On the lookout for love

2011-02-12 00:00

Dating is difficult, whether you are straight or gay, a divorcee with kids or a fresh-faced teen.

Enter online dating

The phenomenon has been around since the early 2000s and after the initially shame of using it, online dating is now in many pockets after going mobile.

According to The Dating Lab, the company behind Maritzburgmatchmakers.com, there are 44 863 KwaZulu-Natal members and 4 400 Pietermaritzburgers on their database.

Their stats show active users on The Dating Lab sites in South Africa now exceed 650 000, with the average user visiting the website 15 times a month. Online daters range in age from 18 to 50 years old with the majority between 24 and 41. Most are single, many with children, have an above-average education and a medium to high disposable income. “We don’t socialise as much as we used to and opportunities to meet other single people become limited,” explains a spokesperson from The Dating Lab. “Online dating allows you to decide what you are looking for according to the criteria you choose.

“The key thing to remember is that getting to know someone online is really no different to meeting a person in a pub or at the gym... There are no guarantees when meeting someone new, it doesn’t matter if it is online or through friends, they could still be Mr. Wrong.”

However, they could also be your soulmate, as Johannesburg resident, Leon Otto (38) found when he met his wife online six years ago.

“It was my second run on trying the online dating scene,” said Otto, “and I was about to delete my profile when we started chatting. We met for drinks and the rest is history.

“We lived in completely different social circles and would probably never have had the opportunity to meet had it not been for online dating.” He preferred online dating as it allowed him to meet people who specifically wanted to date.

“You are going to meet a whole bunch of people online, even weirdos ... It’s just like in real life. You put yourself out there. However, it can be expensive.”

Anthony Waldhausen, Director of the Gay & Lesbian Network, said, “Unfortunately we don’t have any spots in PMB for the LGBTI community which are ‘gay friendly’ and it is difficult for gays and lesbians to socialise and meet. We try to organise monthly social events but have found it difficult recently as we don’t have a venue.”

A local homosexual resident agreed saying, “It is really hard to meet people in this town, and you usually only meet someone through other people. I think every gay person has used online dating at some point in their life but I don’t think that it’s harder to find someone when you are gay... Dating is hard for everyone.”

Theesan Muruvan (24), a Durban resident, feels that online dating sites are a social injustice. He says, “society is turning into a cold, impersonal conglomerate of people who use social networking as a muse to social interaction. If you are holding your head up high whilst everyone around you looks down, it does not mean that you are proud or confident, it just means you don’t have Blackberry!

“The quality of society and social gatherings has deteriorated because of technology. It feels like that excitement of dating is disappearing. I sound like a relic when I complain about modern society never writing a letter or receiving one or even never having that adrenaline rush when you phone a girls house and the parent answers by mistake...”

Is online dating the only option today?

Online dating is not the solution to finding someone, however it does open up another avenue that allows you to meet new people. One can never predict where they will find that one person who makes their stomach mutate into butterflies and who would do anything to take them down the proverbial aisle.

One local resident fell in love with his wife during a phone conversation six years ago. They were from different provinces and he continued phoning her until she agreed to meet.

Greg Adley, the owner of Keg and Hedgehog, says that there are still a lot of single people who hang out at the bar and meet up.

According to our online poll ‘Where is the best place to find that someone special?’ gyms and weddings were among the most popular.

So if you are the perpetual singleton in your circle and dying to find love, simply go out and try new things. Take walks; go shopping; join clubs... However, I’m not certain about libraries... do people still use those?

• Keg and Hedgehog is hosting a Valentine’s evening tonight.

•Valentine’s Eve Singles’ Dinner on the 13 February at Rockafellas, Golden Horse Casino. Tickets sales close today.

• The Hilton Hotel in Durban is offering a special dinner buffet for only R295 per person which includes a welcome drink, romantic buffet, roses and entertainment. The special dinner offer is valid on Saturday the 12th and Monday the 14th of February.

• Strelitzia Room Restaurant is celebrating Valentine’s Day on Sunday 13th February.

Go to the Botanical Gardens and enjoy a wonderful day of good food, a great vibe and the Caledonian Pipe Band playing in the Avenue at 11.am. Cost to enter the gardens will be R25 (from 9:00 until 12noon).

In the afternoon The Strelitzia Room has a special High Tea Buffet and lunch. Phone 033 3442207 or 083 225 0238.

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