Tar­get­ing love on­line

Niche dat­ing web­sites help picky sin­gles meet their true match

Windsor Star - - Life - CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

TBY SHAN­NON PROUD­FOOT ired of sift­ing through hun­dreds of prospects in the In­ter­net equiv­a­lent of a hu­man su­per­mar­ket, on­line daters are flock­ing to bou­tique-style sites that prom­ise a choosier range of op­tions. The trend started by cater­ing to spe­cific reli­gions and cul­tures (JDate for Jewish sin­gles was an early ex­am­ple and is still one of the largest, with about 700,000 mem­bers), but there are now sites that re­volve around oc­cu­pa­tions, hob­bies, hair colours, dis­eases and dis­abil­i­ties.

“On­line dat­ing, back when it orig­i­nally was tak­ing off, was a large one­size-fits-all men­tal­ity,” says Michael Carter, pres­i­dent of Pas­sions Net­work Inc., a New York-based com­pany with 110 niche sites.

“Ev­ery day there are new sites out there that are fo­cused on spe­cific niche mar­kets — it seems to be all the buzz.”

His com­pany runs dat­ing and so­cial net­work­ing sites for Scien­tol­o­gists, athe­ists, gun lovers, hor­ror fans, be­liev­ers in the para­nor­mal and red­head en­thu­si­asts, along with more main­stream “solid de­mo­graphic slices.” The sites are in­ter­con­nected, so mus­ta­chioed ve­gan baby boomers can jump be­tween sites re­flect­ing their var­i­ous in­ter­ests.

The en­tire net­work’s mem­ber­ship is about 700,000 peo­ple — in­clud­ing tens of thou­sands of Cana­di­ans — and that’s been dou­bling each year, Carter says.

“The un­der­ly­ing con­cept is that it should be eas­ier to break the ice with peo­ple if you share some­thing in com- mon,” he says.

But the ap­peal goes be­yond ice­break­ers, says Gail La­guna, vice-pres­i­dent of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Spark Net­works, which runs JDate, Asian Sin­gles Con­nec­tion, Deaf Sin­gles Con­nec­tion and Mil­i­tary Sin­gles Con­nec­tion, along with nearly 30 oth­ers. Their net­work in­cludes mil­lions of mem­bers and tens of thou­sands of Cana­di­ans, she says, and they gen­er­ally at­tract sin­gles look­ing for se­ri­ous long-term re­la­tion­ships.

“When it comes time to get mar­ried and raise a fam­ily, things like re­li­gion, eth­nic­ity, tra­di­tions, re­li­gious prac­tis- ing habits — they all come into play,” she says. “If you’re just ca­su­ally dat­ing, th­ese things are less im­por­tant to you.”

For Burn­aby, B.C., res­i­dent Linda Sch­midt, her faith is so cen­tral to her life that it only made sense to look for love on Chris­tian Min­gle.

“I’m a Chris­tian and I wanted to find some­one who was a Chris­tian, so I didn’t re­ally want to waste any time on other sites where I might meet peo­ple who weren’t,” the 35-year-old says.

Three years ago, she went on a first date to a base­ball game with Greg. They got en­gaged five months later, mar­ried five months af­ter that and are now par­ents to 10-month-old Chloe.

“I didn’t want to waste a year and a half or two years dat­ing some­one if I knew I was go­ing to marry them,” says Greg, 33.

In the cou­ple’s so­cial cir­cle are three other mar­ried pairs who met on eHar­mony, a site that uses a com­plex match­ing sys­tem to let sin­gles spec­ify ex­actly what they’re seek­ing. An­other cou­ple met on the same site that brought the Sch­midts to­gether.

“We’re two for two!” Linda says, laugh­ing.

About 10,000 Cana­di­ans be­long to Chris­tian Min­gle, 26,000 to JDate and 12,000 to Black Sin­gles, La­guna says.

For Nancy Fitch, join­ing Green Sin­gles in her search for “some­one fab­u­lous” meant she was more likely to find a match who shared her Earth­friendly out­look and a strong set of per­sonal val­ues. The 39-year-old’s job as a rural fam­ily doc­tor bonds her to a small North­ern On­tario com­mu­nity with lim­ited dat­ing op­tions, so she was open to the idea of es­tab­lish­ing a longdis­tance con­nec­tion with the right per­son.

The en­viro-fo­cused web­site pro­duced a smaller pool of prospects than she found on the large gen­eral dat­ing sites, she says, but the qual­ity was much higher.

“The peo­ple were so ap­peal­ing to me,” she says.

Fitch is now “three dates down, re­ally look­ing for­ward to the fourth date,” with a man she met on Green Sin­gles. Get­ting ready for the fourth date will take more prepa­ra­tion than for most, how­ever: it’s her turn to make the 1,000-kilo­me­tre trek to visit him in south­ern On­tario.

PLENTY OF OP­TIONS: The In­ter­net is crowded with in­creas­ingly spe­cific dat­ing sites, some light­hearted and oth­ers earnest.

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