Thursday, October 06, 2005

Online Dating Sites Getting Uppity

(Link) In order to appear "exclusive and special", some dating sites are banning queer members or those whose appearance doesn't match "certain standards of beauty". But others are coming up with equally snooty versions just for the LGBT crowd. Lucky us.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

New York Daily News

Used to be as long as you had a computer and could type "," you could mend your lonely heart. Today, on some of the most-used sites, you'll be lucky to get past the home page's virtual velvet ropes.

The newest breed of matchmaking dot-coms weeds out the losers before you can even see them.

The personals have gotten, well, personal.

Take eHarmony, the country's third-most-popular dating site. Although it claims it has masterminded 10,000 weddings, it actually rejects between 16% and 20% of everyone who fills out its initial "personality profile" questionnaire. After taking more than an hour to plod through 436 questions (Are you "quarrelsome"? "Gregarious"?), nearly one in five people receives an E-mailed form letter:

"Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched."

Translation: "You're too weird to be lovable."

Exactly what sort of responses to eHarmony's screening quiz will make Cupid put away his quiver and bow?

Greg Forgatch, eHarmony's CEO, wouldn't tell. He did say, through a statement, "Unless we have a high degree of confidence that our Compatibility Matching System can help a person establish a strong, satisfying and long-lasting relationship, we won't attempt to match them."

And if Lady Love hasn't been on your side in the past, don't expect Lady Luck to undo the damage: If you've been married more than twice, you won't make the cut on eHarmony, either. EHarmony also rejects gay users. Its creator, Neil Clark Warren, a former colleague of Christian conservative James Dobson, has explained the omission by saying that since gay marriage isn't legal in most states, "we don't really want to participate in something that's illegal."

Faith in the system

Some experts claim the Web site appears to be deliberately screening out those with a low interest in spiritual subjects. "Basically, it doesn't allow customers to sign up who fall outside the [spiritual] parameters," says Dave Evans, who writes the Online Dating Insider column on, a media blog. "They don't really care. They have 300,000 people paying $50 a month."

The concept of niche dating sites isn't new - see, for Jewish singles, and, for wranglers. But plenty of other popular sites are also raising the singles bar.

On, beauty is screen deep. The three-year-old Danish site was launched in America on July 27 with a tantalizing gimmick: Members vote applicants onto the membership roster based on his or her picture and profile.

Greg Hodge, its managing director, says that the American version of the site has received some 45,000 applications so far, many from young, shirtless men, but only accepts one out of eight. Denmark's members have the toughest standards, with only one out of every 15 admitted. Still, the site dubs itself the most "coveted network in the U.S."

Only the disarmingly gorgeous - and very confident - need apply, since comers are turned away with high-school cafeteria bitchiness. To reject an applicant's photo, members decide between "Hmm, not really" or "No! Not at all."

"It's become a kind of sociological experiment," says Hodge. "There's never been a mark of what's beautiful and what isn't. But if you put a profile up on BeautifulPeople, you're being told what society thinks is beautiful or not."

A gay-and-lesbian version of the site is slated to go online this fall in the United Kingdom, with a launch stateside for sometime next year., which also relies on members' criticism to cull the homely chaff from the membership-worthy wheat, was started in London back in 2000. Although it only axes about 20% of applicants, a membership costs about $350, which keeps out the hoi polloi.

At (and its spinoff branch,, single people are nominated to the fold by their exes. Satisfied former lovers post glowing profiles, plus a reason they broke up, in hopes of catching a quality mate for the one that got away. "No jerks ... will slip through the cracks," the webmasters promise.

Still, Web weeding isn't limited to romantic sites., and, on which a user's exposure to new buddies is dictated by the number of members they already know, have popularized social networking sites.

Where the elite meet

No site takes exclusivity as seriously as, a networking club that elevates the Friendster concept to its haughty extreme. Patronized by an elite club of international jet-setters, the invitation-only cyberclique is notorious for punishing members for minor infractions by banishing them without explanation to its not-so-exclusive sister site,

Some relationship experts doubt the sites work. "Real compatibility isn't based on 500 questions that provide all these different statistics," says upper West Side couples therapist Carol Kramer.

"We're usually drawn to someone with an opposite way of functioning from what our own strengths are. It's based on something that you're not even conscious of."

"There's no personality test on JDate, and it makes $7 million a quarter," points out Evans. "Still, people want that feeling of community. They want to know, 'There are 750 six-foot transvestites within 10 miles of me.'"