Cruising the Web
Looking for love in all the virtual places
It’s an age-old question: Where does a person go to meet Ms. Wonderful or Mr. Right?
Chico resident Brian Stracner, owner of North State Hypnosis, didn’t have to travel any farther than his computer—he met his girlfriend, whom he affectionately referred to as “my flower” (he didn’t want to identify her), on Facebook last November.
He likes how the social-networking site allowed him and his sweetheart the opportunity to make what he called a “mental connection” first.
Stracner, 34, had used online dating services in the past, having what he called “a mixed bag” of experiences. More recently, he had put online dating off to the side and was simply focusing on networking with people on Facebook.
A woman he had friended sent him a Facebook e-mail asking, “Do we know each other?” Stracner felt drawn to converse with her, and after some e-mailing they moved on to phone calls.
Before long, they had their first date, at Barnes & Noble. They felt immediately comfortable with each other—and attracted. “I just feel like I know she’s the one.”
Nobody has to settle for noisy pubs full of disingenuous barflies anymore when looking to hook up with a potential love interest or just meet new friends. The increasing presence of the Internet in people’s lives includes a growing use of various online media for making connections.
Internet match-ups go beyond the online dating services (such as Match.com and eHarmony.com) depicted in such popular movies as You’ve Got Mail and Must Love Dogs. As shown in the more recent movie, He’s Just Not that Into You, technology pervades people’s lives. Wielding myriad electronic devices, love-seekers meet and flirt in all kinds of virtual spaces and communities these days.
Love—or friendship—is only a point and click away.
Like Stracner, Asher Prince, 29, wasn’t really looking for love. He had moved back to Chico after ending a nine-year relationship, and a friend told him about the online dating site PlentyofFish.com. “He told me, ‘It’s a great way to meet people,’” Prince said.
Just for fun, he put up a profile page and started checking out women’s profile pages. He noticed one woman, who lived in Bakersfield, kept looking at his profile but never communicated with him.
Curious, he e-mailed the woman, Tamerla Flockton. She responded, and before long they talked on the phone. “It was like love at first phone call!”
Flockton said she was just looking to “see who was out there” and came across Prince “by accident.” Soon Flockton, who owns her own company in Bakersfield, drove up to Chico for a visit. Now she and Prince have been an item for about six months.
Prince said their first date was a little challenging: Since Flockton had to drive 5 1/2 hours to visit him (a health issue prevents him from driving long distances, currently), they had to spend the entire weekend together. It wasn’t like most first dates during which people go out to dinner and talk and then go home.
“I’m pretty positive this is the person I’m going to be with,” he said. “She’s the most unselfish person I’ve ever met in my life. She just genuinely loves me for who I am. It’s worked out really well.”
Flockton concurred. “This is right for me—this is the person I want to be with. I’m just really excited.” Prince is making plans to move to Bakersfield so he and Flockton can start a life together.
Prince thinks PlentyofFish.com is a good way to meet people. ”It’s free, and there are hundreds of women on it.”
“I’ve had lots of online dating experience—it’s so popular these days,” said Megan Gledhill, advertising salesperson for the Chico News & Review.
A few years ago, Gledhil, 31, moved to Sacramento, where she didn’t know anyone. She turned to Match.com and Yahoo personals to meet people. “Online dating is weird,” she said. “You kind of create this person in your head based on their e-mails and pictures, but then when you meet them in person, they’re different.”
People can waste a lot of time on online dating, she said. “You don’t know if there’s chemistry until you meet the person.” She recalled one date she went on that was “pretty awkward.”
“Now I’m more into meeting someone in a more intimate setting,” Gledhill explained. “I want to leave it to fate and have a romantic experience.”
But online dating works for many, she said, because the people who do it are actively seeking intimacy, so they’re more likely to get it. “It costs money to join most of the dating sites and takes time to compose a profile and interact with people. [Most of] those who do it are very serious about finding someone—they’re ready. Love is a choice—it’s not a feeling. You have to be ready to love.”
Evan Tuchinsky and Amy Dolinar were ready to love.
Dolinar signed up for Match.com in hopes of making friends outside of the hospital in Loma Linda where she was doing her residency, but Tuchinsky started 2005 knowing he wanted to find someone to love.
They met online during the last month of her six-month membership and during Tuchinsky’s (optimistic) one-month membership. On their second date (on Super Bowl Sunday), they knew they wanted to be together, and after six months Dolinar moved in. Within two years, they married.
Tuchinsky, 42, who is starting a new company called Idea Cultivators, found Dolinar by expanding his search parameters from 15 to 25 miles (Loma Linda was 18 miles from where he was living in Riverside).
Dolinar, 34 and now a pediatrician at Enloe Children’s Health Center, said Match.com is “a really great service” but that women, in particular, need to be “really careful” about how they go about meeting in person with the people they find online. “A lot of times, people aren’t truthful.” But for many people, she said, an online dating service is a means for finding “somebody like yourself.”
Meeting people who weren’t truthful is what happened to Jeanetta Bradley, Chico State journalism major and sex columnist for The Orion.
Between June 2008 and late 2009, she met four men online and traveled to places like Rhode Island and Vegas to meet them in person. One turned out to be “anti-social,” while another she described as “a freak—he didn’t want to go to any clubs or casinos, he just wanted to sit around and look at porn on the computer.”
Another one wasn’t quite what his profile said he was: “He was shorter, and he had a kid he’d forgotten to tell me about.” In her fourth try with an online relationship, she went as far as accepting a marriage proposal—until the man she had met, who lived in Colorado, told her he really wasn’t over his last relationship. “I was a rebound fiancée,” she said.
Bradley said there are many guys on online dating services who are “trying to keep their little quirks hidden.” She acknowledged, “I’m probably never going back to online dating.”