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One woman waited for her first date with a man she’d met online, sitting at an outdoor table at the appointed place and time.

Readers of my early ’00s newspaper column emailed me with hundreds of horror stories, and sometimes their experiences would bring tears to my eyes.

Having spent my life as a professional communicator, I have to think I am at least a decent storyteller. You have to understand, I stopped dating before the age of the Internet, so there have been 21 years in which a new infrastructure had been built up that I had not been privy to, but again, I am rallying.

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Still, I remained gun-shy—thanks to overexposure to online dating’s downside.

After all, according to marketresearch.com, the dating services business is now a $2.1 billion industry in the U. alone, with niche websites gobbling up ever-larger slices of that pie.

Now, I am not model material but I am not roadkill either, so I was surprised. Further, anyone who has “sitting by a fireplace,” “walking on the beach” or “staring longingly into each other’s eyes” is passed on. I have been in two long-term relationships, and anyone who has been can tell you that you spend more time fighting over who’s going to take out the trash rather than looking at each other adoringly. Affairs columns Bars are not an option for me; they are bacterial breeding grounds for insecurity. I have to give credit to this person, he was the first one in 21 years who got me to open my heart, as bruised and battered as it was.

I sent more than a few emails and received pretty much meager results. I have never had a “type” and in the past was attracted to those older than myself; they generally had more to say and I appreciated their knowledge and understanding of self. Someone 20 years older than me would be in their 70s, so not the same feeling. I like Coldplay, can still make it up the trails at Griffith Park, have been known to savor a musical or two at the Pantages, and have a very open mind and heart. When I say younger, I did not plan for a person in his mid-20s to become part of my new landscape for the four months he did – and no, I did not pay for it.

I stare at the blank form on the website — the one that invites me to open my heart and pursue my soul mate via a labyrinth stocked with eligible men. I was more than capable of getting into my own romantic scrapes and didn’t need a website to exacerbate my bad decision making.

I breeze through the questionnaire: How “green” am I? But just recently, I heard of an entirely new niche in the online dating market, for “conscious singles.” In this case, being conscious means living life in a thoughtful way, following a spiritual path, valuing nonsuperficial things when seeking a life partner. Perhaps my age (middle) and shape (no longer thin) and strong personality (pitta, remember? He gave her the once-over, and just as she raised her hand to wave, the car sped away. Stunning tales of similarly dehumanizing behaviors abounded, and it also became clear that pretty much everyone was lying on their online profiles, often underreporting their age and weight. A car pulled up close and slowed down; she thought she recognized the driver as her date." The dating app Hinge (it's like Tinder but based more on your Facebook friend group) did some experimenting to find out what kinds of opening messages work best once you've been matched with someone. Normally, on Hinge you're free to use whatever opening line you want — it shows you mutual friends and interests then gives you a blank canvas to write whatever you want. But for one month, Hinge gave a random 22% of users the option to use a clever prewritten opening line in addition to writing their own messages. They then tracked which of those prewritten lines were most likely to get a reply, using the data to determine which lines worked best based on gender, location, and how fast you sent a message after getting a match.

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