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Are people who link up in cyberspace more likely to click?It’s easy enough to reduce dating to a simple numbers game, but what happens when you actually use math to find your ‘perfect partner’?
Yet, since its South African inception in the mid 90s, online dating has ballooned into a third-party matchmaker consulted by more than a million people each year.While no comprehensive study’s been conducted locally since Ramon Thomas, a Netucation online behaviour expert, collected data from nine different digital dating sites in 2004, a present-day look at the largest and most expansive online dating company’s database indicates that, at the very least, the virtual platform’s growth is ‘going steady’.According to David Burstein, COO of The Dating Lab, a business that comfortably commands a fleet of some of the country’s most well-known sites, his database alone counts between 800,000 and 900,000 people (that means roughly 10% of South African Internet users have delved into digital dating).Most importantly, though, the figures indicate that the process of finding romantic relationships via the sixth dimension of cyberspace is no longer hamstrung by stigma.“Online dating has become much more mainstream,” explains David.In the old days, it was thought to be the realm of geeks and sad, lonely people.
Now, the perception has normalised.” Along with the facts that online literacy has increased and Internet access is more ubiquitous, the acceptance that online dating isn’t for ‘the desperate’ is a major reason why, even during a recession, the ranks of virtual matchmaking sites swelled.
In particular, more people of colour and more people from an older generation (55 to 60+) are perusing the platforms for a potential long-term partner, companion or friend, not necessarily with sexual intentions.
After all, the end game can be anything from a one-night stand to marriage, depending on what you’re in the market for.
As David explains, larger numbers of older individuals are turning to the computer for help hyperlinking the heartstrings to solve an all too familiar mystery: Where do you meet people?
“God forbid you have to resort to bingo or something,” he jokes.
In all seriousness though, since its advent, online dating’s most noteworthy success has been its ability to provide greater access to a larger and more eclectic pool of partners.