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The rise and rise of internet dating

internet-datingIf January is a slow month for cigarettes, alcohol and anything high calorie, it is a boom time for internet dating. At the beginning of the year, the number of people joining online dating sites doubles as this method of finding love becomes more socially acceptable, particularly for the over 30s.
It’s all the fault of the holiday season of course. Between Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, many singletons fall into that terrible trap of loneliness. It’s human nature really. With love, joy and hope in the air, the unattached tend to feel more alone than ever. And by the time the parties are all over, they’ve logged on, signed up and are looking into the possibilities of a cyber romance becoming a reality.
And 2009 is no different, not least because of the recession. While the dreaded credit crunch is munching its way through a shocking number of industries globally, the online dating business is not one of them. In actual fact, it’s enjoying something of a boost, with the European operations of Match.com, the US-based internet dating giant, moving into pre-tax profit in 2007 as British singletons flocked online to find consolation amid the doom and gloom.
“It’s economical for the consumer,” said Grainne Barry, managing director of Irish dating website AnotherFriend.com. “And it’s certainly a cheap way to meet people because you don’t even have to leave the house. That’s the beauty of it – you don’t have to have the expensive night out.”
And as we all know, an overpriced night on the town is no guarantee of ever finding a partner, something Anne-Marie Gallagher agrees with. From Donegal, she found love on AnotherFriend.com in 2004 after beginning to chat online to Mark in May of that year. They met in the flesh that September and married in December 2006.
“I had been married previously,” explained Gallagher, who is now 40. “I had three kids and my husband left me. So socialising was hard then. When I did go out I’d tend to go to the same pubs and see the same people and it got to the point when I wasn’t even bothered anymore. It was always the same old thing and at that stage I had an idea of what I wanted.”
Following the intense persuasion of a colleague, Gallagher eventually went online. “In the beginning I found it to be a great social scene. When you have kids and they’re gone to bed early, the evenings can be long on your own. But I found this whole new scene and I didn’t even have to move.”
She only had to endure two disastrous dates before meeting Mark, but she rectified her earlier mistakes by making sure she cyber chatted to him for a long time before they met up for real.
“You need to be talking to someone for a good long while,” she said. “Myself and Mark talked for months. Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put up a profile picture. I didn’t want to judge on looks. And Mark and I always say now that if we were both in a pub back then, we wouldn’t have looked at each other.”
But even after her first date in Letterkenny with Mark, she had her doubts. “I was very nervous. We went for dinner and I was talking a lot. I wasn’t so sure when I left him that night. I thought he was too quiet for me.”
That said, she went out with some girlfriends the next Saturday night and noticed that for some reason she wasn’t looking around her in the hope of spotting an attractive man. So some part of her must have already suspected she had fallen for Mark. And when they met three weeks later, the deal was done. Seeing him again, she knew immediately he was the one for her. Although Mark took little longer to realise this, she said.
When it comes to internet dating, Gallagher’s advice is to not simply go by someone’s photograph. “I think that is the biggest mistake. People are finding it hard to see past looks and they’re missing people’s personalities and goodness.”
She and her husband are happier than ever and even have a baby now. So, for her, online dating was one of the best moves she ever made. “I couldn’t imagine my life now without Mark,” she said.
“It’s important to think outside the box,” Grainne Barry’s advises. “We want people to think things differently.”
Indeed AnotherFriend.com is ringing in the New Year with that very thought as it encourages members and beyond to detox their love lives. For those singletons who feel like they’re running around in circles or putting in the time, but not making any progress, or maybe making the same old mistakes time and again, it’s time for an overhaul of sorts. And how is this to be done? With five top tips, according to the site. It’s all about broadening horizons, slowing down, changing the record, recognising the power of positive thinking and deciding on what it is that you want.
“With online dating, you can have a huge choice, everyone on the site is single and looking for a date, and you can get to know the person before deciding whether you want to actually meet up with that person or not,” said Barry.

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