CHANÈ MACKAY

Since the internet transformed the world, millions of cyber-savvy romance seekers have clicked their way to passion, love and even marriage.

The idea of ordering a bride online has suffered much ridicule, because many people think of online romances as a last resort for the dysfunctional and the desperate.

Stereotypically, individuals and companies involved in advertising and facilitating marriages on online matchmaking websites for a profit were believed to be either extortionists or sexual predators.  The online sale of women from poverty stricken countries in Asia and the Soviet Union to affluent white men has fuelled global concerns about human trafficking and the exploitation of desperate individuals.

In the past, these concerns and preconceptions were pretty valid. Yet, if the exponential growth-rate of the online dating industry is anything to go by, it seems that the stigma surrounding online romance and the motives that drive it is fading fast.

The internet dating industry is currently estimated to be worth around $4 billion and over half a million South Africans registered with online dating services last year, according to web-traffic calculators Comscore and Hitwise.

Despite the fact that millions of people worldwide are utilising social networking websites and services, there are no official statistics available regarding the success or failure of relationships that started online, compared with traditional approaches to love and matrimony.

Although cyberspace relationship success rates are yet to be established, love stories (both online and traditional) do not always have fairy tale endings.

Perdeby found a rather peculiar case of an online dating company that claims to have secured the marriage of a desperate American woman to a Latvian man last year.

Mail Order Husbands Inc., is a self-proclaimed spousal-order fulfilment service that caters for women seeking to purchase a groom from abroad. According to their website (Mailorderhusbands.net)the services they offer range from “spouse-ordering for women to university diploma-ordering services as well as other services it prefers not to discuss.”

Their success stories page describes the match of a 32-year-old American woman who apparently purchased and wed a young Latvian man because of the limited dating prospects in her remote area. The mail order groom is said to have a rough understanding of the English language. According to Mail Order Husbands Inc. the couple are at least both fluent in the language of love.

Considering the high rate of internet crime and the uncertainty of whether interactions are legitimate and credible, it comes as no surprise that the world of online dating may seem daunting to some.

Yet others sing its praises, claiming that it is simple, efficient and allows for social interactions that may not have been available to them before. Chèzne Dowd, a second-year audiology student at Tuks, feels that there is nothing wrong with internet dating, as long as you are able to distinguish between facts and the inventions of other people’s imagination, otherwise, she says “it can become a tricky situation”.

Perdeby asked Margaret Bisschoff, a second-year BCom Law student what she thinks about internet dating in general, she said that “It is the root of all evil and above all that, its just plain sad. If you can’t find someone who likes you in your own social surroundings with your own social skills, you’re bluffing yourself in thinking you will find it on the internet.”

Mia Ungerer, a second-year BCom Accounting student said, “Internet dating: I tried and tested it, it was stupid. It gives false impressions about a person”.

Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine and author of 10 Essential Online Dating Tips, argues that you’ll increase your chances of finding that special someone and eventually becoming one of the tens of thousands of people that marry a year because they met their soul mate online.”

According to the Microsoft Safety and Security Centre: “The growing popularity of social sites increases the risks them being used by hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.” Microsoft.com offers various tips and articles on how to use the internet safely.

As it is often difficult to establish whether the information in online profiles is accurate, authorities stress the importance of keeping information like banking details and physical address private. Internet users, especially children, are encouraged to exercise caution when arranging to meet with people they have only communicated with online – you never know whether cheerleader746 is actually a middle-aged man with closet fetishes or whether Nice_Guy11 is really an online predator looking to extort money or lure victims into situations that may lead to sexual assault.

Even though internet dating is not traditional, it has worked for some people and they did find the love of their lives on the internet. If you are in a hurry to find your true love, it might be your only option. Perdeby just want you be smart about it, keep an open mind and be careful not to find yourself in a messy situation.

Image: Ezelle van der Heever

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