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'Quirky writer seeks cute librarian'

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 13, 2004
(Issue 2207, Windows Pains)

I haven't found her — not yet, anyway.

But it's been an interesting couple of months looking for her online.

After years of mocking the kinds of people I supposed use personal ads to seek love, a few years back I found myself dating a really neat woman I met at the Computer Museum — and she told me she'd met some fun, intelligent men through the local newspaper classifieds. That took the wind out of my prejudices but quick.

That relationship didn't work out, but after years of trying to find someone to put up with my oddities, I decided to try the online dating services.

The supposed benefit of an online dating service is that the computers can be programmed to help you find a match that shares some of your values and interests — to quickly narrow your search to those you're most likely to be interested in and who live near you.

It seems to work. You sign up, fill out your own profile, the profile of who you're looking for, type in your ZIP code, and voila — a list of potential mates.

The services aren't free, but most of them aren't cost-prohibitive either. All of them protect your anonymity – as long as you don't use your real name when creating your online profile! When you send another member an e-mail or chat with them, you are identified by your profile name — and the dating service forward the e-mail so you don't give away your real e-mail address.

That last part is probably more important for women — one lady I met said she'd had to block communication from several men who wouldn't take no for an answer. All of the services do allow you to permanently sever contact with anyone for any reason — so if someone is making you uncomfortable, you can block them from contacting you and they have no way of finding out who you are. That's a nice feeling of security in that, I would imagine.

This is probably the largest of the online dating services, and they've recently added new tools to make finding a match more scientific.

Signing up and posting your profile is free; if you meet someone you want to communicate with, you have to pay — but it's only about $20 month, and it's easy to cancel.

You can sort matches by age, height, body type, hair and/or eye color, religion, education, interests and if they have and/or want children — among others.

I've found the most potential matches here, and met some really wonderful people.

Yahoo Personals

Yahoo seems to be a close second to, at least in terms of the number of matches I've found in the San Diego area.

The search criteria are similar to those of, although they don't have the personality and physical attraction profiles that has recently added.

As with, you can create a profile and search for free. If you meet someone you'd like to hook up with, you'll need to subscribe — and it's $20 a month for one month, with discounts for additional months.


This is the hardcore, professional-caliber online dating service. The profile you fill out here is much more in-depth — plan on spending about a half-hour answering the questions, which are more akin to a session with a therapist than a dating service. Nothing uncomfortable, but eHarmony's entire premise is that they really thin out the prospects for you and only send potential matches to you that you are more likely to have something in common with.

It's more expensive than the others, too – about $65 for a single month, with discounts for purchasing longer memberships.

The correspondence process is different here, too – rather than just chatting or e-mailing a potential match, you exchange selected questions and then Must Have/Can't Stand lists. Helps eliminate those you aren't going to get on with pretty quickly.

To me, the real benefit to eHarmony is that folks who are willing to pay that cost and to go through the lengthy profile process are serious about a long-term, committed relationship. If you're wanting to find a real partner, someone to build a life with, eHarmony is where others with the same goal are going to be found. Not that the others aren't as well, but you're also going to find a lot of people who are just looking to party and hang out.


Then we get to LavaLife. LavaLife is the hip, club scene of online dating services. What sets LavaLife apart from the competition is that it has three distinct and separate areas – dating, committed relationships, and "intimate encounters."

The profiles are pretty basic — much more akin to or Yahoo than eHarmony. The profiles vary according to which group you're in, so if you're looking for Mr. Right, the profile questions are geared more toward compatibility, and if you're looking for Mr. Right Now, the profile is more about how you like to make whoopie.

(Just out of curiosity, I did a quick search for matches within 25 miles of my home to see how many came up compared to the other services. One woman came up in all three areas (different profile names, but the exact same photo). For the dating and relationship categories, she described herself as a nice, grounded Catholic looking for a long-term relationship with a stable man who enjoys cuddling, sunsets and walks on the beach. In the intimate category, she was open to one-night stands, threesomes and possible domination. Her husband is going to be in for one heck of a surprise ...)

LavaLife's pricing structure is based on how many contacts you make — you don't pay by the month, but by how many matches you send e-mail to.

As for me? I'm still trying to find that librarian