Internet dating - awkward or awesome?

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 09:26 28/09/2012

I constantly hear my single friends complain that they never meet any other singles in this town.

The bars have gone, young people are bleeding out of the city and it seems Cantabrians just don't date.

The answer, it appears, lies in internet dating.

Many people I know are turning to their computers in search of online love. Internet dating is no longer reserved for online geeks and social pariahs - it has become a popular way to meet people outside your own circles (when you've exhausted your friends and your work, where exactly are you supposed to meet people?)

A friend recently signed up. Let me just say this first - she's awesome. Funny, pretty, nice, outgoing - she has no trouble getting dates. But, having just moved back to the city, she wanted to meet some new people and thought it was worth a try.

We sat down with a wine while we made her profile and had a quick browse of her potential matches (there were many I, myself, would have been keen to meet).

Within hours of setting up, she had messages, winks and smiles from many single men in the area.

Maybe it's just a natural progression. We already use the internet to make our lives easier in so many ways, why not dating? It's pretty convenient to be able to browse the potential meat market from the comfort of your own home.

However, there's still a minefield of potential awkwardness attached to internet dating - who can see your profile, how do you know they are who they say they are, is everyone just after sex?

I have a couple of friends who broke up recently. It was amicable and they're still friends and are now both trying to move on - except they both moved on by deciding to do internet dating. And, guess what, they came up as each other's ''matches''.

Then there's a guy I know who met up with a girl he was infatuated with from the internet and had spoken to on the phone several times. He went to their meeting place, only to find she was about 20 years older than her online dating profile. Seriously, that happened.

My friend was even kind enough to still pay for her meal before firmly wishing her farewell.

Others have had messages from those who are only on the website for a "certain kind" of relationship (ie, I want to suck your toes). Upgrading to a paid "gold member" can weed most of these guys out, I've been told.

Horror stories aside, I know plenty of couples who have met online and are living happily ever after.

But as common as online dating is becoming, there still seems to be a certain stigma attached to it. Several people I've mentioned internet dating to say, "What's wrong with him/her; can't they get a date in the real world?" Or, "There are only losers and solo mums on dating websites".

A couple I know, now happily engaged, met through internet dating. However, I'm one of the few people who know how they actually met. They've concocted a fake-meet story (involving a chance meeting over the courgettes in the vegetable aisle), because they're embarrassed and worried people will judge them for meeting online.

Being happily in a relationship, I can safely say "if I was single I'd do it", but if EK suddenly up and left, would I really be brave enough to try internet dating?

I'm not sure.

All in all, I think there really are some princes online if you're willing (and brave) enough to wade through some frogs first.

What do you think? Have you ever tried internet dating? Would you? Do you think there is a stigma attached?

Comment below, email me at anna.turner@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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