Dating Web sites target college demographic as MSU students create relationships online
Crowded bars and sloppy-drunk parties got old quickly for Krysta Fenton. Although the bars and parties were a good way to meet people, the special education senior said she struggled meeting anyone she would consider relationship material.
“I don’t want to meet guys drunk,” Fenton said. “Usually the guys you meet at bars or at frat houses are just looking for sex.”
Fenton created an online dating profile on allMSU.com at the beginning of the school year and said she has been able to connect with people she might never get to meet at a noisy party.
“Since I’m a shy person, I can tell (people) more and talk to them easier than at a bar,” she said. “If I were at a bar and saw a guy, I would walk the other way because I’m too shy to go up to him and say ‘Hi.’”
Similar to many other students at MSU, Fenton put the bar scene behind her for a different way to meet people: the Internet. By creating online dating profiles, students have been able to meet and connect with more people than any party can fit and don’t have to limit their options to just the people in the room.
What once might have had a negative connotation, online dating has become a popular way for students to build relationships and major dating sites are trying to capitalize on the emerging college-age market.
Making a connection
As popular dating Web sites start catering to younger crowds, online dating is becoming more popular for college-aged people looking to find love, said Steve Hammer, a spokesman for Stir.com, a Match.com spinoff dating site directed at active, young daters that started in October.
Young people didn’t immediately join the online dating movement, but in recent years, college-aged people have wanted a place to meet other people online, Hammer said.
“The 18- to 25-year-olds we talked to basically said that they weren’t interested in a dating site per se, because they don’t really like to think of the way that they go out as dating,” Hammer said.
“We’re looking for people that are definitely active and out and about and looking for something that’s a lot less serious than the traditional dating sites.”
Hammer said Stir.com has registered 500,000 members and he only expects interest in the site to increase. Online students are able to filter their searches down to exactly what they want in a potential mate, which is a serious leg up on meeting people in a bar, Hammer said.
“You have that ability to drill down and find some interesting things that may not come up in a normal conversation because of the way people present themselves on a profile,” he said.
Although online dating might be a good place to meet and connect with people similar to you, many students perceive online dating as people who are on their last resort, human sexuality professor Tina Timm said.
“There’s still a perception that the only people who use online dating are the people who can’t find someone,” Timm said.
“I don’t see the need for the stigma around it. I think it’s a much more effective way of finding people than going to the bar.”
When people meet, most of the first impression comes from people’s appearance, Timm said. But when people meet online, each person only is getting an impression of the other person’s personality, which can open the door for students to meet groups of people they never considered dating before, she said.
“You’re automatically guaranteed to get people that are like you, which feels much more effective to me than just randomly walking into a bar and finding someone that’s attractive and hoping they might like you in some way that’s significant,” she said.
Although dating sites directed toward college students haven’t been around for long, MSU students have been making connections on allMSU.com since 2001, said Ryan Shaltry, the site’s creator and an MSU telecommunication, information studies and media student from 1996-2000.
The MSU-oriented Web site has features for students to exchange class information, sell books and rate apartments, but one of the most successful sections has been the dating profiles, Shaltry said.
Even with the popularization of other dating sites, 900 profiles have been created on allMSU.com since the beginning of the school year and interest remains high, Shaltry said.
“I have heard of people getting married off there and meeting their soul partner,” he said. “Nice stories like that restore my faith in online dating.”
Although she has yet to meet someone she wants to marry, studio art junior Sammy Brooks said she has made some progress in her personal life since joining allMSU’s dating section three years ago.
Brooks was in a six-month relationship last year with someone she met online.
She said meeting people online made it easier to get to know them without any distractions.
“You can find people that have similar interests as you do,” Brooks said. “You meet people that live on the other side of campus or people that you don’t have any classes with.”
Although allMSU has introduced elementary education freshman Erin Barger to a variety of people, the online connections she made often didn’t translate in person.
“You can see how they interact with you, how they interact with other people and it’s different than talking online,” she said.
Despite some drawbacks of Internet dating, Fenton said she will continue to try to meet new people online. After searching through profiles, she said she hopes she can find the person with whom she might spend the rest of her life.
“You definitely have to search through it and pick through it to find one and then you have to go to make that relationship with the person and have a connection,” she said. “So far, so good.”