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How social networking sites are changing the online dating world

Jennifer Chowdhury is a freelance writer living in New York City. In addition to writing about love and sex, she covers a variety of topics such as beauty, health and other women's lifestyle subjects. Jennifer loves anything that looks g...

Online social world

Meeting a friend of a friend has never been as easy as it is now with the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster, MySpace, etc. These websites have changed Internet dating, making the experience a lot more communal. Trish McDermott (Vice President of Engage.com) had this exact theory in mind when she left Match.com to start a new type of dating website called Engage.com. SheKnows sat down with her to find out exactly how social online dating works.

Online Dating

SheKnows: Isn't it a bit ironic that the Internet would encourage social dating since chatting is mostly a solitary recreation?

Trish McDermott: All of the leading online dating sites -- including eHarmony, Match.com, YahooPersonals and PerfectMatch -- have business models that make it impossible to have a social dating experience. These are what I call first generation dating sites. There is no sense of community on these first-generation sites, and many consumers have lonely and discouraging experiences because of this.

You may know that I was one of the people who started Match.com and spent ten years there as their dating expert/spokesperson and VP of Global Communications. I am a strong believer in the power of technology to help singles make romantic connections, but I also know that all of the first-generation dating sites missed the real opportunity: to make our search for love social, fun, affirming and a lot more successful as a result.

That's why I left Match to help start Engage- - because online dating should be social, as this is how people have always dated and fallen in love in the real world. Long before the Internet, when we were seeking love or romance in our lives we relied on our friends to help us socialize, make connections, figure out who the great catches are and who to avoid, listen to our complaints about our dates, nurse our insecurities about our own value in the dating world and say great things about us to potential romantic partners.

We built Engage to socialize the online dating experience, so you're never alone waiting and hoping someone will send you an email. On Engage your friends make dating suggestions for you, they brag about you and vouch for your character on your profile, vote on suggestions other have made for you, introduce you to singles they think you should meet and participate in conversations with you and your other friends about who you are dating, should be dating, shouldn't be dating and how any particular date transpired -- what we all watched the Sex and the City women do for years!

SheKnows: In what ways has television inspired online dating?

TM: After Sex and the City , as well as the introduction of ABC's The Bachelor and all the dating reality shows that followed, suddenly men and women all around the country were talking about dating choices and issues singles face. Is it okay to break up with someone via Post-It note? How many women had a "Mr Big" hovering over their efforts to let go and move on? What criteria do we use to "eliminate" people from our dating lives?

These conversations helped to revive our national interest in dating. With Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte as role models, women felt more free to play the field and date like men did. Since online dating had already been growing in popularity and was seen as an easy way to make new romantic connections, it was a first stop for many singles who decided to reinvigorate their romantic lives.

SheKnows: How successful is social dating online?

TM: When it comes to dating, you have to be in it to win it, which means that singles who are actively and openly seeking romance are profoundly more likely to find it than singles who have benched themselves. Social dating on sites such as ours make the process of seeking a romantic partner a lot more fun and affirming than on typical dating sites -- and that keeps singles in the game. It's like going to a cocktail party with all of your closest friends and all of the men or women who might be of romantic interest to you. It's fun, which is why singles keep coming back every day, and that's why they're finding success on the site. Social dating makes you want to show up each day, and that's when the real romantic magic happens.

SheKnows: How comfortable is Internet dating?

TM: Online dating has been around for thirteen years now, and at this point almost everyone knows someone who is dating online. The stigma is gone, and there is a lot of information available to help singles log on and get started on a dating site relatively quickly. The degree to which someone is comfortable dating online has a lot to do with the dating community they choose. Social dating on sites like Engage means you never have to go it alone. Where do you feel more comfortable if not with you best friends?

Read more:

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