Katie and John will marry in September after meeting through an online dating service.
Katie and John will marry in September after meeting through an online dating service. Cathy Adams

Finding love (or lust) online

“WE MET on the net” isn’t a phrase you’ll hear too often.

But while Australians may be shy to admit their partner was a dating website find, plenty of them are using the net to find love – or just a fling.

In fact, 23% of adults in New South Wales have used online dating and a further 35% are considering it, according to a 2010 “Date of the Nation” report from RSVP, one of the most poplular sites, along with sugardaddie.com, eHarmony, match.com and Plenty of Fish.

Now a British study has found that internet dating is a more successful way of finding long-term romance and friendship for thousands of people than was previously thought.

Dr Jeff Gavin, of the University of Bath, says that when couples who had built up a significant relationship by emailing or chatting online met for the first time, 94% went on to see each other again.

Perhaps surprisingly, his study also found that men were more emotionally dependent on their “e-partners” than women and more committed to the relationship.

“This study shows that online dating can work for many people, leading to a successful meeting for almost everyone we surveyed,” he says.

“Given that the most successful relationships lasted at least seven months, and in some case over a year, it seems that these relationships have a similar level of success as ones formed in more conventional ways.”

One couple who met on RSVP – and are now planning to marry – are John, 41, and Katie, 40, of Ballina.

When he joined the site, John wasn’t sure what he was looking for, beyond meeting some compatible women, going out for coffee or a date and being open to the possibility of a relationship.

But soon he came across Katie who sent him a “kiss”, opening up a channel of communication.

They emailed through RSVP’s internal mail system – a safety device that John thinks is one reason the site is so well-regarded, especially by women.

They went out for a while – the movies, 10-pin bowling – but continued to see other people.

Their casual dating went on for a long while, until he and Katie began taking salsa classes together, “which took it up a notch”, John says.

Then Katie went on holiday to New Zealand and John missed her. He told her so on her return and they decided to establish a relationship, sealing it with their first real-world kiss, eight months after they first met.

That kiss was in April last year and on New Year’s Day this year they became engaged and plan to marry at Boulders Beach in the spring.

It’s a fairy-tale ending to a very modern-world situation.

While other people might be coy about internet romance, John is not. But he is the only man we could find to talk openly about his experience and the women in this article asked for their names to be changed.

The conclusion of his search was so fantastic, John says, that he is singing the praises of internet dating to all and sundry.

It’s the best way in the modern world to meet a partner, he reckons.

“I’m a very practical person. How many people do you meet when you go out? And how many of them are truly compatible? I was socially active – there are a lot of things to do in Byron Bay – but I wasn’t meeting many suitable people.”

He and Katie don’t take salsa lessons any more. They’ve moved on to 50’s rock ‘n’ roll classes.

In fact, rock ‘n’ roll is going to be the theme of their upcoming wedding.

One song they won’t be singing is Heartbreak Hotel.

Kiss a frog and find ... a toad

Jessica, a pretty woman of 29, was in a bar waiting to meet a young man she had clicked with on the internet dating site OasisActive.

“He seemed nice and came across really well on the phone,” Jessica says.

But when she saw the 32-year-old walking towards her wearing a Superman T-shirt she knew she had made a mistake.

“Almost immediately he started telling me really personal things, such as that he was an insomniac, and a drug addict; that he had just separated from his wife,” she says.

Polite to a fault, Jessica chatted for two hours then made her excuses and left

He texted her repeatedly afterwards: “Really random things, such as the fact he’d made porridge for dinner at his grandmother’s, where he was living.”

Jessica had another date with a man who claimed to be 30 but who she swore had had “a bit of Botox. He looked more like 40”.

Unsettling enough, but certainly not the worst or the weirdest tales you’re likely to hear from the world of internet dating: there are endless stories of women receiving “booty calls” for sex, of bludgers, bores and gold-diggers.

But online dating is spreading like a rash across the social sphere. Nearly 70% of people in NSW know someone who has used a web service.

Oasis has hundreds of young, attractive, apparently normal people on it, looking for love, friendship or a casual “hook-up”.

Jessica says at her age it’s getting harder to find eligible singles.

“Most of my friends are in relationships or married, so unless I go to bars I don’t meet single guys,” she says.

She reckons the internet provides an effective way of meeting men she may hit it off with – and screening out the rest.

All of her single peers do it, she says, and some of them have met really nice partners.

Sarah, an attractive 40-year-old from Ocean Shores, was out for the second time with a man she had met through the online dating site RSVP when he told her: “You know, you must have been really pretty when you were younger.”

He wasn’t the only toad she found herself sitting across the table from and while her experience of male moronism is not uncommon, she also said she had met many “really lovely guys” in the virtual world.

One such guy is Peter. Wanda, 50, has been living with Peter for eight months after meeting him through RSVP, the online service she chose over eHarmony, which she thought had a more global reach.

She says that the downside of internet dating is the men who turn out to be obvious “players”, capitalising on the “smorgasbord” potential of the system.

“They meet an interesting woman, discover the slightest incompatibility, go home and immediately log on to find another woman ... ad infinitum. No doubt there are women who are players, too.”

Her observations point up one of overlooked traps of the online dating services: it can be addictive.

Sign up – it’s free! – and soon you’ll have “kisses” or “stamps” coming your way.

There’s an instant “hit” and the sudden popularity can be exhilarating.

When someone checks you out you receive an email saying: “You are popular! The following members added YOU to their favourites list!”

Tips for Success

  • Post a photo – profiles with a picture get twice as many replies – but make sure it is both recent and flattering. Guys – no singlets or slogan shirts, girls – a little cleavage is good but a nice smile is better.
  • Don’t use capitals i.e. NO TIMEWASTERS, and try to concentrate on what you do want, rather than what you don’
  • Don’t use your word allowances to dish the dirt about what was wrong with your ex, or all the other people you’ve met online.
  • Use spellcheck!
  • Try not to use cliches. Not all women want a guy who “loves bubble baths, chocolate and romantic walks on the beach”.
  • Never, ever invite a first date to your home, or for dinner. Ten minutes at a cafe is enough, especially if there are no sparks flying.
  • Be gracious. Always reply to your emails, even if it’s only with a polite no thanks.
  • Remember, you may have to go on 10 or even 20 dates to find someone you like, so don’t get discouraged.

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