Online dating has firmly established its place in our culture. It is everywhere – advertised on billboards, busses, in magazines and, of course, online. It’s talked about at work, on Facebook and in the pub. Gone are the days when dating websites carried a stigma or when people believed they were only used by the lonely or desperate.
The change in attitude is striking and has come about for many reasons. Despite technology easing our lives, people in the UK are working harder and longer than ever before. Family commitments mean people are doing a lot more with their kids these days, and many adults are caring for aging parents too.
In addition the UK’s divorce rate – though the lowest since 1977 – is still high, in fact the highest in Europe. In 2009 10.5 of 1,000 married people got divorced in 2009.* And these figures don’t even include co-habiting couples who split, or married couples who separate but stay under the same roof because one can’t afford to leave.
How, then, do you find a date or romance when your life is time-strapped and close encounters are hard to come by? Online dating is the answer. It provides an easy and affordable option. It’s as simple as selecting the dating site that feels right for you, registering and creating an interesting profile. Then spend some time searching and sending messages and you could soon be on your first date!
Even more striking is the fact that while online dating once carried a stigma, it actually provides a solution to people with conditions that can bring about rejection or judgement. STDs are a case in point. People with herpes or HIV have a very difficult time dating or meeting new partners. Many are rejected after revealing they have an STD. Some are so hurt that they decide to live alone rather than risk the pain brought about by ‘that’ conversation.
There are many STD dating sites. The UK’s first, www.datepositive.net, was launched in 2006 and now has more than 5,000 members. Some members have met their partners and married through the site, while others have developed close and supportive friendships. The site also provides free access to a counsellor, Frankie Hall, and a sexual health specialist, Dr Laurence Gerlis. Its blog contains some moving stories about members who have really struggled with having an STD. Other stories are uplifting and tell of new partners and marriage.
People who use HIV dating and herpes dating sites are just like anyone else. They’ve tried all the usual ways of meeting new people and decided that instead a specialist website is the way to go. Their profile makes it clear what STD they have and therefore they don’t have to meet and worry about rejection. It’s a clear advantage and the members feel safe, secure and are in control.
• Office of National Statistics.