Silicon Beach: Can Twitter Replace Online Dating Sites?

Categories: Silicon Beach
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Illustration via 4braham's Flickr
Is Twitter threatening the success of online dating services? "No," according to Mark Brooks, an analyst and consultant for the online dating industry. Brooks presented a panel late last month at the iDate2010 conference in Miami Beach. He recapped the past year's successes and failures in the online dating industry but barely mentioned the potential of Twitter to generate love matches.

This got Silicon Beach thinking: Surely, there will always be a need for online dating services; they're also social networks. But it begs the question: What about Twitter?

Here are some ways Twitter can be useful and even desirable for dating:

1. Sometimes we trust communities more than individuals.

When you're on a dating site, it's just you and the sea of fish. You're hoping to find the one all on your own without a friend, relative, or colleague to give you the dirt. Though there are services today to protect dating site users from fraud (Silicon Beach will write about that soon), there's nothing like having peers watching over you.

And if you're part of a well-established social networking group, you had better watch your ass if you're not being honest.

Example: Jane dates Joe. Both are in your network. You find out about his real girlfriend. Did everyone know the sneaky bastard had one? No, because he never talked about her and never brought her to any tweetups. Not cool. Jane ends the relationship. Joe is tolerated, but it's never the same. 

You can't get that kind of community watchdog program by flying solo on a dating site that is moderated by computer algorithms.

2. Twitter lets you become acquainted in the town square, not the alley.

When you meet someone on Twitter before you meet in person, chances are it wasn't some random follow. Maybe you found him or her because of a Follow Friday or because you eavesdropped on a conversation. You began talking, threw around a few jokes, and clicked.  By the time you met face-to-face at a tweetup, it felt natural, even though you might've had some butterflies in your belly. There was nothing weird or strange about it. You couldn't be complete strangers even if you tried, because you were already part of a community.

3. You date because you want to meet people. Duh!

Many people think Twitter addicts are recluses who can't handle real-life social interaction. That might be the case for some, but for others, nothing could be further from the truth.

Once you establish yourself in a Twitter network and begin going to tweetups, you realize there is no more natural and organic way to meet people. You aren't going to a gathering with an agenda; you're just being you, hanging out with like-minded people, and having a good time. There's no pressure, no stress, no nerves, and no extra expense. What better place to meet "the one" or at least a potential date when you're relaxed and have no expectations? 

The odds are in your favor. The more people you meet, the greater your chances. It's like speed dating at a slower pace, with a whole community of acquaintances and friends to keep it light and fun.

4. Tweetups get you out of the house.

If you're on the market for a date, sitting in front of your computer and nitpicking through potential profiles is keeping you from stepping out. Get out there and be social. This will help you warm up for that first date. 

It could be a wake up call too. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised when you meet someone you weren't expecting to meet, even if he or she doesn't qualify according to your grand list of requirements.

5. People do meet and hook up without ever posting a profile on a dating site.  

Yours truly knows many examples, including her own romance, which would've never happened without Twitter. Other couples in the South Florida or peripheral Twitter networks have met, dated, gotten engaged, or married. All met in the manner described above, in a community of peers, at ease and with no particular agenda. All share one common denominator: Twitter. 

6. Use what works best for you.

Obviously, dating sites have many advantages to Twitter, such as searches for potential matches. Some sites focus on niche communities, which is crucial if you're into a particular lifestyle. If all you want is a booty call, you know where to look.

But if you're serious about meeting someone, don't knock Twitter as a platform. It might not replace a dating social network, but it's definitely an alternative.

And if you think dating sites provide a safety net or guarantee, think again. That's all going to change radically in the next few years, when dating will become more spontaneous through mobile phone geo-location-based apps that imitate -- you guessed it -- the spontaneity of Twitter.
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