If you’re a Boston University student searching for a last minute Valentine’s Day date, don’t forget to check the Internet.
With the proliferation of websites like eHarmony.com, Match.com and OkCupid.com, the Internet has become a popular place to find a new lover. Although advertisements often appeal to middle-aged users, more and more college students are foregoing the traditional dating methods in favor of online services.
“I used to be embarrassed that I used online dating,” College of Arts and Sciences junior Susan Malouin said. “[But] everyone is so busy today . . . and the library isn’t exactly a hotspot for love connections.”
Malouin said she turned to online dating because she thinks it is hard to find prospective dates at BU.
Founded in 2004 by the creators of SparkNotes.com, OkCupid claims to be the only free, online dating website. Founder Sam Yagan said he estimates about a quarter of site’s users are college-aged, a portion much larger than that of competitors, according to OkCupid’s website.
“We didn’t go out with any target to be a college-oriented site,” he said.
He said the site appeals to the college demographic because “when you’re the only free site in your category, you’re going to appeal to a group under 30 who are used to getting things on the Internet for free.”
Yagan said while offline dating produces more relationships, online dating allows users to meet a larger number and more diverse group of people.
“You’re limited by the number of people you can meet in offline dating, and a lot of people you meet are a lot like you . . . so I think online dating has a huge advantage there,” he said.
“There are all kinds of things to do on the site other than just message and search for other people,” he said. “We’ve got the karaoke machine, the pool table, the game on TV and, while you’re there, you do some dating.”
Maulouin said she has met a wide range of people online.
“I’ve met everyone from drug dealers to computer programmers to art directors for record labels online,” Malouin said.
Accidentally meeting a creepy or dangerous date is a common fear associated with the online dating scene, but if users are careful, they can stay safe, CAS junior Render Thomas said.
“I think you definitely open yourself up to potentially going on dates with weirdos and freaks if the first time you meet them is online,” Thomas said.
Malouin says she practices common sense safety tips, including researching a potential date’s full name on Google, Facebook and MySpace as well on the National Sex Offenders Registry before meeting up. She always meets dates in a public place or speaks on the phone before agreeing to a more private date, she said.
Malouin said she has been on “super-fun” dates with online daters, as a few dating horror stories as well.
“Once I left a guy in my living room while I went to get some water, came back, and found a certain organ exposed on my sofa,” she said. “I stopped, looked again . . . and suggested maybe he should put it away and leave.”