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November 30, 2011 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-11-30

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4B W s N b 2 / h m

Wednesday, November 30,2011 //The Statement
F

For most college students, opportunities
to meet potential significant others are
presented on Friday nights at the bars,
in the classroom or through the suggestion
of a mutual friend.
But for students like Engineering senior
Rick, who wishes to remain anonymous, it
takes just a few clicks of his mouse from the
comfort of his room to access thousands of
profiles on Datemyschool.com, an online dat-
ing website for college students launched by
two Columbia University students last year.
Living in a generation defined by depen-
dence on the Internet and an obsession with
Facebook and Twitter, it seems natural that
more and more people log on to Match.com,
OkCupid.com and eHarmony.com to search
for their soul mates.
Online dating, despite its unconventional
methods, can be appealing for busy students
like LSA senior Lauren Andrzejewski, the
pressures of classes and extracurricular
activities leavelittle time for a romantic life.
"I don't even have time to go out, and
when I do go out, I'm usually just with my
friends and not really interested in meeting
anyone new," Andrzejewski said.
She noted the college scene isn't exactly
conducive to finding a significant other.
"Everyone is just so busy and has their
own interests and so concerned about their
future," Andrzejewski said. "I think that a
lot of people just aren't even looking for rela-
tionships."
Rick found out about Date My School
when he happened to pick up a flyer in the
basement of the Shapiro Undergraduate
Library. He is one of the 800 University stu-
dents with profiles on the website. After his
roommate created a profile for Rick as a joke,
he has been an active user for about a month
and enjoys going on the site despite the stig-
ma associated with Internet dating.
Rick added that Date My School differs
from other sites like Match.com and eHar-
mony, which are geared more toward adults.
"I guess there's kind of this camaraderie,"
Rick said. "Everybody on the site knows that
there's this stigma with online dating. Yeah,
there are girls on there that are trying to find
their future husband, but at the same time,
there's an understanding of what's really
going on."
Though he hasn't gone on any dates
through the site, Rick has talked to plenty
of girls with the help of Date My School.
Having a profile, he said, helps to facilitate
conversation and is a handy tool that isn't
available when meeting someone in real life.
"It's definitely different," he said. "It's
difficult to pick up what you want to say
to a person, but it's easier at the same time
because you can view their profile and see
what they like."
Humberto, a senior at the University who
wishes to remain anonymous, has had a pro-
file on Date My School for more than a year
and also frequents OkCupid, a dating web-
site that suggests matches for the members
based on their answers to quizzes.
For Humberto, online dating allows him
to engage in the dating scene while juggling

his busyaschedule. He said he feels this meth-
od is more efficient since everyone on the site
is presumably looking for the same thing - a
relationship.
"If you're looking for somebody to date
and you go to a bar, you don't know if the
other person is there for that (or) if they're
there just to have fun, and you might offend
somebody if you ask," Humberto said. "At
least in this environment, everyone's there
because they want a relationship or some
sort of thing."
With online dating, there's an inevitable
fear that the person on the other side of the
computer screen might not be the same per-
son described in his or her profile. In addi-
tion, online daters are often classified as
people who have failed romantically in the
real world.
For this reason, Humberto and Rick
preferred not to reveal their real names.
Humberto requested that his school be
unidentified.
For Rick, watching his grandfather bring
home questionable women with the help of
Match.com made him apprehensive about
joiningthe online dating community.
-"He has tons of fun. He brings home girls
all the time at any time of the year. By and
large, they're nice enough, but they're all
weird in some shape or form," Rick said. "So
it's kind of shaped my experience, kind of not
to expect so much."
To some extent, the fears many people
have are valid.
Nicole Ellison, an associate professor in
the department of telecommunication, infor-
mation studies and media at Michigan State
University, studied the distinction between
online and offline personas by interviewing
participants and examining their profiles.
Ellison found that people generally don't
consider the online dating profile as a true
representation of their offline identity and
are more creative with their profiles.
"In some cases, the profile was actually
a manifestation of the kind of person they
wanted to be, or they expected to be in the
future or they had been in the past," Ellison
said.
Despite this, gross misrepresentations on
profiles - which fuel the fear that a 20-year-
old person will actually turn out to be a
50-year-old criminal - are not as common.
Though worries like this have become one of
the reasons why online dating has attracted
such a social stigma, findings from another
study conducted by Ellison revealed that
extreme exaggerations on profiles are rare.
In a study that compared the participants'
accurate height, weight and age to how they
described themselves in their profiles, Elli-
son found many online daters embellished
on one of the three characteristics. However,
the inconsistencies were so small that they
would not be noticeable in real life.
"On average, the discrepancies were quite

small and probably not that different from
the kind of impression management we do
offline," Ellison said. "So anytime you wake
up and put on a little makeup or wear high
heels - these are all ways we show our
offline impressions as well."
Ellison has found that society's disapprov-
al of online dating has diminished since she
first started studying the phenomenon.
"I think so many of us are so used to doing
everything online - buying plane tickets
and booking a flight, getting information,"
Ellison said. "It's a very natural extension of
that to look at the way in which the process
of dating people can be made more efficient
by doing it online."
Humberto also felt that online dating
has become less stigmatized simply due to
advancemes in technology and expansive
use of the Internet. He compared the use of
the Internet for meeting potential matches
as the same as the invention of the telephone,
which allowed people to communicate with-
out having to see each other face-to-face.
"While it's a great thing to actually go see
people, there's a lot of times where you'll
never meet somebody and you could on the
Internet," Humberto explained.
Despite the diminishing stigma, many
University students still aren't comfortable
with taking their romantic pursuits online.
According to LSA freshman Daniel
Schindler, a marketing intern for Date My
School, there are about 800 students from
the University who have profiles on the site
and about 42,000 students with profiles
across the country. Of the 50,000 students
who attend the University, 800 profiles is a
miniscule number. Both Rick and Humberto
observed that not many people on campus
use online dating websites.
"There are a lot of profiles on here, but
none of my friends are on it, and while I've
been perusing profiles, I haven't seen any
profiles of any person I've ever met in per-
son," Rick said.
Rick added that while he plans to keep
his profile active, he would never arrange to
meet up with someone he met on the Inter-
net.
"Especially in today's day and age, you can
never be too safe with who you meet on the
Internet," Rick said. "The kind of girls that
would go out with a guy that she just met
online - not knowing what he's all about and
without really digging in and doing some
deeper research - that would scare me if I
was a girl."
Columbia University Balazs Alexa co-
founded Date My School with classmate
Jean Meyer in November 2010 when a female

friend in the Nursing School at Columbia
complained that she didn't meet many men
in her primarily female field of education.
Alexa and Meyer observed that there
wasn't much interaction between the dif-
ferent schools on Columbia's campus and
wanted to find a way to encourage inter-
school dating.
Alexa said the website quickly took off
at Columbia and nearby universities and is
now accountable for more than 50 percent
of the dates at both Columbia and New York
University.
Alexa said he believes the website has
seen success in its first year because Date
My School offers more security options for
the user.
"If you go on (other) social networking
sites or dating sites, it's not safe at all ... Date
My School is unmatched in the privacy and
safety that we have. And that creates, basi-
cally, a space of vibrant community ... that
people are free to let loose and let their
safeguards down," he said.
Andrzejewski had a brief fling with
online dating during spring term, when she
and her roommate decided to make a profile
for fun on eHarmony after seeing a com-
mercial on TV. The website suggested some
compatible matches for her, and she con-
sidered meeting up with some of the guys
who seemed decent, including a promising
26-year-old match who worked for Google.
But she didn't pursue any of her matches.
"I was afraid that it would be awkward
and that just because I hadn't known the
person, I'd end up going there and they'd be
really weird and I'd have no way to get out
of it," Andrzejewski said.
Andrzejewski also had only a free
account on eHarmony and therefore
couldn't see any pictures of her matches,
which prevented her from going on actual
dates due to the fear that they could be lying
about their age.
Ellison reasoned that online dating hasn't
become as widespread on college campuses
because of the myriad of opportunities that
college life presents for students.
"My sense is that there may be more of
a stigma for college students, just because
college students have so many opportuni-
ties to interact with and meet new people
that they're not really going to benefit as
much because they have all these other ave-
nues," Ellison said.
Ellison added that the participants she
and her colleagues spoke with in her study
were people who did not have access to
the same social life that students do. For
instance, a woman who worked in the fash-
ion industry and consequently met only gay
men or a rural resident with few nightlife
opportunities might find online dating
more beneficial due to their lifestyles.
Andrzejewski no longer uses the dating
website and said she feels that real-life inter-
actions provide more indication of whether
or not there is an attraction between two
people.
"Usually, when you meet someone out at
See DATING, Page 8B

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