Time for romance to click

 

Online dating has become commonplace, and spring is the most popular time for people to give it a go, writes JOANNE HUNT

SPRING SEES a surge in the tide of people signing up to internet dating sites. As sure as daffodils follow snowdrops, the flock of new members landing on dating websites right about now is just another spring phenomenon to set your clock by.

Paula Hall of dating website Parship.ie says that spring brings by far the biggest spike in new members. In fact, up to three times as many people join in spring as at any other time of the year.

Jill McGrath, managing director of Maybefriends.com, sees a similar trend, with up to 6,000 new people joining the site in January alone. They both attribute the seasonal rise to new year’s resolutions and to the approach of Valentine’s Day.

So what of this seasonal stampede toward online mating grounds? What was once seen as the preserve of nerdy loners, unable to compete in the harsh Serengeti of pub and clubland, internet dating is now the common-sense choice of many looking for a mate.

Psychoanalyst and psychology lecturer Philip Malone believes “we are now more pragmatic about out need for love and companionship. The internet has made the world much bigger – we now have friends in places we’d never dream of visiting. Casting one’s dating net beyond the workplace or neighbourhood is consonant with this new world.”

The profile of Irish people heading online for love falls into two groups, says McGrath – first are those in their late 20s. “Many of them are looking to settle down,” says McGrath. “All their friends are in couples and they want to break out of that circle and meet new people.” McGrath refers to the second group as the “second time arounders”.

Gráinne Barry from Anotherfriend.com, which now has almost half a million members and boasts 300 marriages, agrees. “We are seeing a growing trend with the 45-plus audience, people who are separated, divorced or widowed who just want companionship,” she says.

All three online dating sites use different approaches to bring would-be daters together, but Parship.ie is by far the most systematic. The site claims that its psychometric compatibility test comprising 80 questions on everything from how you react to falling on a banana skin to how much planning you like to put into holidays, takes the pot luck out of looking for love. Only members who are a good match are suggested as potential partners, with each scored in order of compatibility.

Paula Hall says the test is not about “looking for twins or peas in a pod, but about looking for couples that will complement each other”.

Rival site Maybefriends.com says it doesn’t do psychological profiling but it does have a questionnaire that probes singles on everything from their level of education to the emphasis they place on looks and humour.

“If you indicate that appearance or a particular level of education is very important to you, that says a lot about you as a person,” says McGrath.

When it comes to such psychological profiling, Malone says there is some weight to it. “Most efforts to profile people psychologically will attempt to measure personality traits that tend to be consistent over time – a person who is very tidy today will probably still have that trait in five years.

“By comparing our individual mix of traits, it can be possible to predict the people we will enjoy spending time with.”

Anotherfriend.com once employed the same psychological profiling used by job interviewers, but Barry says it wasn’t popular with Irish users. “I think Irish people are more about fate intervening or ‘the one’. We like the idea of chance rather than a scientific model.”

Psychometric profiling tends to be more popular with women than men, she says. “They just weren’t taking the time to fill it in, so we took it out.”

So what are the top tips for getting a date online? The fine art of crafting a killer profile blurb seems to be the key.

“It’s really your dating CV,” says Barry. “Be honest. Put in things that are unusual about you or that you’d hope a prospective partner would also be interested in, eg GAA or theatre, poetry.”

McGrath warns daters to ditch their baggage. “People sometimes list the things they don’t want – like I don’t want liars or cheats – you need to be positive. If you’ve had bad experiences in the past, you really need to let them go.”

While psychometric profiling does have its merits, Malone warns against too calculating an approach.

“There is no index of the human spirit, no anthology of the heart. We are, as yet, unmapped, hence the delight in getting to know a new person or the feeling of joy when we discover that we are in love.”

The internet has shrunk the planet into a cocktail bar – but unlike in a real bar, you hope that everyone on a site is actively looking for love.

‘I’D SAY TO ANYBODY TO ABSOLUTELY GO FOR IT. NOTHING VENTURED, NOTHING GAINED’: MARK AND ANNE MARIE GALLAGHER’S STORY

Anne Marie: “I had been separated for about eight years. I had done the pub scene, but you kind of get past that stage. I’d given up and I was just going to rear my three children.

“A friend of mine was on a couple of different dating websites – she said just do it for fun, so I did. I chatted to different people and met up with a few.

“Mark and I had been messaging for about four months before meeting. I was nervous. Because he was never married and never had any kids, I felt I needed to put myself across a bit better than a single girl would need to do. I did nothing but talk. He didn’t get a word in edgeways.

“If he had looked at me in a bar, I wouldn’t have looked back. He wasn’t what I had in my head. We went for a bite to eat and I thought, you know what, he’s a lovely guy – but sometimes lovely guys can be boring. That sounds so stupid now, but I wouldn’t have said he’s definitely ‘the one’.

“But we had a laugh, and that’s what I found about him online too. He had such a great sense of humour, so witty and so quick, and that drew me to him. “We met again three weeks later, and that was the night it felt like ‘This is it’.

“Online dating for me was refreshing. I could be completely honest. I thought once they knew my family and work situation and were still willing to meet up, then I had overcome barriers I wouldn’t have overcome so easily meeting in a pub. It filtered out the rejection. It’s less brutal.”

Mark: “I came back from America in 2001. I’m a teacher. It was the same faces in the same pubs. I felt I couldn’t meet anybody new. We started talking online in about June 2004 and we met in September. We just hit it off very well. We just kept going, one meeting after another.

“Then I came down and met the kids and the family, and we married in December 2006. We now have two more kids together.

“When we met, it wasn’t a common thing to meet online, but now we have no real problem telling anyone. When you tell people you married someone you met online, they kind of look at you and say, ‘Well, you’re still in one piece’. The main thing is that you’re happy. We get on well and we’ve haven’t had an argument yet. I’d say to anybody to absolutely go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Anne Marie and Mark met through anotherfriend.com