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Compare that with meetings at bars or parties, where people might be a few drinks in when the flirting starts (studies show that alcohol use increases the risk of sexual assault).Also, people almost universally pick public places for their initial online dates: coffee shops, restaurants and the like.Once upon a time, online daters were mocked as lonely losers, or worse. Today, at least 40 million Americans are looking for love on the Web. Like sex, love and attraction, online dating is an object of fascination and confusion.Some commentators credit it with helping singles feel more secure and confident, while others blame it for “ruining romance,” “killing commitment” and contributing to the rise of the hook-up culture. While women generally prefer men around their own age, men are most attracted to 20-year-olds, period.They’ve “given rise to a pick-and-choose shopping behavior that prioritizes looks more than ever before.” In reality, how someone looks in a couple of pictures is no indicator of whether you’ll be attracted to them.
Those couples tend to be happier, too, research suggests.But while it’s tempting to shave off a couple of pounds or add a couple of inches, studies show that online dating profiles are, fundamentally, quite honest.Gwendolyn Seidman, writing in Psychology Today, explains it well: “Online daters realize that while, on the one hand, they want to make the best possible impression in their profile, on the other hand, if they do want to pursue an offline relationship, they can’t begin it with outright falsehoods that will quickly be revealed for what they are.” That’s not to say every profile is the gospel truth, of course. Ok Cupid has found, for example, that men and women more or less uniformly add two inches to their height.In 2013, Mary Kay Beckman sued for million after a man she met on the site came to her Las Vegas home with a knife and an intent to kill.
But despite the occasional bad press, the numbers suggest that online dating is very safe.As the head of Ok Cupid, I worked diligently to untangle many of the misconceptions about finding love on the Internet. That’s why the Daily Mail calls straight women over 45 the “plankton generation” — at the bottom of the romantic food chain.Time magazine editors found the notion of men dating women in their 30s so baffling that they invited 15 experts to explain the phenomenon.Match.com, for example, now checks its users against the National Sex Offender Registry and deletes the profiles of anyone found on the list.