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ONLINE DATING
Many county singles meet their match online


Logging on for love

Kie Relyea, The Bellingham Herald

Who needs Cupid this Valentine's Day when you've got Match.com, SawYouAtSinai.com and, yes, even redneckandsingle.com.

Because love in the age of the Internet is all about shooting your own arrows, much like Bellingham residents Christina Winters and Sue Aufhauser are doing. They're part of the estimated 50 million U.S. singles who are logging on to find love.

"The market is so big and it's just been exploding," notes Nelson Rodriguez, chief executive officer of LoveAccess.com, which has more than 1.3 million members.

This is Winter's second foray into online dating. The 29-year-old single mom first tried cyber dating in 2000 following a divorce.

"My first experience was kind of horrific. I met a gentleman from Georgia and he decided to hop a bus and come out to see me. He ended up having a lot of emotional issues and he was a compulsive liar," she recalls.

So she was wary. But after ending a relationship of three years, and realizing she didn't leave her home much while caring for her disabled mother, Winters decided in January to try again.

"I felt funny the first time because it was still a little taboo. Now, it's just another way to meet people," says Winters, a laid-off administrative assistant.

Winters first tried finding a match on veggiedate.com, then switched to the larger Match.com, which has 8 million members. "This time, I have met some very nice people. I've gone out on a couple of dates. One was just pleasant, no sparks or anything," she says, adding that she has since met a nice man who she's been seeing for a couple of weeks.

LOVE MATCH

Who's looking for love online?

Keys to online dating success

Want to stand out in the crowd? Dating columnist Lisa Daily, author of "Stop Getting Dumped!," tells how to make your online dating profile pop.

. Pictures are a must. People who post a photo of themselves receive eight times the response as those who don't. "Nobody wants to date what's behind door No. 3," Daily says during a telephone interview from Fort Myers, Fla.

. Get the right shot. Those taken against a red background or with the subject wearing red get more attention than other photos. Group shots are a no-no. Ditto for one that shows the ex cut out.

. Keep it light when writing your profile. "Make sure that you're really just covering the basics," Daily says.

"Everybody. Most users are between the ages of 20-45, but the fastest growing group is baby boomers," says Lisa Daily, an online dating expert and author of "Stop Getting Dumped!"

And while the big players like Match.com and Yahoo personals still dominate, others are carving out niches based on ethnicity -VietSingle.com and BlackPlanet.com are the top Asian and black sites respectively - pet people and even political leanings.

The lefty-leaning Act forlove.com's 1 million personals are geared toward activists, for example, while Conservativematch.com helps those searching for "sweethearts not bleeding hearts."

Meanwhile, SawYouAtSinai.com is geared toward Jews while LDSPromise.com seeks to unite single Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both are geared toward serious-minded seekers of love.

SawYouAtSinai.com, for example, pairs members with matchmakers who select potential dates for them based on specific criteria. Gone are the days of having everyone's info wide open on the Internet, at least on this site.

Founder Marc Goldmann says his site, which has more than 8,000 members, harnesses the global scale of the Internet while adding a human element - a matchmaker who checks into people's backgrounds to make sure everything is on the up and up.

"It's a backlash against the online concept of having everybody be behind the scenes and not really knowing who you're dealing with," Goldmann explains.

He plans to create similar sites for other communities that have traditionally used matchmakers, such as Koreans and Indians.

Lynn Scoresby, a couples and family therapist, also plans to launch additional sites using concepts he created for LD SPromise.com. That includes an in-depth compatibility test that looks at areas such as how someone expresses emotions to how someone sets up life goals.

"We provide the compatibility and you provide the chemistry. And we hope commitment will result," Scoresby says.

Others also are going beyond the traditional online dating approach of clicking on photos and profiles.

LoveAccess.com's Rodriguez says his was one of the first sites to integrate instant messaging. Then he added video and audio messaging along with 30-second video profiles. Now, industry experts are looking at going mobile.

All of which should help searchers like Bellingham's Aufhauser, a 45-year-old wellness practitioner.

"I resisted it for years, thinking I'd meet the perfect person," she says.

But she hasn't, especially after moving to a new town and being wrapped up in starting her own business.

Plus, she doesn't drink and she doesn't go to bars. And her social activities often include events popular with other women, further decreasing her chances of meeting men.

So, she started searching on Match.com this summer.

"It can be fun. It can be very time-consuming. But you can get out of it what you put into it. I haven't met my love online yet. I know people do," Aufhauser says.

"I always thought I'd meet someone the old-fashioned way," she adds. "Today, the Internet is an old-fashioned way, or so I've been told."

Reach Kie Relyea at 715-2234 or krelyea@bellinghamherald.com. 

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