Digital dating has ensured that the joy and pain, humiliation and disappointment have endured, but the style of their delivery has changed with tech’s disruptive advance.
In 1996, about 77 million people worldwide had access to the web. The only industries making any money out of this little virtual village were, firstly, dear old porn and, secondly, a newfangled thing called internet dating.
(This year, the site was forced to take down a question that poked cruel fun at people with learning disabilities.) It was more like a game than a dating website, and it had tick boxes for things like recreational drug use and recreational bisexuality (heteroflexibility).
OK Cupid was fast, kind of nasty and more about hook-up sex than e Harmony’s soft-focus hopes of marriage and love.
‘It was still very niche,’ says Rebecca Oatley, whose company, Cherish, worked on marketing some of those early sites in the UK.
‘Most people either had no idea what internet dating was, or they thought it was for geeks and losers who were light on social skills.’ The matchmaking machinery was pretty unsophisticated at this stage.
‘Tech just allowed you to place an ad,’ says Amarnath Thombre, chief strategy officer of the Match Group.‘And search for people based on a few basic parameters.’ If you really had a grasp of this stuff, meeting people involved a rendezvous in a wine bar with an identifying item of clothing or a red rose in a lapel.And, as barely anyone had the technical savvy to upload a photo to the internet, there was the inevitable nail-biting wait to see if the date was a hottie or notty – and the nuisance of having to make polite conversation if they were the latter.At one such show earlier this month Matthew - who is a New York Times best-selling author, love expert for The Today Show and columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine - was asked how a girl should respond when she’s asked, after four or five months of dating, to contribute to the dinner bill. “I will always treat my partner how I would treat my best friend. I’d say ‘let’s be team mates here in whatever way we can’. “Because I’d say ‘this is the most polite they’re going to be, and they’re not even paying now’.