Carolyn Hitt logs on to online dating
By Carolyn Hitt
Log on to love, said the X-Ray team, and so I agreed to let the computer play cupid.
For some, online dating still has a social stigma. My mother was deeply suspicious. She was worried I might end up being stalked by a psychopath from Texas. I persuaded her match-making has come a long way since she hooked up with my father in a Tonypandy dance hall.
Indeed, the stats show the internet has become the mainstream way to meet Mr or Ms Right - there's now a 50:50 chance that any single person you know is currently romancing in the world wide web.
Despite the fact that my social circle includes at least three online marriages, I still had my reservations as I signed up for the most popular paid for (Match.com) and free (Plentyoffish.com) dating sites.
The registration process was particularly thorough on the paid-for site. To build up a detailed profile for others to peruse, there were questions on everything from eye colour to income.
Some were really cringeworthy - "What colour hair would you like to run your fingers through?" for example. But the plus points include detailed guides on how to sell yourself and express what you're looking for in a potential partner. There were also plenty of safety tips on personal security.
Registering on the free site, by contrast, took barely 10 minutes. There were basic questions on height, hair colour, build, interests and profession plus a description of yourself, your ideal partner, and ideal first date.
After penning suitably sassy profiles and posting my most flattering photographs, I waited for cyber cupid to strike.
There certainly were plenty of fish on Plentyoffish.com - almost 60 emails arrived within 48 hours. But there was a bit of plankton too, including several pervy: "I'm married but don't let that put you off" messages; some unimaginative cut and paste emails and several single sentences of grammatically challenged text-speak.
I stored the decent responses from nice guys and deleted the rest. And then the site lost my profile altogether, which, judging from the frustrated responses on the Help Forum, was not an uncommon experience. Lack of IT support may be one of the main drawbacks of a free site.
There was a smaller immediate response on Match.com but it had a better proportion of men who seemed genuine in their search for a partner. They ranged from a 26-year-old in Manchester to a 43-year-old in Kansas.
It was interesting - and slightly depressing - to see how many listed "boldness/assertiveness" in a potential girlfriend as a "turn-off".
And there were still a few chaps who could do with a makeover in the personal PR stakes - especially the one who informed me: "any lady that is interested in me may have to repair the respect I used to have for the female population". Not the best chat up line I've heard...
But, just like life in the offline world, online dating spans the spectrum of personality types and thankfully the oddbods were balanced by thoroughly normal people. And the beauty of letting the computer play cupid is the world of choice it opens up.
With millions surfing in search of The One, surely the odds of meeting him are more favourable than on a boozy night out in Cardiff?
Just remember that although online dating is the future of match-making, like more traditional forms of human interaction you may still have to click on a lot of frogs before you download your prince.
Have you tried internet dating before? Let us know by posting your comments below.