Catchy title, but the article didn't really live up to it.
The next wave in online dating has singles rating each other -- and one misstep can taint a reputation.
By Ellen Gamerman for the Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2006
It's no exaggeration to say that online dating has revolutionized the world of relationships since it took off a decade ago. Now, with growth slowing, sites are looking for new ways to stand out. One increasingly popular strategy: Letting users rate each other, either based on their profiles alone or on the experiences of a first date.
Members of Engage.com can review people after one date for politeness and honesty. Consumating.com users give one another "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" depending on how clever their profiles are. JDate.com encourages members to talk about their dates on a message board, inviting them to share stories of "best dates, worst dates" as well as "turn-ons, turn-offs."
The result is an emerging caste system, where highly rated daters see a lot of action, and others are deemed undateable.
Singles with seemingly innocent attributes are setting off digital flags signaling they're unfit to date, or maybe just slightly less fit than others. A forgetful dater who fails to return an email on Engage.com, for instance, could be branded as rude. Simply living in the wrong ZIP Code can push unlucky members of JDate to the bottom of the queue.
Sometimes daters kill their chances with profiles that state the obvious -- people who say they like to go out for dinner or fix a cozy meal at home, for instance, are simply characterizing the eating habits of most Americans. [See Melina's post on Things I Do Not Like To Read in Online Personals.]
At its most extreme, of course, the new online dating gossip machine can result in someone being publicly humiliated and branded as a cad. That's what happened to Darren Sherman, a New York JDater whose recent dinner with a woman named Joanne became public after details of their date were posted on blogs and passed around via email. In recordings of alleged voice mails and transcripts of emails, the person identified as Darren Sherman repeatedly asks Joanne to reimburse him for her dinner and wine after she rejected him: "You ate the food, you drank the wine, you know, kindly pay your bill."
The majority of undateables are hardly what most people would consider poor prospects. They're not liars or criminals, but eligible single men and women who are being sidelined by the system. They're hitting the wrong note by listing hobbies that scream shut-in -- fantasy football for men, scrapbooking for women -- or by including shots with their heads obscured by skydiving helmets.
Todd Hollis, a 38-year-old Pittsburgh lawyer, says he was filled with hope about a new relationship this past spring when a family member called, directing him to Dontdatehimgirl.com, a site where women post names of men to warn other women off. The site included anonymous allegations that he has a sexually transmitted disease and is a poor dresser (Mr. Hollis denies both).
As for Brian Wolf, the Chicago marketing manager, he says the best solution for his undateability was to take matters into his own hands. This spring, he launched Settleforbrian.com. Mr. Wolf says his site is what major online dating services would be if everyone were honest. Though he writes on the site that his nose is big and he doesn't want kids, he also touts his sense of humor and good job: "I'm by no means perfect, but you could also do a lot worse. …In the end, you'd probably be happier with me than chasing the dream of Mr. Right."
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