Online dating used to carry a pretty significant stigma. Of course, so did sleeping with someone before marriage. Needless to say, our dating culture has changed, and so have the resources we use to do it. I think we all have a tendency to associate online relationships with perversion and Dateline documentaries. But given the depth and variety of our current web interactions, it seems illogical that a site like match.com isn't yet a gen-y staple. Let me explain.
The average 20-something has a username on dozens of different sites - from ebay to someecards.com. Even further, a good number of those sites are social networks, designed to link millions of users together for various reasons. There's a social network for everything:
Facebook/Myspace: peer-driven social networking
Linkedin: professional networking
Twitter: real-time info and idea sharing
AIM/G-Chat: instant messenging
Youtube: user-generated video
Yahoo/ESPN: fantasy sports
And these are just the major networks - other niche sites like Current (user-ranked media), Mashable (online media), DeviantArt (art), and even My.BarackObama are loaded with gen-y users who are at risk of exploding they're so goddamn connected.
Now let's take it one step further. Social networks are founded on the idea that users want to share a little piece of themselves (or a huge, awkward piece) with the world. Across sites, it's true that the info, ideas, and media we share are all carefully chosen to reflect who we are. We upload our funniest videos and remove unflattering pictures. We wall-post some messages and privately send others. We let some users see our info, and block it from others.
Every social network broadcasts a certain piece of who we are - or think we are. The only difference is who's listening.
Facebook shows our social side, even when we're consumed with work.
Twitter shows our ideas and media tastes even when we don't tweet for days.
AIM and G-Chat show away messages even when we're long-gone.
Linkedin shows our professional profile, even when we're not job-hunting.
Shouldn't Match.com show our relationship preferences...even when we're not looking?
The fact is, flirting, courting, and relationships are a huge part of the 20-something lifestyle. Most of us spend a lot more time courting a significant other than we do job-hunting. Doesn't it make sense to create a profile that shows your softer, more romantic side? If everybody had online dating profiles, it help prevent the awkward combination of chatting and flirting that haunts facebook. Instead of initiating a creepy facebook poke, suitors could wink through Match.com - a network designed for courting.
Already in a relationship? No problem, why not declare it through Match.com and show off all the commonalities you share with your significant other. Do you two only share 6 levels of compatibility? Uh oh, your friends will be the first to tell you that the relationship isn't going anywhere.
Exploring? Click a green dot beside your profile name.
Not really looking? put a yellow one.
Taken? Add a red dot (and the person's name if you'd like).
These features don't yet exist, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't.
Whether we like it or not, online social networks reveal massive amounts of info about relationships, hook-ups, and break-ups. And, as these communities continue to grow in popularity (and features), we're becoming more and more comfortable sharing personal details. But facebook isn't the place to flirt and court - you can only learn so much about a person from their wall.
We have online profiles for so many different parts of our lives - social, academic, professional, creative. But on top of jobs and social lives, we're also hoping to one day meet that special person - so doesn't it make sense to join a dating network too?
Great idea? Terrible idea? Already a member? Let me know.