About 12 years ago, before online dating had really taken off, Jennifer Luke, MSW LCSW, decided she would give it a whirl.
She found love, and marriage, eventually, after going on about 13 dates.
"He was very sweet and we chatted for a few weeks before we met," said Luke, who is from Shrewsbury. "While we were chatting online, we realized that we actually grew up in the same town. Rob was very sweet and picked me up for our first date. He had flowers waiting for me and was quite the gentleman, opening car doors for me. We hit it off right away and I knew he was the one. We were engaged on our two-year anniversary and married a year and a half later. We have now been married almost 10 years and have two children and I couldn't be happier."
And Jean (she did not want to use her full name), who lives in Central Massachusetts, considers herself "a decent-looking 34-year-old, college educated woman with a good job and a great kid." Like more and more singles, she gave online dating a whirl, posting profiles on a few of the more established sites.
In the process, she met a handsome firefighter and a handsome cop, both "adorably Irish." One didn't want to get serious, and the other drank too much.
"The cop refused to put in his teeth," said Jean. "The front ones were bashed out in a hockey fight. And once we got to know each other, he drank until he passed out on my floor. It gets better. After a few dates, he called me at work to please bail him out of jail. Yup."
Recently, Jean also had to attend a court date to file her third harassment prevention order against a man she met on Plentyoffish.com. Though Jean tried to break it off, the man, whom she describes as having "mental illnesses," forced her to move, change her phone numbers and email and Facebook accounts.
Still, Jean says she has now met a "regular guy with only very small issues. They moved in together, and will be engaged to soon.
The older generation may still poo-poo the idea ("Oooh, I don't know about that. It sounds sketchy"), but finding a date—or true love—online has become the preferred method for many singles. Where it used to be "embarrassing" to say, "we met online," now it's as typical as saying you met at a mutual friend's party or a bar.
The Boston Globe, too, took an in-depth look at online dating and its evolution. Sites are plentiful, and Match, it seems, no longer has the stronghold on the market. It, at the least, has some strong competition.
In the Globe's "Dating Goes Social" article, it details the workings of Tawkify, which is a blind-date service that provides robotic voice instructions to the two who shall meet, telling them when, where and what to wear.
Grouper and Zoosk are other newer sites, both which use Facebook to connect the daters for social activities. Loveawake.com, perfectmatch.com, Christian Mingle, Quality Singles, eHarmony, speed dating sites - the options are overwhelming. There is even a dating site exclusively for farmers.
OKCupid, a long-standing dating site that still remains (mostly) free, recently unleashed "Crazy Blind Date," calling it "the easiest and fastest way to go on dates. You just tell us when and where you’d like to go, and we set you up. With just a few clicks, you could have dates every night of the week." Dates every night of the week? That may be a bit much.
PlentyofFish.com, too, is another popular free dating site. It recently added local events for singles to its site, like this singles Valentine's Day event coming up in Westborough.
A quick zip code search on Match.com shows that there are plenty of singles in the area looking for dates. Framingham, Milford, Grafton, Northborough, Shrewsbury - straight or gay, the choices are plentiful.
And the cop Jean bailed out of jail? He still owes her $1,500.
Have you tried online dating? What are your tales of love, and horror, from the experience? Share them with us in the comments section below.