How the internet has changed dating
Digital technology and smartphones in particular have transformed many aspects of our society, including how people seek out and establish romantic relationships.Few Americans had online dating experience when Pew Research Center first polled on the activity in 2005, but today 15% of U. adults report they have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps.Over the course of the four years Jenny has been on the site, not one of the men she met has been a member of where she originally posted her profile. Alarmingly, half were not parents at all and only one had a child the same age as her son.Worse still, her picture and profile have been plastered across tawdry dating websites belonging to ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts and Loaded that are more associated with scantily-clad girls in semi-pornographic poses than professional, middle-aged women like Jenny.‘Our job is to get our members in front of as many other members as possible.Members on any of these sites can apply filters to ensure they are not contacted by anyone they don’t want to be.Unbeknown to Jenny, justsingle is run by a parent company called Global Personals — a legitimate company most members never will have heard of, but which passes members’ details freely between the 7,500 sites it owns, meaning they are inundated with unwanted and inappropriate advances.
What she didn’t expect was to find herself posted as a ‘hot date’ on cheesy lads’ magazine sites, and bombarded by spam emails from people who didn’t even exist — or if they did, had anything but a country walk in mind.
Also, in a bid to boost their revenue, the company was specifically employing staff whose sole job it was to set up and run fake profiles on the dating sites, to keep members interested. I was put on the back foot and so flummoxed I didn’t contact him again.’Nonetheless, as the months passed, she was sent three emails a day from unlikely suitors, who ranged in age from 22 to 73. ‘I can’t remember any being particularly crude, but maybe they were and I never saw them.’Jenny says she quickly suspected some of the identities were fake.
Within weeks, Jenny got her first warning signal: She’d begun emailing a fellow single parent from her area and the pair had swapped phone numbers:‘I texted him and said “it’s Jenny from Just Single Parents” and he replied “what? ‘I know I got emails that weren’t from real people,’ she told Channel 4 News.
‘But I’m shocked by how many sites I’ve ended up on. Certainly, Jenny’s experience serves as a cautionary tale to those tempted by the increasingly popular world of online romance, said to be worth £2 billion globally.
She first started internet dating in September 2008, eight months after her seven-year marriage ended. With membership costing £20 a month and members all purportedly having experienced single parenthood, she was more likely to meet like-minded people, she reasoned.
It is the sheer variety of websites Jenny has been made available to that shocked her the most when Channel 4 contacted her a fortnight ago to tell her their findings — and which finally persuaded her to cancel her subscription.