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  •   Looking for Love in Online Places
    By Michael Tedeschi
    Special to The Washington Post
    March 26, 1999

     
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    Last Year's Guide

    So you're looking for love, or at least companionship – but you're bored with bars and leery of office romances, and your last couple of blind dates were as fun as job interviews.

    Well, the Internet offers several ways to meet new people. The first is the personals ads at most portal sites. They're like newspaper personals, just cruder (some may find that's amusement enough). Then there are the chat areas, on America Online but also the Net itself, focusing on "romance" or "relationships." Most of these chatters, however, don't seem to be interested in romance per se so much as sex; the easily offended should click elsewhere.

    The third option is matchmaking sites, such as Matchmaker, Match.com and the Romance Club. At them, you answer a batch of standardized questions about yourself and what you're looking for, then post a narrative self-description. This profile then gets posted, complete with an anonymous e-mail address for interested parties to contact you at; you, in turn, can search through others' responses and read their essays. All of this costs between $7 and $13 a month.

    After exhaustive "research," differences among these sites became evident. Matchmaker can pose some off-putting questions ("Do you have a private place to take a partner?"), but its users, in turn, have some pretty sarcastic answers ("When I can get the car keys"). The thoroughly cheesy Romance Club might as well be the Hair Club. Match.com, one of the biggest and oldest sites, offers more features – for instance, it forwards responses to your e-mail address instead of making you visit its site to see who's said hi – and its members seem a little more mature.

    But even on the better sites there will always be rude, misleading or just odd people. Not everybody wants to date someone with a menagerie of animals and a gun fetish-but you may not find out about those eccentricities until you've invested some serious time. If nothing else, though, using these sites can give you some great stories. Which you can tell to break the ice on your next blind date.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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