People can meet other people on their own or the get-together can be arranged by someone else. Matchmaking is an art based entirely on hunches, since it is impossible to predict with certainty whether two people will like each other or not. “All you should ever try and do is make two people be in the same room at the same time,” advised matchmaker Sarah Beeny in 2009, and the only rule is to make sure the people involved want to be set up. One matchmaker advised it was good to match “brains as well as beauty” and try to find people with similar religious and political viewpoints and thinks that like-minded people result in more matches, although acknowledging that opposites sometimes attract. It is easier to put several people together at the same time, so there are other candidates possible if one doesn’t work out. And, after introducing people, don’t meddle.
Friends as matchmakers
Friends remain an extremely common way for people to meet However, the Internet promises to overtake friends in the future, if present trends continue. A friend can introduce two people who don’t know each other, and the friend may play matchmaker and send them on a blind date. In The Guardian, British writer Hannah Pool was cynical about being set up on a blind date; she was told “basically he’s you but in a male form” by the mutual friend. She googled her blind date’s name along with the words “wife” and “girlfriend” and “partner” and “boyfriend” to see whether her prospective date was in any kind of relationship or gay; he wasn’t any of these things. She met him for coffee in London and she now lives with him, sharing a home and business. When friends introduce two people who do not know each other, it is often called a blind date.
Family as matchmakers
Parents, via their contacts with associates or neighbors or friends, can introduce their children to each other. In India, parents often place matrimonial ads in newspapers or online, and may post the resumes of the prospective bride or groom.
Matchmaking systems and services
Dating systems can be systematic and organized ways to improve matchmaking by using rules or technology. The meeting can be in-person or live as well as separated by time or space such as by telephone or email or chat-based. The purpose of the meeting is for the two persons to decide whether to go on a date in the future.
- Speed dating consists of organized matchmaking events that have multiple single persons meet one-on-one in brief timed sessions so that singles can assess further whether to have subsequent dates. An example is meeting perhaps twenty potential partners in a bar with brief interviews between each possible couple, perhaps lasting three minutes in length, and shuffling partners. In Shanghai, one event featured eight-minute one-on-one meetings in which participants were pre-screened by age and education and career, and which costs 50 yuan ($6 USD) per participant; participants are asked not to reveal contact information during the brief meeting with the other person, but rather place names in cards for organizers to arrange subsequent dates. Advantages of speed dating: efficiency; “avoids an embarrassing disaster date”; cost-effective; way to make friends. Disadvantages: it can turn into a beauty contest with only a few good-looking participants getting most offers, while less attractive peers received few or no offers; critics suggest that the format prevents factors such as personality and intelligence from emerging, particularly in large groups with extra-brief meeting times.
(Speed dating is) a fast and comfortable way to meet people. It helps enlarge my social contacts. I don’t care if I can’t find a girlfriend there. I just want to try my luck, and if she is there, then that will be a big bonus.
— Huang Xiao, salesman, age 27, 
- Video dating systems of the 1980s and 1990s especially, where customers gave a performance on (typically VHS) video, which was viewable by other customers, usually in private, in the same facility. Some services would record and play back videos for men and women on alternate days to minimize the chance that customers would meet each other on the street.
- Phone dating systems of about the same vintage, where customers call a common voice mail or phone-chat server at a common local phone number, and are connected with other (reputed) singles, and typically charged by the minute as if it were a long-distance call (often a very expensive one). A key problem of such systems was that they were hard to differentiate from a phone porn service or “phone sex” where female operators are paid to arouse male customers and have no intention of ever dating them.
- Online dating systems use websites or mobile phone apps to connect possible romantic or sexual partners. One gay man found dating online difficult, and found there is an element of deception on dating website profiles just like everywhere else:
Very attractive translates as big-headed … Average build means a bit paunchy … 5ft 10 is actually 5ft 7 and a half … The picture is always taken from the best, most flattering angle … Black and white photos mean I am pretentiousor I’ve something to hide … Anyone who writes in text speak or says I heart instead of I like should be avoided … Ditto for people whose interests include feet.
The deception got worse. When he met his date who he had befriended online who he dubbed Facebook Guy for the first time, he wrote:
Facebook guy arrived on time. Facially, he looked the same as his picture. And his arms were as “worked out” as he promised. But he was lacking in the leg department. Quite literally. Facebook Guy had failed to mention that he had no legs.
Computers as matchmakers
Software entrepreneur Gary Robinson developed a now-defunct online dating service called 212-Romance in New York City in the 1980s which used complex computer algorithms to guess who’d like whom.
Computer dating systems of the later 20th century, especially popular in the 1960s and 1970s, before the rise of sophisticated phone and computer systems, gave customers forms that they filled out with important tolerances and preferences, which were “matched by computer” to determine “compatibility” of the two customers. The history of dating systems is closely tied to the history of technologies that support them, although a statistics-based dating service that used data from forms filled out by customers opened in Newark, New Jersey in 1941. The first large-scale computer dating system, The Scientific Marriage Foundation, was established in 1957 by Dr. George W. Crane. In this system, forms that applicants filled out were processed by an IBM card sorting machine. The earliest commercially successfully computerized dating service in either the US or UK was Com-Pat, started by Joan Ball in 1964. Operation Match, started by Harvard University students a year later is often erroneously claimed to be the “first computerized dating service.” In actuality, both Com-Pat and Operation Match were preceded by other computerized dating services in Europe–the founders of Operation Match and Joan Ball of Com-Pat both stated they had heard about these European computer dating services and that those served as the inspiration for their respective ideas to create computer dating businesses. The longest running and most successful early computer dating business, both in terms of numbers of users and in terms of profits, was Dateline, which was started in the UK in 1965 by John Patterson. Patterson’s business model was not fully legal, however. He was charged with fraud on several occasions for selling lists of the women who signed up for his service to men who were looking for prostitutes. Dateline existed until Patterson’s death from alcoholism in 1997, and during the early 1990s it was reported to be the most profitable computer dating company in the world. In the early 1980s in New York City, software developer Gary Robinson developed a now–defunct dating service called 212-Romance which used computer algorithms to match singles romantically, using a voice–mail based interface backed by community-based automated recommendations enhanced by collaborative filtering technologies. Compatibility algorithms and matching software are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Online dating services are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide. They charge a fee to enable a user to post a profile of himself or herself, perhaps using video or still images as well as descriptive data and personal preferences for dating, such as age range, hobbies, and so forth. Online dating is a $2 billion per year business, as of 2014, with an annual growth rate of 5%. The industry is dominated by a few large companies, such as EHarmony, Zoosk and InterActiveCorp, or IAC, which owns several brands including Match.com and OKCupid. However new entrants continue to emerge.
An earlier report suggested that online dating businesses were thriving financially, with growth in members, service offerings, membership fees and with many users renewing their accounts, although the overall share of Internet traffic using online dating services in the U.S. has declined somewhat, from 2003 (21% of all Internet users) to 2006 (10%), and that dating sites must work to convince users that they’re safe places having quality members. While online dating has become more accepted, it retains a slight negative stigma. There is widespread evidence that online dating has increased rapidly and is becoming “mainstream” with new websites appearing regularly. One study suggested that 18% of single persons had used the Internet for dating purposes. Reports vary about the effectiveness of dating web sites to result in marriages or long–term relationships. Pew Research, based on a 2005 survey of 3,215 adults, estimated that three million Americans had entered into long-term relationships or marriage as a result of meeting on a dating web site. While sites have touted marriage rates from 10% to 25%, sociologists and marriage researchers are highly skeptical that valid statistics underlie any such claims. The Pew study (see table) suggested the Internet was becoming increasingly prominent and accepted as a way to meet people for dates, although there were cautions about deception, the risk of violence, and some concerns about stigmas. The report suggested most people had positive experiences with online dating websites and felt they were excellent ways to meet more people. The report also said that online daters tend to have more liberal social attitudes compared to the general population. In India, parents sometimes participate in websites designed to match couples. Some online dating sites can organize double dates or group dates.Research from Berkeley suggests there’s a dropoff in interest after online daters meet face–to–face. It’s a lean medium not offering standard cues such as tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. There is substantial data about online dating habits; for example, researchers believe that “the likelihood of a reply to a message sent by one online dater to another drops roughly 0.7 percent with every day that goes by”. Psychologist Lindsay Shaw Taylor found that even though people said they’d be willing to date someone of a different race, that people tend to choose dates similar to themselves.
Internet “QQ” chat rooms. This type of dating approach, cheaper than traditional websites and agencies, is gaining ground in China.
Online website usage survey
|Internet users who’ve used it romantically
|Know somebody who found long-term partner via Internet
|Know someone who’s used a dating website
|Know someone who’s gone on a date after visiting a website
|Agree online dating can be dangerous
|Don’t think online dating is dangerous
|Believe online dating is for those in “dire straits”
|Gone on a dating website
- There are dating applications or apps on mobile phones.
- Virtual dating: A combination of video game playing and dating, where users create avatars and spend time in virtual worlds in an attempt to meet other avatars with the purpose of meeting for potential dates. (which is similar to online dating although this practice is not usually accepted by other players)
- Mobile dating/cell phone dating: Text messages to and from a mobile/cell phone carrier are used to show interest in others on the system. Can be web-based or online dating as well depending on the company.
- Singles event: Where a group of singles are brought together to take part in various events for the purposes of meeting new people. Events can include such things as parties, workshops, and games. Many events are aimed at singles of particular affiliations, interest, or religions. A weekend flirting course in Britain advised daters to “love the inner you” and understand the difference between arrogance from insecurity and “true self-confidence”; it featured exercises in which students were told to imagine that they were “great big beautiful gods and goddesses” and treat others similarly.