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Rebecca Smith, an 18-year-old business management major at Cal State University, Long Beach, goes on a typical date with a typical guy. At this date, she goes to a winery in Temecula. Along with her date, Smith experiences squishing grapes in a barrel with her feet—a la “I Love Lucy.” And just like “I Love Lucy,” Smith will be on television. Her date is being filmed for an upcoming MTV dating television show, “Twin Switch,” where Smith and her twin continually switch places and go out with the same guy to see if he catches on.
Jennifer Falicon, a 21-year-old junior majoring in elementary education at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, goes on a date. But unlike other dates she’s been on, on this date Falicon goes out with several guys on the same night. That is because Falicon is participating in her school’s speed dating event.
These dates may seem unusual compared to the traditional “guy ask girl” dating method, but Smith and Falicon’s stories are all too common.
The trends for meeting significant others have evolved from people setting up friends with other friends to people finding their soul mate by going on televised dates, to going on the Internet and speed dating, among the others.
“People want a quick and easy solution to dating,” Falicon said. “And these new dating methods become an easy way to find someone.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are about 90 million single adults over the age of 18 in the United States.
Internet sites like eHarmony and Match.com have become widely popular with these singles looking for love. These sites allow singles to post their profiles with their photo, biography and interests. Then potential daters will communicate with them and a match is made.
These sites have become so popular that eHarmony, which was launched in 2000, has more than 10 million registered users from more than 200 countries with 10,000 to 15,000 new users registering each day.
More popular than that is Match.com, which has been running for more than 11 years. Match.com has more than 15 million users in 240 countries with 60,000 new users every day. Both sites claim thousands of marriages each year and hundreds of matches each month.
Also popular among the many singles are sites like Hurrydate.com, an online company started in 2001 in New York by Ken Deckinger and Adele Testani that organizes speed dating events and parties around the United States and Canada so single people can meet and mingle.
Since then Hurrydate.com has brought together singles for more than 2 million dates. Many of them are college students.
“I think non-traditional methods of dating are thriving because people are getting sick of the same old bar scene,” said Testani, president and co-founder of Hurrydate.com. “Plus with people working longer hours and not having so much time to hit the dating circuit, online dating and speed dating parties offer a great solution.
“Hurrydating parties give single men and women the opportunity to meet a bunch of single people in a short span,” she added. “We know you aren’t going to decide if you want to marry someone in four minutes, but you will be able to tell if there is a spark and whether or not you want to see them again.”
These new dating trends, however, like the tried and true methods, have pros and cons.
“These methods are much less stressful and agonizing than going on a blind date where you can potentially be stuck for hours,” Testani said. “By going on a hurrydate, you are increasing your odds of connecting with someone because you are meeting tons of people in just one night.”
Falicon agreed: “It was a great chance to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. I found out who could carry on a conversation or not, and if they couldn't it's not like they were there for a long time.”
Every season we see the popularity of televised dating increase with shows like “The Bachelor” and its spin-off “The Bachelorette,” or MTV shows like “Date My Mom,” “Parental Control” or “Room Raiders.” We even see celebrities like Flavor Flav search for love in his television show, “Flavor of Love.”
These modern dating experiences may not always be enjoyable. Smith found out that what you see on television is not how it truly is. When she signed up to be on a television dating show, she did not expect long hours, little pay and a scripted date.
“We worked from five in the morning until eight at night and only got paid $300,” said Smith, who does not plan to repeat her “Twin Switch” experience. “With taxes, we only got about $230. It was nothing like they said it was going to be.
Even worse, “it wasn’t even a real date,” she added. “We had ear pieces in our ears the entire time and they were telling us everything we had to say and do. They even made me redo a scene because I didn’t kiss him.”
Smith does not think the experience is worth the time or money.
“America thinks it is so funny when people are embarrassed on national television or when they can relate to the dates they see on TV,” Smith said. “However after doing this show I realize that these reality shows don’t even come close to reality.”
As the popularity of the new dating trends increase, new methods develop. For instance Match.com launched MindFindBind, a new program created with the help of Dr. Phil that allows singles to gain relationship/dating insights.
“It is our hope that MindFindBind will help our members get the relationship they want and deserve,” Jim Sakfa, chief executive officer of Match.com, said in a statement. “The goal is to help people understand what they have to offer and what they want in a relationship.”
They also recently launched Chemistry.com, which has a more advanced system to match singles with one another. First, singles fill out a detailed “Chemistry Profile” that determines their personalities. Then, they use the “latest science of attraction” to predict which single men and women they will have chemistry with.
“Unlike all of the other dating and relationship sites, chemistry.com matches not only by compatibility, but also by chemistry because chemistry is really important to romantic love and forming deep, long-term relationships,” Helen Fisher, chief scientific adviser for Chemistry.com, said in a statement. “If you can know something about the basics of human personality, then you can match that with some elements of brain chemistry and create the magic of romantic love.”
Hurrydate.com is following right behind with their own cell phone dating, Hurrydate Mobile. It will be offered exclusively on Amp’d Mobile and will be the first mobile dating service available to the United States.
“Integrating online dating into mobile phone content will take the online dating experience to the next level by putting all those search and communication functions in the palm of the consumers’ hands, giving them the option to essentially ‘date on the go,’” Deckinger said in a statement. “They will no longer be tied to their computers and can theoretically be setting up their next dates while at the airport, in a boring meeting or out running errands.”
“And hey, we use technology to assist us in every other aspect of our lives, why not our dating life,” Testani said.
Anytime there is a new trend, advice may be needed. Testani advises that people using these new dating methods should keep an opened mind and be willing to meet new people.
“And while meeting up to 20 dates in one night is easier said than done, just take a deep breath and try to relax,” Testani said. “After all, it is just a party.”
Smith, however, disagrees: “Don’t do it. It’s a waste of time. Trust me, traditional dating is much better than these fake shows.”
Nila Priyambodo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.