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Cyber love holds possibilities

In this day and age it’s not uncommon for people of all ages to meet someone in person that they first encountered via Internet. In fact, Lillian Pettit met her husband online. They’ve been dating for four years. Still, at times she feels uncomfortable in social situations when asked about how they first met.

“I get a little shy when I say, ‘well I met him online,’” the junior and psychology major said. “Because I know it has that odd reaction to it.”

Pettit most certainly isn’t the only person to date someone she met by way of the Internet. According to a national survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a market research firm in Boston, 1 out of 5 women and men said they’ve dated someone they met on the Internet in 2010.

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Although Hannah Apicelli hasn’t online dated herself, she can see the appeal it may have for Georgia State students who do.

“I think it’s a good resource to meet people in your area,” said Apicelli, a junior studying sociology and religious studies. “I think there’s [an] attraction to online dating because it’s more anonymous so you get to create who you are.”

Apicelli may be on to something. The same Chadwick Martin bailey survey found that meeting someone online is the third most-popular way to do so, behind school, work and being introduced by a family member or friend.

Students like Hamza Alharif, a freshman studying respiratory therapy, also understands why dating online is a common way for his peers to connect.

“I think for many people it’s fine because they [can’t] find their soul mate.” Hamza, who’s never dated someone he met online, believes long-term relationships may be the ultimate goal for some of his peers who haven’t had luck in dating otherwise.

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“Maybe he or she can find her boy or girlfriend in [another] city,” he said. “I don’t mind.”

Hamza’s reasoning is supported by some statistics. The onlinedatingbook.org reports that currently 33 percent of online meet-ups result in a relationship. But not all online statistics reveal a happy story. The same website concluded that only 17 percent of relationships started online will be long-term.

For sophomore and managerial science major Christina Coleman, this statistic hits extremely close to home.

“My mom has met [several] of her ex-husbands online,” said Coleman. “So that’s why I really don’t like it.” Aside from the fact that her own mother has experienced the downside of online dating, she still doesn’t think it’s necessary for young people. “I know people who have met up with people that they met online [and] it never really turns out well,” said Coleman.

A psychology professor at the university of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, agrees that online dating has its share of problems.

“Online dating creates a shopping mentality, and that is probably not a particularly good way to go about choosing a mate,” Ph.D. Harry Reis tells a reporter on cnn.com. Due to the manner in which most online dating websites are set up, it reduces the romantic aspect of searching for a partner.

What’s more, there’s no denying that many people who use online dating sites are in it for sexual purposes. Whether they do so intentionally or not, meeting someone online strictly to have sex is where some Georgia State students draw the line.

“I’m against that. I don’t recommend people to do that,” Hazman said. “You don’t know that person online…he or she may [have] diseases. I don’t support that.”

Coleman agrees with Hazman, especially after witnessing her own mother go through similar situations. Speaking about the personas of many online daters, she said “…that’s kind of like a façade I guess, for awhile. I mean eventually they’ll get to know the real person, but…it takes a long time.”

But Pettit, who never casually hooked up with anyone she dated online, doesn’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

“I think if that’s what makes them happy I don’t have an issue with it,” she said. Pettit doesn’t view it negatively “…as long as they’re honest and upfront about it.”

While casual sex may be the motive for many online daters, some Georgia State students believe it’s completely possible to form strong, romantic bonds.

Hamza has a friend who is happily married to a man she met on the Internet.

“Actually [it’s] a great story because she met [him] on the airplane.” According to Hamza, before the couple met online, they encountered one another on the plane. In an eerie stroke of luck, the two just so happened to cross paths on an online dating site. “So that was great for them and they met immediately.” The couple now has a child together, said Hamza.

Even in Pettit’s case, it seems as if lady luck was on her side. After going on a few unsuccessful dates with people she met over the Internet, she decided to give what she refers to as the “most negative” website to find a serious relationship, Craig’s List.

“I decided to write him and we went on a date,” said Pettit after viewing his profile. “I think we just had a lot in common. We were both in New York at the time; we both did online-type dating.” She was also a stay-at-home mother to her two children at the time, which worked in her favor. “…So I think that’s what sets us apart, we had the same interests already.” Pettit and her husband now have children of their own.

For students like Apicelli, online relationships that result in happy marriages like Pettit’s are ideal.

“I don’t know if [online dating is] all worth it, but it might help you if you do it in a healthy way,” said Apicelli. “…I think it depends on the person, [but] hopefully people aren’t just sleeping around for the wrong reasons.”