Lost in Cyberspace
Love Online
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

You can be looking for love in a lot of wrong places online. Especially, believe it or not, if you are a guy. Not that there aren't some legitimate sites, and I should probably start at the beginning.

It began with a publicist wanting me to do a Valentine's Day story on LA-based "Love @ 1st Site" <www.1st-site.com>, an online matchmaker dating service. My first thought was why would anyone need an online dating service when there's the virtual meat market chat rooms of America Online. But just like some people don't like bars, a lot of netizens don't like chat rooms.

For $14 a month, "1st Site" lets you post your picture and profile, and search through the 37,000 picture profiles of its members. Members wanting to contact you first send an email to "1st Site," which forwards it to you, so everything is safe and secure. The publicist said there are a few competing online dating services, but "1st Site" is on America Online, which gives it about 20 million legs up on the competition.

Seemed like an easy gig. But when I went to check out "Love @ 1st Site" on AOL, I forgot the keyword (1st Site). So I decided to try and find it on the Web. I went to a search engine, typed in "Love@," and one of the first links it found was "Love @ First Sight" <www.loveatfirstsight.com>.

I clicked to it, and up popped a website with a Beverly Hills drop box and the message: "Success at last finding the beautiful, unattached women you otherwise would never encounter. Point & click your way through a gallery of beauties who are waiting to meet you. And remember, it's always FREE to see our girls!"


While looking is free, it costs $5 to send an email to one of the "girls." Let me say that again: $5 to send an email. Somehow that didn't seem right. Nor did it seem right that that stacked chick in the bikini posed in front of that red Ferrari really needed to advertise on the Internet to get a date. But I bet she sure gets a lot of email...

At the bottom of the page was a link to "Cupid's Network" <www.cupidnet.com>, which took me to "The World's Largest Network For Singles." Among the 61 matchmaking websites listed there were "Introducing.com," ("for upscale discriminating Internet users"); "2 of a Kind" (gays and lesbians); "Global-Village Love Connection" ("Meet Singles Locally or Globally!"); and "Friends First" ("A Singles site you can feel good about!")

Each has its own special features and fees. "Matchmaker" <www.mm.org>, for example, costs $25 a year. In addition to email, it offers chat and lets you look for friends by region, age or religion, including the "Jewish MatchMaker" website, which of course is at <www.yenta.email.net>.

"Friend Finder" <www.friendfinder.com>, divides its members into people interested in romance, pen pals, activity partners, and "other purposes," including an adult site where the questionaire goes into considerably more detail than your favorite movie and sign. There are some free areas of "Friend Finder," but just enough to tease you into wanting a silver ($60 a year) or golden ($100 a year) membership.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one other genre of online matchmaking, which is the international bride bazaar, especially Russian brides. Many of these sites are similar in substance, if not chutzpah, to the Yorba Linda, Calif.-based "International Singles Club" <www.is-club.com>.

The website is for "men seeking committed relationships with beautiful single Russian ladies who are well-known all over the world for their traditional values and high morals. Unlike most American women they are very unpretentious and family-oriented."

There's more, much more, but let me skip down to the part about cost: "only $10.00 per address plus $5.00 shipping and handling fee (US Dollars only)." For your $15 you receive an address in both English and Cyrillic, plus a photo, profile, phone, fax number, and email address "(if they have a phone, fax and/or email address available) and a letter of introduction to each lady from our company."

The company recommends you order your Russian brides in quantity: "Do not hesitate to make several selections. The more you choose the better your chances are for success. Most of our clients start out with 24 or 36 addresses."

Let's see, times $15 that would be...

But I digress. I finally found "Love @ 1st Site" on AOL, and it was as advertised. Pictures, profiles and private email. It looks legit to me. But you know what? "Love @ 1st Site" is part of AOL's "Digital City," which also has other singles resources, including a place to post your picture and profile. About the only difference is that you use your AOL email address instead of going through "1st Site." Well, that and $14 a month.

© 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.