The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 10, 2012

With Web, perhaps blind dates are no longer really blind

Point Blank

By John Blankenship
Columnist

— Everyone loves a dash of adventure now and then.

But anyone who has been on blind dates can probably testify to some bizarre encounters, some perhaps too weird for comfort.

Blind dates — meetings between two people arranged by a third party — have probably existed ever since there were three people on earth.

Not all have been successful, though. The Trojan War resulted from a blind date arranged by Aphrodite between Paris, who had awarded her a prize in a beauty contest, and a girl, Helen, who unfortunately turned out to be already married.

In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo’s helpful friend, Benvolio, offers to “fix him up” with a new girl.

And yet, despite these discouraging examples, the custom of blind dating has persisted for centuries.

But the actual term “blind date” seems to have originated in the United States in the 1920s.

Nonetheless, such fate-tempting rendezvous aren’t all bad — some people have even met their mates on blind dates.

According to Seventeen Magazine, it was found that 36 percent of girls who date go on blind dates occasionally and that most enjoy them.

And of course, the use of the Web to find romantic partners should surprise no one. The Internet was being used for dating almost from day one. The first major Internet dating Web site is widely held to be the combination of kiss.com and match.com, which were both registered by the same person in 1994 and 1995 respectively.

From there the market quickly exploded. By 1996 there were 16 dating websites listed on Yahoo alone, and with the launch of Friendster and Myspace in 2002, the idea of online social networking was born.

Perhaps more than any other revolution in communication, the use of the Web for dating is perhaps the greatest thing for romance since dancing.

Not only does the web allow us to find people in our area, but it allows us to see, hear and learn something about them.

That still doesn’t mean, however, that online dating has lost its entire stigma. In some circles, meeting a boyfriend/girlfriend or even a spouse online is viewed as a sign of desperation.

But as more and more people meet their significant others online, the stigma against it is fading, and the current online dating climate now is even more prevalent than ever.

Now, according to Internet sources, there are sites in virtually every city, every desired relationship, every religion, every race and almost every hobby.

The end result is that, according to Online Dating Magazine, nearly 20 million people visit at least one online dating site every month and 120,000 marriages take place every year, at least in part, due to online dating.

As a result, the stigma of online dating has been slowly lifting, due in large part to the rise of social networking.

And though the majority of marriages still meet through more traditional means, nearly everyone on the web has met someone or made a friend online.

Perhaps in a strange way online dating has come full circle, back to the personal ads which preceded it in newspapers and magazines.

The bottom line is that Online dating is here to stay. It is becoming increasingly common and seems destined to grow in the future.

And for those who practice it, the strategy offers creativity, romance, hope and anonymity.

Blind dating offers many benefits that cannot be matched by conventional dating practices.

Going out with a totally new person provides a unique opportunity to become the person you always wanted to be, even if it’s only for a few hours.

And eye color, hair color, height and weight no longer seem to matter much, perhaps because blind dates are no longer really blind.

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: jabbb@suddenlink.net