The pleasures and perils of online encounters

ok cupid

THIS time of year usually sees the intervals between television shows full of adverts for Match.com, eHarmony and most intriguingly, UniformDating.com, writes Samantha Booth.

ok cupid Your junk email becomes abundant with “over 50million singles” from Zoosk and Christian Mingle and the shopping aisles are heavy with half price wine to either celebrate with your loved ones or drown your solitary sorrows away.

With February 14 around the corner, it can be a lonely time for singles, so would you use online dating to find someone?

Philippa Goodwin, a 22-year-old Social Policy student, began using online dating around five years ago and has since has several successes
using OkCupid.com:

“I live in a quite a small town and I found it really hard to meet new people. I’ve used it because I’m awful at approaching guys and at least I have the chance to appear funnier and more interesting than I actually am.

“I didn’t really join specifically to find a partner; I think I was just curious about what was on there.

“I’ve only ever used the one website, I’ve never paid for it. I think I’d be uncomfortable with that.

“My first proper success was a guy who lived in London. We stayed together for three and a half years, but in the end, the distance got too
much and we decided to call it off. We’re still best friends and I’m acutely aware that without the website, I would never have met him.”

Be cautious, like many social networking sites, there is always a risk factor. Some online profiles are fake or the user takes on another identity, which can be dangerous if a face-to-face meeting is organised. In 2010, 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall was kidnapped, raped and murdered after she met up with 33-year-old Peter Chapman. She had been expecting 19-year-old Peter Cartwright, whom she had met on Facebook and Tagged.com.

Users are told to exercise caution when arranging to meet a person for the first time, and Philippa is careful when doing so: “I’m very conscious of
safety and making sure I’ve got a good idea of who they are before we meet. I know there’s still a risk of danger, but to me, it’s just the same as
going home with a one-night stand.

“Probably the worst experience was earlier this year. I’d been talking to this guy for a little while and texting constantly for a month. We agreed
that I’d go and visit him, which cost me an absolute fortune, but I thought it’d be worth it as we clicked so well. When I got there, I not only
realised how much he had abused the system of ‘Myspace angles’ but also that in real life, he was actually a bit of knob.He was rude, messy,
hadn’t made any effort and spent the entire time getting stoned. He also had a shrine to Nigel Farage set up in his living room. I wish I was
kidding about that.”

New to online dating, 21-year-old Natalie Mash started using Oasis whilst at university.

“I started in December and straight away I had seven requests. It was fun and a great way to boost my confidence with guys, as I’m not one
for going on the pull and would rather talk to people online because it gives you a chance to really get to know them.

“I’ve had two relationships from it and although both have ended we have remained close friends and I don’t regret a second of going onto Oasis.
“However, you have to be careful as some people go on there with wrong intentions, I find if they allow you to add them on Facebook, I think you
can trust them more.”

For some students, online dating sites hold a certain stigma. Many think these sites should only be used for the desperate or they never work because they are full of 50-year-old men looking for a ‘younger partner’.fresh meet logo

However, to beat this stigma, recent graduates from Liverpool and Lincoln University have set up a student specific website: FreshMeet.co.uk.

Inspired by the hit E4 show, Fresh Meat, the site uses the tag line “it’s dating for the price of a pint” and costs £3 a month. It is strictly for those with an official .ac.uk email address. The graduate entrepreneurs could see there was a huge market for a student-only dating site.

Whilst searching online for more internet dating sites, StudentShag.com is one of the top sites returned. Unlike Fresh Meet, the user does not have to use an academic domain, making it accessible to a wide audience of people including non-students.

The URL is self explanatory with this website and the homepage reads: “Hooking up in a club is no longer necessary. You are just a few clicks away
from getting laid tonight!”

For those looking for a same sex encounter, the popular online sites include a function to search for women seeking women and vice versa. There
are more specific sites such as Gaydar.com and the app Grindr which offer services exclusively to those looking for the same sex.

Online dating for students is on the rise, but will it ever match the experience of meeting a potential partner face-to-face?

•What do you think? Let us know your experiences both good and bad by emailing us at waterfrontfeatures@swansea-union.co.uk.

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