One major use of the internet is a phenomenon known as “social networking”.
Websites like Myspace, Meetup, Facebook, Twitter, and Friendster have revolutionized how people meet and communicate with one another. The idea behind social networking is to provide a central online location where people can sign up and describe their interests and activities in order to share with old friends and make new ones. An predictable but unintentional use of social networking is for dating – while there are dating specific websites, like the popular and much advertised eHarmony, social networking sites are almost always free to use and don’t narrow your focus to just dating.
Meet Dates at Social Network Sites
Depending on the site you choose to patronize, you can meet dates at social network sites that share your interests, or just flirt and chat with people you’re attracted to. Test your flirting skills, look for Mr. or Mrs. Right, or just interact with people like the things you like (bands, hobbies, political opinions) on any number of sites aimed at connecting you with other internet users.
This is by far the most popular social networking site in America, claiming over 175 million users as of January 2009. Originally intended as an Ivy League networking page, similar to the “facebooks” that elite universities used to hand out to incoming students. The site became so popular, that membership was opened to any college student, then to high school students as well, and finally (in its current format) to anyone aged 13 or older. The site is not without controversy – there is plenty of bullying and invasion of privacy that takes place, and many schools and businesses lament the amount of “time wasting” that Facebook causes. For these reasons it has been banned on school campuses and on business networks around the world.
Facebook is populated by thousands and thousands of very specific “network groups” ranging from the serious (religion or politics based groupings) to the silly (one hilarious example would be “Leggings are not pants so quit wearing them with your hoodie”).
A good way to use Facebook to improve your dating life would be to search for people either based on their proximity to your hometown or by one of their political or social affiliations. User’s Facebook pages clearly list details like “relationship status”, “religion”, “location”, and their membership in any number of social groups. Looking for a gay atheist in Phoenix, Arizona? With so many members, you’re likely to have hundreds to choose from. One downside to Facebook, in terms of dating, is that it is not specifically a dating site, and you may find yourself pursuing people who just plain don’t want to be pursued. I suggest you join some groups that interest you and start networking with the people in them. Approach Facebook like you would approach a group of friends, and you can’t go wrong.
Like Facebook, Myspace was not originally intended to be a “social networking” site. It was started as a place for musicians to feature and even sell their music – a facet that has spun off the now incredibly popular Myspace into something called Myspace Music. As far as membership, Myspace’ popularity is waning in favor of the more user friendly (and seemingly more “dignified”) Facebook – but the site still claims well over 100 million members.
Myspace may in fact offer a better option than Facebook for people looking to “meet up” with dates – Myspace pages commonly feature a “Who I’d Like to Meet” section, offering browsers the ability to match themselves to another person’s likes and dislikes. With features like this, members are more likely to be receptive to flirting and date suggestions, although you should always err on the side of caution. It is easy for someone to create a fake Myspace page (as it is easy to create anything fake on the internet) in an attempt to humiliate or just mislead people. It is a good idea to strike up a series of conversations with someone, and communicate by email and phone before deciding to meet them.
Of all the “social networking” sites, Meetup might be the best for people looking to improve their dating life. Users of Meetup enter their zip code and the hobbies they want to “meet up” with people about, and the site gathers these people together and puts them in contact with one another – the idea is to form a group that actually meets one another in person, in a public place. This idea is unique as the aim of Meetup is to get users OFF the internet and into face to face contact. Also, if you are only interested in meeting certain types of people – say, people who race pigeons, or lesbians that like to line dance – Meetup would be your best bet for making love connections. As with any internet based meeting, have caution, and if you feel funny about scheduling a meetup or attending a meeting, bring a friend or just plain don’t go.
The purpose of Meetup was to have an impact on a serious problem developing around internet culture. Because of “social networking” and ease of internet access, people seemed to be joining actual social clubs less and less, and relying on digital communication more and more. Meetup gets people out in the open, on their feet, and live in person to discuss and enjoy their pursuits.
The internet is a potential gold mine for those looking to enlarge their dating pool. Social networking sites depend on social activity to exist (and to advertise in order to turn a profit), so they are generally set up to be “flirt friendly” – you can send private messages, “gifts” (usually in the form of displayable icons), and choose exactly what to display or hide. If you’re tired of randomly selecting a flirting partner from among the select crowd at your local bar, or if you have trouble meeting people who share your taste in 15th Century German poetry, consider joining a social networking site.