valentine both put your thumb print on the screen and this app will decipher your chemistry together.

2. Valentine Cam (iPhone, Free) Take some cute photos of you and your valentine, then use the filters on this app to make a one-off masterpiece.

3. iWrite Love Poems (iPhone, $1). Got a card but not sure what to write? Use this app to help you write your own love poem.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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