Traditionally thought of as a last resort for lonely hearts, Internet dating sites are reporting co-eds and frat brothers are also joining the ranks of online daters.
According to a March 2006 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 18 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Internet users have visited an online dating site and 31 percent of American adults know someone who has used a dating website.
Gail Laguna, a spokeswoman for Collegeluv.com, a dating site with 500,000 members, said young people use the Internet to search for love because they feel comfortable in this kind of interaction.
“It’s a demographic that has grown up going online to communicate with friends . . . and so [they] are more likely to adopt to using an online dating service,” Laguna said.
She said most of Collegeluv.com’s members are not looking for long-term love when they join the site. Instead, she said, they are just trying to meet new people.
“It’s another way to expand your social circle for those people who may not feel like going out, but still want to socialize and find a relationship,” Laguna said.
Los Angeles-based author and dating coach Evan Marc Katz said he attributes the rise in college-aged online daters to the pervasive role technology and the Internet have in young people’s lives.
“Younger people grew up with computers,” Katz said. “It makes perfect sense to use this medium to find and establish relationships.”
He said people who have pictures of themselves on networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are probably not concerned with maintaining anonymity and would be more open to establishing internet relationships.
“It’s a matter of fact that computers are not an addition to their life — they are their life,” Katz said.
Older generations typically view online dating negatively because they are not used to establishing internet relationships, he said.
“There will be less of a perceived stigma for a generation of people who have never known anything but computers.”
Katz said he did not think most college students have trouble networking and socializing, since they are constantly surrounded by peers. “It’s a little bit surprising that they would need [help finding a date].”
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Nathalie Medina said curiosity made her check out Match.com after the company aired commercials depicting younger people using the dating service.
Expecting to find singles in their 30s and 40s looking for serious relationships, she said she was surprised to find people her own age listed on the website.
Although students have established a stronger presence on dating websites, Medina said she still does not find the idea of finding love online appealing.
“It still has that aura of desperateness,” she said. “It still seems it’s for older people who are searching for their soul mate — I’m so young that I’m just not interested in that right now.”
Staff writer Evelyn Ratigan contributed reporting to this article.