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Online dating; It's not just for nerds, perverts and weirdos anymore

A guy I've known for several years tells me he's met someone he really likes, although she seems to be sending mixed signals.

Good for him, I thought. So I start on the questions, figuring I'm preparing him for the larger interrogation he'll get when he decides to tell his mom about the girl.

'What's her name?' I asked. Rebecca.

'How old is she?' 24.

'What's she do?' Works for a small startup company. Has a science degree.

'When did you meet her?' About a month ago.

'How did you meet her?' I answered her personal ad on Craigslist.com.

That last part brought me up short. My first reaction was that this situation was, well, pathetic.

Everything I know tells me that the Internet is not a place to date. A place to blog about one's miserable life and buy antique furniture, sure, but not to date. After all, there are perverts on the Internet.

During the spring, headlines were full of the fact that until recently, MySpace alone had about 7,000 registered sex offenders crawling around on it. There's even a reality TV show based on busting online predators.

Meeting people is easy, right?

When you're living in a dorm and you can be almost completely assured that none of your neighbors is a registered sex offender, this is true. And yet there are extenuating circumstances.

Once your university has handed you that umpteenth-thousand-dollar degree, you're on your own for more than just income. A lot of things are different out here in the post-college world.

The guy in question has a job that doesn't allow him to meet many people — especially women — his age. Another friend recently bemoaned the fact that she is no longer in school and has a new job with a bunch of older people.

"How am I supposed to meet people?" she asked recently during an online chat.

Excellent question. I never thought about it, certainly not when I was held up in McCarty and working an on-campus job.

There's a sense of, "who, me? Online dating? even among those who met over the Net and developed something wonderful.

A friend of a friend met his girlfriend online. They've been together for several years and seem happy.

The girlfriend was quick to assure me that she "wasn't the kind of person" who dated over the Internet, "and neither is he" when I asked how she and her boyfriend originally met. "It was just one of those things that was meant to happen," she said serendipitously.

Internet dating makes sense. Is it any wonder, given the amount of time we spend in front of our computers that dating and mating will eventually become like Googling and YouTubing? I'm surprised there aren't any YouTube personals.

Oh wait — there are.

In the interests of research only, I went hunting for anyone desperate enough to create a serious video personal ad and found several, including one from a New York single who laments the fact that online dating sites have become "just overcrowded."

Since we have the capacity to stream our words and looks over video, is Internet dating now the wave of the future? Possibly. But the concept — as with much of the post-college world — does take some getting used to.

As for my friend, things didn't quite work out with Rebecca. It wasn't that she was a sociopath or anything. They went on a few dates and decided things wouldn't work out, just as if they'd met randomly in a coffee shop or a dorm.

[Reach columnist Blythe Lawrence at opinion@thedaily.washington.edu.]

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