The Dating Dilemma



You’re listening to inQuery! A podcast show run by the professional writing students here at York University. We’re talking about the technology today while creating the ideas of tomorrow.

Lynn: I met your father in September of 1980.

That’s my mom, Lynn.

Lynn: He worked for SHIPP Corporation in the landscaping department. He did the landscaping in the apartment building that I lived in. I loved to play tennis and one day when I was playing tennis on the courts outside of the apartment building, he waved at me…so I waved back. And then the following day, or maybe it was a couple days later, I went out to my car as I was on my way to see a friend who lived in Hamilton and there was a note on my windshield and it said “Hello. If you are free tomorrow evening (Sunday) how about a movie? My name’s Pat, you know me from the big yellow truck. My number is 277-2436. Best time would be Sunday between 5pm-6pm. See you later.” So I drove on to Hamilton to see my friend Barb and when I got there, I said “Barb look what was on my wind shield!” She said, “Well, let’s phone.” She dialed the number and then gave me the phone. He answered, but his first words were “I said to phone between 5pm and 6pm”, and it was only around noon. Anyway, we talked for a few minutes and then he said I’ll pick you up at eight…and he did.

Do you think people still do these kinds of things to meet someone?

Lynn: It’s hard to say. I mean, I’d like to think so. But now with all this technology, everyone seems to be chatting and dating on the Internet. I see the advertisements on TV for eHarmony, Match, Christian Mingle, you name it.

With the changes in technology, comes changes in the way we define relations; the way we define courtship, relationship statuses, fidelity, and communication. People can now find and contact each other over the internet to arrange a date, usually with the objective of carrying out a personal, romantic, or sexual relationship.

Welcome. My name is Nicole Di Tomasso and today we’re taking about online dating. I’m sure if you listeners were to ask your parents how they met, you would hear stories about face-to-face meetings; however, there is no disputing that the dating world is changing with every advance in technology. Why has such an inherently human and private matter of finding a potential partner being administered in a public, online domain? In other words, have we created a shortcut for arguably one of the more meaningful parts of our lives?

In this podcast episode, we will be taking a trip into the virtual world of internet dating to dig a little deeper into the mechanics of dating websites, and to explore the users of these sites and their reasons for joining. Click here to learn more about the history of online dating

For those of you who may be wondering how exactly an online dating site works, you usually look through ads free of charge; however, you must pay to become a member of a site of your choice to place and add and begin talking to people. Some sites charge a monthly fee while others operate on a fee-per-use basis. These ads include text, an optional picture, or a sound recording. Members then create a public profile which typically includes information like sex, age, locale, marital status, type of relationship preferred, sexual preferences, the list goes on and on. The site also categorizes this information and allows members to search for desired characteristics (Brym & Lenton 2003).

Isn’t it crazy that the Internet can literally be in touch with millions of people, from anywhere in the world? It is this ability that has turned the online dating industry into a multi-billion dollar love story.

Listen to this. By the middle of 2000, the seven largest online dating sites boasted over 12 million registered members (Brym & Lenton 2003). Am I the only one that's absolutely astounded?. What ever happened to a little old fashioned flavour to our courtship?

Hm. I'll tell you exactly what happened. We have become impatient. We have become lazy. We rely on these dating websites to look through hundreds of potential mates within a short amount of time, especially compared to the time it would to sift through the same amount of people in “real” life. Instead of having the courage to introduce yourself to someone, or maybe you rely on friends and family members’ compatibility skills, online dating places, and I quote Eli J. Finkel and associates, “one’s romantic fate in the hands of a mathematical matching algorithm” (2012). Now I know what you’re probably thinking…what in the world is a mathematical algorithm

 In short, an algorithm requires data that a computer can work with to facilitate matchmaking. The best way to get data quickly from people is to just ask for it. So, internet dating websites asks users questions. Stuff like, do you want to have kids one day? Do you like animals/or have any pets? How often do you brush your teeth? And big stuff like, is religion important to you? A clip of a recent interview with Here and Now’s Lisa Mullins and Sam Yagan, CEO of the Match Group elaborates on matchmaking algorithms.

Lisa: How did you decide that this was a numbers game? The dating game?

Sam: “We fundamentally believe that the way to predict compatibility is to rely on data and to allow people to customize an algorithm that would take into account their preferences and their lifestyle to cull through the millions of profiles we had to find the people that were most compatible with them. And fundamentally we think of it more of a search problem and when you’re doing a search problem you want as much data on the search pool.”

If you’re interested in the mathematical make up of love, refer to Hannah Fry: The mathematics of love:

With all this information, dating sites can figure out how well two people can get along. The algorithm crunches the numbers and gives us a result. Crazy huh? Our computers are literally determining our romantic fate. But why do we bother to dedicate so much of our time to answering these questions? In other words, what draws us to this alternate way of dating?

Julia: We use social networking for just about everything else, so why not dating?

That’s Julia Marcinkevicius, recent university graduate and user of

“The way I see it, I spend hundreds of dollars on nights out at the bar with friends and costed me 70 dollars for three months. I had nothing to lose.”

Well there you have it. We choose the online dating route because it is efficient, cheap, and time-saving. The speed, ease and convenience of online dating attracts people who have busy schedules without the time or energy for traditional dating methods. People can also take their time deciding what information they wish to self-disclose.

I'm sure we all know that real-world dates can be expensive. Money spent on gas, dining, and usually on some form of entertainment, such as movie theatres or concerts. To add, that money is spent just to see if you like the person; the first date could go terribly wrong and you may never see each other again. Maybe you fall down a flight of stairs, or your date smells bad, or you don’t like your date’s opinion on a topic that is important to you. These dating websites can also be especially helpful for people who are shy or nervous; there is much less pressure involved in sending a message compared to confronting someone in person (Valkenburg & Peter 2007).

By now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with eHarmony and Match, two of the most popular and fastest growing online industries. These sites owe their success to their overall marketing strategy which focuses on customer relationship management (CRM). These companies come up with a customized business strategy based on CRM principles that pertain to customers’ desires and budget. This CRM focus gives these firms to make up “the who” and “the how” in a marketing plan to allow for a trusting relationships with the users of these sites (Smith 2005). Turns out this marketing strategy is working incredibly well for this industry. With advertising revenues aside, membership subscriptions generate up to CAD $450 000 per month per million registered members. You know, some experts have suggested that the industry had such a tough time getting started because of the early stigma- that the online domain was filled with nothing but desperados and creeps (Brym & Lenton 2003). You wouldn't dare admit your new love interest was the result of late-night emailing.

Since we're on the topic of stigmas, one of the enduring myths about avid computer users is that they are social isolates in the real world, locked in their basements alone for hours on end, windows tightly sealed and shuttered. Similarly, online daters are sometimes characterized as “losers” or “lonely hearts,” people who are unable to form normal social ties and enjoy normal social interaction. In this view, they pursue online dating out of desperation (Brym & Lenton 2003). There may have been some truth to these observations when online dating was in its infancy; however, our online dating survey found little evidence to support these generalizations. It turns out that, as of the end of 2000, Canadian online daters are sociable and self-confident. Offline, they tend to be joiners of organizations. They often visit family members. They frequently engage in social and leisure activities with others. These findings are consistent with the results of other recent Canadian research on avid computer users. It turns out that the myth of the socially isolated computer enthusiast is just that — a myth (Hampton and Wellman 1999, 2000; Wellman and Hampton 1999).

But hey, let’s not forget that the convenience of online dating still has its consequences. There’s an evolutionary explanation to it all. Think about it. In reality, online dating gives in to mens' desires- building up the ego and having a lot of sex. Many women are interested in pursuing committed relationships, while many men just want to maintain that bad guy persona. Don't believe me? Well then let me tell you this. It isn't gender stereotyping; it’s millions of years of psychological evolution (Wickham 2014).

Study after study shows that men's sex drives are not only stronger than women's, but much more straightforward.  It's common wisdom that women place more value on emotional connection as a spark of sexual desire. But women also appear to be heavily influenced by social and cultural factors as well (WebMD). Robert Brym and Rhonda Lenton's research study revealed that "of those who met other online daters face-to face, 63 percent had sex with at least one person they met online." They concluded that having sex with a person first encountered online is more likely for men than women; the percentages are 66 percent in comparison to 58 percent (2003).

Personally, I don't think internet dating emulates the real dating world. We've grown accustom to communicating in a brief, simple, and casual way. It seems as if we no longer care to take the time to really get to know someone face-to-face. It's the minute details we notice in someone that allows us to judge character: clothing, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, physical touch. This level of intimacy is slowly fading away.

So what do you think? Has online dating become superior to traditional dating? Is this virtual phenomenon here to stay?

Thank you for joining me on this non-intimate journey into online dating. You're listening to inQuery where we talk about the technology of today.

Works Cited

Aretz, W., Demuth, I., Schmidt, K., & Vierlein, J. “Partner search in the digital age. Psychological characteristics of online-dating-service-users and its contribution to the explanation of different patterns of utilization.” Journal of Business and Media Psychology 1 (2010): 8-16. Web. 24 Nov 2015.

Brym, R. J., & Lenton, R. L. “Love at first byte: Internet dating in Canada.” Unpublished Manuscript, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2003): 1-10. Web. 20 Nov 2015.

Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 2.3 (2012): 1-64. Web. 26 Nov 2015.

Hampton, Keith N., Wellman, Barry. “Examining Community in the Digital Neighbourhood: Early Results from Canada’s Wired Suburb.” In Toru Ishida and Katherine Isbister, eds., Digital Cities: Technologies, Experiences, and Future Perspectives (2000): 475–492. Web. 27 Nov 2015.

Fry, Hannah. “The mathematics of love.” TED Talks. (2014). Web. 19 Nov 2015.


Free Music Archive.

Hampton, Keith N., and Barry Wellman. “Netville On-Line and Off-Line: Observing and Surveying a Wired Suburb.” American Behavioral Scientist 43 (1999): 475–92. Web. 27 Nov 2015.

Marcinkevicius, Julia. Personal Interview. 1 Nov 2015.

"Sex Drive: How Do Men and Women Compare?" WebMD. Web. 27 Nov 2015.

Smith, Alan D. “Exploring online dating and customer relationship management” Online Information Review 29.1 (2005): 18-33. Web. 27 Nov 2015.

Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). “Who visits online dating sites? Exploring some characteristics of online daters.” CyberPsychology & Behavior10.6 (2007): 849-852. Web. 20 Nov 2015.

Wellman, Barry, Hampton, Keith N. “Living Networked in a Wired World.” Contemporary Sociology 28 (1999): 648–54.

Wickham, Anna. “A Life Of Perpetual Bachelorhood: How Online Dating Is Ruining Men’s Ability to Have Relationships” Elite Daily. (2014). Web. 27 Nov 2015.

Yagan, Sam. Interview by Lisa Mullins. Here and Now. (2015). Web. 26 Nov 2015.