Julie Johnson has a routine to her date nights. She prepares her makeup and brushes her hair. She next gets to her phone with dreams of locating the right guy who might be just around the next corner, literally.
Julie, is a college student in her early twenties, studying Sociology at UC Berkeley. She is just one of many her age who are diving into the new cell phone apps that help them with instant dating. It helps them find someone to go for drinks with, for example.
Dating people from Online is getting increasingly risky. Used to be you would meet someone in a chat room and chit chat for months before deciding to meet face to face. Even then, you would go with a friend to stay safe. Eventually, people got braver and more trusting of those Online buddies and went alone, but in a crowded, public place, like a mall. Tom met his first Polish girlfriend on Skype and met at the bus station. They spent the entire day alone and not in crowded places. They even kissed on the first date. Eventually, they move in together. Ella Jo, who was 50 years old and never married, met her current husband through the Internet. She raised horses in California and he was a real estate agent in California. They are now about 60 and ride Harley Davidsons together. How is this any different from old-fashioned matchmakers or the personal classifieds?
The software today for dating is more sophisticated than it ever has been. It allows you to share or hide as much information as you wish. The latest craze is locating someone who is geographically close to where you are, and I do not mean just in the same city. It will tell you who is on the same street at that moment, or in the same restaurant.
Of course, on drawback is the level of commitment it fosters by the nature of its approach. Most people using this kind of software only want action, not a long-term relationship. Typically, users are in their 20s and 30s. For this younger crowd the software allows them to forgo the more elaborate dating rituals associated with Online dating. To them, these older ways are sluggish, compared to these young adults’ sms-speed minds.
Some traditional dating websites have integrated this location dating software into their sites, for example, OkCupid, Blendr, and HowAboutWe. They are free, but make back money by offering features you can pay for or simply through ads. OkCupid reports 10% of the 2.5 million users that are active, use their location dating. HowAboutWe released an application for iPhone in June. 30% of the company’s total dates have been made through the app already, which is 100,000.
Michael I. Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, enjoys researching online interaction between people. He argues that we have always searched for love in our favorite bookstores, cafes, and at school. Yet, as Tom Critchlow, an online marketer of 28, indicates, such a quick meeting from such trivial information about the other person gives the impression that you just want to hook up for sex. Unless the software moves past this reputation, it will always come across as creepy.