Online dating services are an extremely popular form of dating today. In a study conducted by the Online Publishers Association and comScore Networks, it was determined that people in the United States alone spent over 450 million dollars on online dating and personals services in 2004, which ranks online dating as the largest portion of paid content on the internet today.

As of the beginning of 2006, there are more than a thousand different dating sites available. Some of the most popular sites include Yahoo Personals, eHarmony, Match.com, and American Singles.

Though there have been forms of online dating occurring since the beginning the internet, there was initially a strong social stigma associated with it. People who dated online were thought to be strange, socially inept, or otherwise undesirable people that were resorting to an extreme measure to find dates. However, in the middle of the 1990s online dating became more popular, a wave that culminated with a movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan called ‘You’ve Got Mail’ released in 1998. As of 2006, the stigma of online dating has all but disappeared, and it is widely regarded as an practical , intelligent and effective way of meeting people for dates, relationships, and even marriage.

There are many benefits to online dating compared to meeting people by chance or at a bar, night club, or party. Users of an online dating site can browse ‘profiles’ of potential dates prior to communicating with them. This offers an element of selectivity that bars, and other traditional meeting places lack. In a live social setting, you are limited to the people present in the room, and may be engaged in a conversation by someone you have no interest in. Likewise, there is the ever-present fear of rejection in live scenarios. Online, it is much easier to say hello to people you may have otherwise been too nervous to approach. Additionally, there are many thousands more people to choose from, and you can select from people in any location in the country.

Critics of online dating often point to a number of dangers of the modern phenomenon, citing examples where users were mislead, lied to, and sometimes kidnapped or assaulted by people they had met by way of the internet. While these cases are indeed alarming, the dangers of online dating are common to all forms of dating. Meeting someone at a bar, nightclub or party does not offer better security that meeting someone online. In fact, most dates that are arranged online result only after a long exchange of emails and phone calls, so members are able to get a feel for their potential date before even meeting them.

Dangers and stigmas aside, online dating is the fastest growing method of meeting people there is today, and has already permanently changed the way people find dates in our society. Cyber dating has taken dating to a new dimension.

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