Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

More and more people seek their heart's desire online, and online dating offers pluses. You can introduce yourself to many thousands of like-minded folks without actually having to talk to them or find a graceful way to explain that you have to wash your hair that night.

And there are minuses. Like, which of the nine zillion sites do you go to? How do you fill up that all-important profile? Do you send a picture and what kind? And almost makes you kind of nostalgic for the hours spent trying to decode newspaper personals.

Later on in the program, Jon Bon Jovi joins us to take your calls about his new album. You can e-mail your questions now. The address is talk@npr.org. But first, call us with your questions about online dating and if you use online dating sites, which ones, why and did it work? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255, e-mail talk@npr.org. And you could join the conversation on our blog, npr.org/blogofthenation.

Dan Savage joins us now. He's the editor of the Stranger, a Seattle weekly paper and he writes the syndicated advice column "Savage Love." Dan is in the Seattle studios of member station KUOW.

Nice to have you on the program again, Dan.

Mr. DAN SAVAGE (Columnist, "Savage Love," The Stranger): Thanks for having me back, Neal.

CONAN: And for the purposes of full disclosure, we should mention you do write a blog for an online dating Web site, chemistry.com. And I wanted to begin by asking, you know, why people go online? The more I think about it, it's why not?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, we've decided culturally that it's no longer okay to make passes at people - anonymous people that we don't know - on the bus. We don't want our families to fix us up with anybody. A lot of people believe you're not allowed to date your friend's exes, and you're certainly not allowed to express any attraction to anyone you might happen to work with.

CONAN: Yeah, of course not.

Mr. SAVAGE: So we need environments where - we needed something, we needed some place for people to self-nominate and say, I'm here in this space, you may approach me and you're not going to get sued or arrested for hitting on me in this space. And that's what the online world really has become.

CONAN: And it's curious. It's this combination of intimacy and anonymity.

Mr. SAVAGE: It is. And also, it sifts and filters in a way that is sometimes creepy. You know, people who have very peculiar sexual interests can all find each other now.

I mean, the Internet has created communities of people who, you know, even 10 years ago didn't know that there was anyone else like them, and we won't get too specific because it's still on shower…

CONAN: There you go.

Mr. SAVAGE: …in a lot of places. But also, it's allowed people to say, you know, I'm a Jewish woman looking for a Jewish man. And, you know, previously, sometimes a Jewish woman who is interested in dating might accidentally fall in love with someone who wasn't Jewish and then, you know, the heart wanted what it wanted and other things had to be rearranged.

And I think you're going to see less of those matches as more people use the Internet to sift and sort and rule people out without meeting them first in deciding whether or not that they might make an exception for that particular person.

CONAN: So oddly, the role of pheromones is sharply reduced.

Mr. SAVAGE: It is. It is. But people still have to meet. There is still the issue of chemistry. I'm not plugging that one, I'm sorry. There is the issue of chemistry that still has to be taken into account. Someone may look great on paper and literally, you know, pheromones play a role and chemistry plays a role and scent plays a role.

You may meet someone and just react badly to their chemical composition, to the way they smell. Everything else may be perfect. They may be your dream guy on paper and you just don't want to be close to that person for a chemical reason. That's really inexplicable.

CONAN: Yeah. Is - let's see if we get some callers in on this. We want to hear from a lot of listeners. 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And Kay(ph) is with us, Kay in Redding, California.

KAY (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

KAY: I want to say first, thanks to Dan Savage. I've read his book. It was both very entertaining and informative.

Mr. SAVAGE: I tried, thanks.

KAY: I was online for one year. I'm 48 and I decided that in one year, I would give it one last try to see if I would find someone that I would like to marry. And in 10 days, I will marry the man I met two years ago on match.com.

CONAN: Congratulations.

Mr. SAVAGE: There you go.

KAY: We're both nerds and very intellectual-type people. We live in a rural area. And it was just a very good way for us to meet each other. And I started out with e-Harmony. And as I kind of gained more knowledge of the online dating experience, I felt like I didn't need the more big brother type approach that e-Harmony offered. And I went on to Match, and within six months, I had met the man that I intend to marry.

CONAN: Let me ask you though about those earlier years…

KAY: Yes.

CONAN: …of frustration if you will.

KAY: Well, I was very highly educated and so I was in school so much that I never had the time to really meet other people. I did date some in my 20s, but none of them ever became very serious.

CONAN: And when you went online, initially that didn't work out so well either.

KAY: No, it didn't. And I began to learn that if I approach the whole thing as a learning experience for a year, it was much easier. I learn from every match, I learn from every rejection. And I met all kinds, I probably met 500 men in a year and I couldn't have done that in probably 10 years.

CONAN: Is rejection easier online?

KAY: Oh, by far. By far, because I rejected and had myself rejected. I think the worst rejection - I was matched with a man who was a, believe it or not, a Hollywood movie producer, which was very strange to me. We got along famously and e-mailed for a time. Then we came to the point where we both asked for pictures, he viewed my picture and e-mailed me back that I just wasn't the type of person for him. That one was hard.

Mr. SAVAGE: And that can hurt.

KAY: Yup. That one was very hard.

Mr. SAVAGE: And that's one of the dangers of online. I think the best sites are the ones where you disclose a photo and a lot of information about yourself, and sites now that require some verification so that people can't create false profiles and then, you know, just lead people on…

KAY: Yes.

Mr. SAVAGE: …and tease them and never actually be interested in a face-to-face meeting or a real relationship.

KAY: Yeah, I agree. He is right that there were many men I did meet that you do have to be rather savvy. I did meet one man and corresponded with him for a while until, I usually would get to the point where if I decided it would go a little further, I would do a online personal search and run it, and I found people who had criminal records, and I found a man who was married and approached the person with the information. They weren't very happy. But I was very glad I'd run the search.

Mr. SAVAGE: That's smart. People need to do that. You need to not be completely credulous when you're meeting people online any more than you would be meeting people in your regular life. In regular life though, you know, if somebody works for your employer, you know they were vetted by someone; if they're friends of friends, you know they were vetted by your friends; if they know your family, they - somebody's vouching for them. Online - nobody is vouching, and you have to be smart and use your common sense and not take people at face value without being too suspicious or negative, because then you're not going to ever meet anybody.

KAY: That's very correct.

CONAN: Kay, where are you registered? We'll get something for you.

KAY: Where am I registered?

CONAN: I'm just kidding.

KAY: At bgregistry.com.

CONAN: All right. Congratulations. Have a wonderful wedding.

KAY: We're looking forward to it.

CONAN: All right. Bye-bye.

KAY: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail from Cherie(ph) in San Francisco. Online dating encourages isms. I'm an attractive, intelligent, worldly African-American lesbian, and put my picture, including my incredibly awesome motorcycle on one online dating Web site and got zero hit. It's my opinion that anyone with a propensity for prejudice can operate with impunity in this virtual world.

The LGBT community is no different from the community at large. People of color are disadvantaged. There's no way to level the playing field. Fortunately, I have an incredible girlfriend but was very disheartened. And if I ever need to, would still never use that medium to meet potential partners.

Mr. SAVAGE: There is - people talk about the digital divide and there is a real digital divide and there are fewer people of color, fewer minorities who are online. And that impacts negatively people of color or minorities who are looking for love online. They're going to have a smaller pool to draw from. And unfortunately, there's lot of people out there who aren't open to all sorts of different people as possibilities.

And sometimes, I think people rule people out without thinking. And sometimes, I don't think it's intentional racism but casual, thoughtless racism, which doesn't make it sting any less in someone's experience.

But as the digital divide, you know, becomes less of a problem - as more people come online, as more people of color, minorities come online - I think African-Americans and other minority groups will find more options and more people online like them and interested in them.

CONAN: Yet - and meaning no offense to Cherie - you would think - I have no direct experience, but you could probably find a Web site that focuses on lesbians with awesome motorcycles.

Mr. SAVAGE: I'm sure you can. And I know from most of my lesbian friends that the motorcycles are real selling point.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to - this is Enya(ph), Enya with us from Ypsilanti in Michigan.

ENYA (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

ENYA: I have some beefs with online dating.

CONAN: Go ahead.

ENYA: I've never done it before, but it seems to me like it's just making love like a consumer product. Like, you played the clip before, you know, we have to market ourselves, and just seems too dirty, the process of falling in love and getting to know someone and having to actually, you know, commit some of your, you know, personal well-being to actually go out of your way to say, hey, I like you, you know what, in person.

CONAN: Yeah, but if you were going out to a bar to meet some people, wouldn't you take care to dress up especially nice? Thereby, marketing yourself?

Mr. SAVAGE: And what do we call going out to bars or - I meant of the regular places where we do meet people. We say we're going on the prowl, we say we're going mate shopping, we wish people happy hunting when they're going out with their friends to a place where they might meet somebody. You know, the idea that only online is this modification or this scrutiny, and that stuff is there is not true. It exists everywhere.

CONAN: But I think she does have point, Dan, about the de-personalization of it. At least, if you're going reject somebody, you know, I'm not sure it's nicer to do it face to face, but at least you had to say I'm washing my hair that night.

Mr. SAVAGE: But one thing that online gives you that real time meetings do not is online you can put, you know, your best picture or no picture, and you can impress somebody with your mind before they judge you base solely on your looks. A lot of online relationships begin with e-mail exchanges or live chats where you're really listening to what the person says and getting appeal for how they think.

And people who go to bars, you know, bars have their advantages. The person is right there in front of you. Bars have their disadvantages because you really are going to assess people just on looks, and often, people are inebriated in bars, and their - maybe their inhibitions are lower or maybe their judgment is impaired. And so, bars have their strengths and demerits, and otherwise, I mean, if people strengths and demerits, and so does online.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Enya, which - if your not trying online, what are you trying?

ENYA: Well, I'm married so…

CONAN: Ah, out of circulation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAVAGE: How long have you been married?

CONAN: And how long…

Mr. SAVAGE: How long have you been married? Sorry.

ENYA: Oh, I've been married for about three and a half years.

CONAN: And…

Mr. SAVAGE: You didn't do any online dating before you married?

ENYA: No, I didn't. I met my husband in college. We both work at - with a voluntary organization, so.

CONAN: Hmm. Well, I'm glad it worked out for you.

ENYA: Thank you. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Appreciate it. We're talking with Dan Savage about online dating. And we're going to get some tips when we come back about filling out those profile questions. And if you would like to join the conversation, give us a call at 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. We'll be back. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're discussing today the pluses and minuses of online dating. Our guest is Dan Savage, editor of the Stranger, the weekly paper in Seattle, who also writes the syndicated advice column, "Savage Love." If you'd like to join us 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us, talk@npr.org.

And joining us now is Kerensa Vest. She's an online profile coach, founder of true.com, an online dating service. She joins us now from her home in Dallas, Texas. Nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. KERENSA VEST (Online Profile Coach; Founder, True.com): Oh, thank you for having me.

CONAN: And that profile - what mistakes do you see people making?

Ms. VEST: Well, I see a lot of people not posting photos, which is their choice, but photos - profiles are 23 times more likely to be noticed if they have a photo posted. They also - I've noticed they don't put their headlines, and that is very important. You know, this is all about advertising and marketing yourself and if you don't have a headline out there, you don't have anything to - you don't have the slogan to draw people in.

CONAN: You don't have a slogan. So, you better come up with a slogan for yourself. A lot of people have a hard time doing that.

Mr. SAVAGE: Millions and millions served.

CONAN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAVAGE: That's not the slogan I think you want.

CONAN: It's billions now, Dan. It's billions. The - are there common reasons why people do not succeed in finding a match online?

Ms. VEST: Well, I don't think they get out there enough. They don't go to the searches every day. They don't take advantage of all the tools that are offered, all the different testing that's out there. They don't, you know, post the photos. They don't write enough about the about-me section. There's just not getting out there enough. It's kind of like…

Mr. SAVAGE: I also…

CONAN: Go ahead, Dan.

Mr. SAVAGE: I think that's…

Ms. VEST: Sorry. Oh…

Mr. SAVAGE: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Ms. VEST: You go ahead.

Mr. SAVAGE: I think people get too easily discouraged. You hear a lot from people who say I tried e-Harmony, or I tried match.com, or I tried one Web site, and I had a bad experience or met one person with a bad experience and I just soured on online dating - I'll never go back. And I always say this to people, like if you look into one bar in your whole life and you had a bad night, would you never ever go to a bar again? Or, just, like, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back out there? You just have to get back out there.

And I don't think people should do online exclusively. I think people should still try to meet people through friends. I think people should leave the house and getaway from the DSL line every once in a while. But online is another strategy, and if you're trying to, like you said, market yourself and advertise yourself, it's a good way to do it. It's not the only way to do it. And you should become, you should have a thick skin, just like you would if you're walking into a single's bar for the first time.

CONAN: Here's an instructive e-mail, I think, we got from Shelley(ph) from Jacksonville, Florida. My husband and I met through e-Harmony. We've been married now for more than two years. I found, the most astounding part of the whole process was the freedom to say upfront that we were looking for a spouse, something never done when dating in person.

I was able to present my less-than-perfect attributes by sending him a humorous list of my 10 biggest faults. Traditionally, he is more than I would ever have asked for if I'd made up a list of qualities I was looking for in a man. I have to admit, though, that without the encouragement of my teenage daughter, I'd probably have deleted his profile after seeing his picture - what a loss that would have been. So there are aspects of this, Kerensa Vest, that being upfront seems to work for some people.

Ms. VEST: Absolutely, I mean, people need to read the profiles and that's why it's so important that you write a lot about yourself, and you have that catchy headline. Like she said, you know, she'd seen the picture, she might have just deleted it. But something grabbed her eye and she continued on. And that's a great attitude to have.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And be careful not to say, well, that's out of my league, I better not reply.

Ms. VEST: Right.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get…

Mr. SAVAGE: And I like to encourage more women not to judge men solely on their looks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAVAGE: You're just brutal, Dan, just brutal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see, we get a caller on the line and this is Jeffrey, Jeffrey with us from Pocatello in Idaho.

JEFFREY (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

JEFFREY: The thought I'd had as I listen to this and also knowing people who've used online dating is that it not only makes easier to weed through many of the people who'd maybe you wouldn't want to hang out with, but it also makes cheating easier for the same reasons.

You don't have to spend time face to face. You can - actually, if you're having problems or you just, for whatever reason, you're looking outside of your relationship, you can do this simply online and find that person who is empathical(ph) to that.

CONAN: Yeah. And Kerensa Vest, as Dan Savage pointed out earlier, this is something that does - it does make it easier because of that anonymity online and there's nobody vouching for the person.

Ms. VEST: Well, I think that's very sad. You know, it's true we do married screenings, so we do check for married people.

There are a lot of people out there that do want to cheat. And there are sites out there for cheaters. And I think that's fine if, you know, there's two consenting adults that want to cheat. And that's okay with each other. Then that's fine, but I…

Mr. SAVAGE: Then it's not cheating.

Ms. VEST: …dedicated site. I'm sorry?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, then it's not cheating. If the people have an open marriage, or an open relationship and are honest about that with their - the partners outside their marriage, then I don't think it's fair to describe it as cheating. It's just an open marriage.

CONAN: I think she was talking about - the cheaters may be honest with each other, but not necessarily with the spouses. Anyway…

Mr. SAVAGE: Then withdraw him.

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. SAVAGE: Sorry about that.

CONAN: Jeffrey, thanks very much. And we know, of course, you would never do anything like that.

JEFFREY: Never, never…

Ms. VEST: Shame, shame on you.

JEFFREY: …desire there.

CONAN: Here's e-mail from Jason in Marshall, Michigan. I just wanted to let you know that I've had experience with online dating, both good and bad. As a matter of fact, it was through online dating service I met my partner. We now have been happily together almost three years. Of course, I think, it would have been prudent for Dan to discuss the safety aspects of meeting people for the first time, face-to-face after meeting online, i.e. meet in a public place. Is that good advice, Dan Savage?

Mr. SAVAGE: That is excellent advice. And I always emphasized that in the column. I'm sure we would have gotten to it…

CONAN: Yes.

Mr. SAVAGE: …that, you know, you don't go to somebody's house the first time you meet them. You do want to have their real name. You do want to have a work phone number and a home phone number.

You know, somebody who, you've met online - just as you, if you've met somebody online - should be forthcoming with details about your private life because, again, there's not a group a whole group of people vouching for the person implicitly that are involved.

And that person needs to go out of the way, out of their way. And you need to go out your way to let him know that you're real. But also, you know, trust your mother, cut the cards. The first meeting has to be in public. It's good for an online - if you've met online, for your first meeting not to be open-ended. Not dinner and a movie and dot, dot, dot, but lunch in the middle of the day, when you both taken a long lunch and have to get back to work, so that you have, you know, an out that is respectful and can be none, sort of, confrontational or weird, where you can say, well, I have to go back to work now.

And that's true whether or not you want to see the person again. It's true. And then, you can, you know, think about the date, think about how, when to make a second date or third date and then have an open-ended dot, dot, dot date.

Ms. VEST: And I think it's also important if you're not on online dating site that does background checks to have a background check done on the person before you meet them. You know, there's a lot of public, you know, publicdata.com. They do background checks for - I really don't know how much they charge, but I don't think it's that expensive. And you find out a lot about the person right there before you agree to meet out with them and put yourself that risk.

CONAN: And, Kerensa Vest, just to get an example of one online dating service, the one you run, true.com, how much does that cost?

Ms. VEST: It is $50 a month.

CONAN: A month.

Ms. VEST: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: And does that - any guarantees?

Ms. VEST: Well, we do - no, there's, I mean, there's no guarantees that we do, you know, the background checks on people. We do married checks on people and we have the only scientifically proven compatibility test online. So it's a lot less expensive than getting out there and dating actually.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yeah. There's no guarantee when you pay a cover charge - you're walk into a bar either.

CONAN: No, there isn't. And would you - before we let you go, Kerensa Vest, is there any tip you might give listeners for reading other people's profiles?

Ms. VEST: Ah, just like that one caller said, you know, keep an open mind. Just, you know, look at everybody. Don't just judge by a picture. You know, read their headline, read the about-me, look at over its body.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much and good luck with your company.

Ms. VEST: Thank you.

CONAN: Kerensa Vest is an online profile coach and co-founder of True.com, and she joined us today from her home in Dallas, Texas. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Kate(ph), Kate with us from Phoenix, Arizona.

KATE (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

KATE: I am, I just wanted to say that I was on Match and I had over 5,000 hits. And it became a part time job for me. It took over a lot of the time at work on computer and - to Dan's point, you - even though, you take the time to sort of look through all the stuff, it's still it's a far more time incentive thing than going through a bar.

And in terms of doing background checks - gosh, background checks are what? Ten bucks apiece. What I used to do was I'd call a good friend and say I'm going out with this person. This is his name. This is his number, so I had a backup a least.

CONAN: Oh, I thought you're going to say you'd call a friend and say call me in two hours, and I should leave if I need to.

Mr. SAVAGE: Make sure I'm alive.

KATE: Yes, right. Well, that was a concern and it was - you find, I think there's a huge learning curve here. There is - you find the serial e-mailers, the guys who just want to spend time on e-mail. You find guys who are, you know, just out for the obvious and I just think, you know, open-minded good caution is also really fine.

Mr. SAVAGE: And you need to be - one of the ways you can win over the field is to be really sort of cognizant and upfront about what your deal-breakers are and the people that you're not interested, while also hopefully, still maintaining little bit of an open mind about the things that may be your deal breakers and may be not. And also, it's really good, sort of, rule of thumb not to have a long drawn out six month e-mail correspondents with someone if what you're looking for is a real time, face-to-face relationship.

You know, if you both have profiles and you establish that you're interested in each other and you exchange a couple of e-mails and your compliments to each other, ask for a meeting right away. And if they're not willing to meet or they have a million excuses or they stand you up, then they are game player. You need to rule them out and delete their profile from your list

CONAN: Hmm.

KATE: It's interesting because especially on Match, where you're given the opportunity to talk about the things you're looking for, one of the things that struck me about it was that the men in particular keep it as hugely open-ended. You can be, you know, any color of the rainbow, speak any number of languages, have any number, you know, amount of income.

And as a woman, I thought, wow, that means you're not really picky because I had very specific requirements about, you know, height and build and children and all kinds of stuff. So that was a real red flag to me.

Mr. SAVAGE: But that just means that you needed to look at the guys who were as specific as you are, and I'm sure they were out there and then you wouldn't have to do 50,000 background checks, just maybe 500.

KATE: Exactly, exactly.

CONAN: Here's e-mail. We got…

KATE: I felt just very genuine from the experience. I thought, you know, I met some really interesting people, but engaged to the guys who worked (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Here's an e-mail we got from Kim in Los Gatos, California. I met my current husband online. We're now happily married and have a bouncing baby boy. My suggestion for women with online dating is to include a bottle of beer in their photo. It worked for me. Was that the mistake you made, Kate?

KATE: No, no, no. That wasn't a problem that I had. No, actually, I just did what another one of your caller's suggestion. I took, you know, a really good photo and I had one photo posted and it was a hit apparently.

CONAN: Good photograph. Well…

KATE: That's it.

CONAN: Congratulations on the picture, if not your experience on online dating.

KATE: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Kate joining us from Phoenix, Arizona. Our guest is Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger, the weekly paper in Seattle and the author of the syndicated advice column "Savage Love."

If you'd like to join our conversation about online dating, our number is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And let's get - this is Paul. Paul is with us from Boulder, Colorado.

PAUL (Caller): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

PAUL: I'm going to be reinforcing what your previous caller just said from a male perspective that photo is the most important marketing tool that a woman could have. After all, we men are unfortunately still very superficial about what we want, and the first thing we do look at is a…

CONAN: Is a picture, is a picture, is a picture. Yes, there you go, Paul.

PAUL: But and - what I would like to recommend also is at the index somewhere in the profile that the person mention how recent the photo was, and not limited to just one shot…

CONAN: It's like those…

PAUL: …and perhaps to have one of the face and also one of the other things that men would want.

CONAN: I'm not sure…

PAUL: That's not going to be cruel or anything…

Ms. KASHIECA: I'm not sure you want a, you know, like mug shots, one in front, one from the side, but I think dating some, you know, at least assurance that this is taken the last two or three years might be useful.

Mr. SAVAGE: And you need to use your common sense. If it's look too good to be true, probably-is rule applies to online dating and photographs. There's a million digital images all over the Web and anybody can grab anybody's photograph and re-use it.

And so, you know, you probably - if you want to see - better than I think, you know - bare naked lady shots to draw the guys or shots of the same person in several different social settings, where it's clearly, you know, different hairstyle, same person, different times of the year, same person - so you know that it's not just random images plucked from the Web somewhere. But again, you have to use your common sense.

CONAN: I suppose (unintelligible) they're probably a dead give away.

PAUL: It's about that you hear the most common mistake that a lot of women make in my opinion…

CONAN: Yeah.

PAUL: …is wearing sunglasses and also taking photos with something obstructing them or being very fuzzy or being very far away that you really can't see them. You do have a photo, but you really can't tell, you know, what the person looks like.

CONAN: And did you send your photograph out, Paul?

PAUL: My photograph is after. Be glad to give all the particulars you'd want. I think I have a pretty good profile, not had great success, and I love online dating. I've been doing it for years. And I've had success in terms of, you know, meeting people I've had long-term relationships with too. So I'm all for it.

CONAN: All right, Paul. Thanks very much. Appreciate the phone call.

PAUL: You're most welcome.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail from Scott in St. Louis, Missouri. The biggest problem with online dating is participants spent too much time e-mailing and in telephone conversations before meeting in person. While doing this, they assign each other positive attributes they can't possibly live up to in real life. To make Internet dating worth the best is to meet right away.

Mr. SAVAGE: Exactly, which is why I said meet right away. You also don't want to hurt someone's feelings by establishing an emotional bond that then once you meet in person and you're assessing them physically, and it doesn't work for you.

They don't work for you. They're not what you want. You know, you can really wound somebody by getting, you know, an emotional bond, going establishing emotional rapport, really starting a relationship through e-mail and telephone calls and then meeting them and shattering everything because the meeting didn't go well in person. You don't want to be cruel like that, which is why one or two e-mail exchanges, one or two phone calls - meet.

CONAN: Another e-mail, this from Debbie in Colorado. Does your guest have any thoughts on dating online for people with physical disabilities?

Mr. SAVAGE: It's a wonderful too. There are online dating sites that are specifically for people with physical disabilities. And off the top of my head, I can't remember the name of one of them, and I don't have the Internet connection to look them up really quickly.

But if you Google the specifics, and disability in dating in online, you'll come up with many sites. And it is a great way for people who are disabled to meet other people who are also disabled or not put off by disability and in some instances, attracted to people with disabilities.

That creeps out some people with disabilities but, you know, everyone needs to have an open mind, and you don't want to rule people out arbitrarily. And there's some people who are attracted to people with disabilities who are also very good people. And I don't think it should be ruled out. I've met some in person, and I know some people who've had successful relationships based on those Web sites too.

CONAN: And…

Mr. SAVAGE: …and meetings out of those Web sites.

CONAN: Just remember that the Internet is almost, by definition, a huge collection of niches and there's going to be a niche out there for almost everybody.

Mr. SAVAGE: There is and it's - that's what's so terrific about the Internet is the way it can sift and win out, which is also sometimes is bad about the Internet, you know. Like I said at the beginning of the program, there are times when - and it was great when people would meet and fall in love with people who were completely outside their sort of social, religious or ethnic universe.

But love happen because circumstance brought them together. And if you're ruling people out arbitrarily all of your profile, you're not opening yourself up to that. However, there are a lot of people out there who have very specific needs or very specific limitations and the Internet can find them partners and bring them together and make them happy. And that's a terrific tool.

CONAN: Coming up, we'll take a couple more of your questions about online dating with Dan Savage. Also, if you've ever wanted to thank Jon Bon Jovi for a priceless karaoke moment, this is your chance. 800-989-8255. You'll join us when we come back. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

In a few minutes, Jon Bon Jovi will join us, but right now, we're wrapping up our conversation on online dating with Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger, the weekly paper in Seattle who writes the syndicated advice column, "Savage Love." He is with us from KOUW, our member station in Seattle. Dan, do you ever think you'd be the warm up act for Jon Bon Jovi?

Mr. SAVAGE: I keep thinking about opening for Jon Bon Jovi and I'm just staggered by it. What an honor. What a privilege.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail we got from Rachel(ph) in Iowa City. I'm a young, smart, attractive woman. I am always afraid that if I use an Internet dating site, it will be assumed that there is something wrong with me because I can't find a guy in a normal fashion. In addition, being from a fairly small place, I know all of the people who are on JDate already.

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, that's just something you have to get over, you know. People used to be embarrassed to be seen walking in the single's bars or bars that were, you know, where they might get picked up. It's just, you know, it's something you have to get over - it's much less shame now attached in dating. Really, everybody is doing it. So, you know, you may worry that your friends are going to find out that you have an Internet dating profile up and tease you a little bit for it. But so what? So you got tease a little bit.

It's not a shameful thing to put yourself out there, put yourself on a dating site, you know. Maybe you'd be embarrass if you are on a, like, really crazy dating site and your friends found it, or a super kinky dating site and your friends found it. But if you're just coming on JDate, I really don't think you have anything to worry about even in Iowa.

CONAN: JDate is for Jewish people.

Mr. SAVAGE: Correct.

CONAN: All right. Trisha(ph), Trisha is joining us from Cedar Rapids in Iowa.

TRISHA (Caller): Yes. Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

TRISHA: I'm 50 years old. My husband is 53. We began corresponding on relationships.com because our face was mutually important to us. We were both reluctant participants and we began our first correspondents on June 28th. We immediately - after 63 pages of correspondents, he made the trip from Cedar Rapids to Indianapolis, Indiana, where I lived and that was on July 5th. And on November 25th, we were married and it's been the most incredible experience wonderful times for both of us. Our children…

Mr. SAVAGE: And thank God…

TRISHA: Pardon.

Mr. SAVAGE: And thank God for the Internet. The Internet took two people who live in different states who never in a million years would have found each other who were totally, it sounds, perfect for each other.

TRISHA: And particularly at our ages.

Mr. SAVAGE: And brought you guys together. Pardon?

TRISHA: Particularly at our ages.

Mr. SAVAGE: And that your age.

TRISHA: I mean we…

Mr. SAVAGE: And brought you guys together. What a wonderful tool that is.

TRISHA: It's been an awesome experience. There's still a stigma, I would say, attached. It's a little bit embarrassing to talk about how we met but it's getting easier. There's a little bit of a stigma…

Mr. SAVAGE: As more and more people do it. I mean, the television now is completely choked with ads. For me, Harmony and match.com and chemistry.com, showing, you know, average, everyday normal looking couples talking about how they met online. It's so rapidly…

TRISHA: He did…

Mr. SAVAGE: …becoming destigmatized.

TRISHA: I do know that at 50, beginning a relationship is a lot different than in my 20s. And we immediately, once we realized what a compatible couple we were and all the things we had in common, we set about the business of verifying and we began trading weekends, getting to know each other's friends, our children, our lifestyles and began down that list of nonnegotiables and nothing got in the way.

CONAN: Just out of curiosity, can you mention what some of your nonnegotiables might have been?

TRISHA: There was a retreat called the Walk to Emmaus that I had been on. That was really important to me and I felt that it was important that he share that same experience. There were some financial issues that we needed to talk about. But within the first two weeks of having first corresponded online and then consequently meeting a week later, he proposed the very first time we met. He proposed as soon as he saw me. Those were his first words. But we really disclosed a lot of information that I would have not talked about with anyone in person for months and maybe years that we were in a dating relationship.

CONAN: I was going to mention that, Dan Savage, we don't get around to those financial questions often until it's too late.

Mr. SAVAGE: It's one of the things that people sometimes are, you know, definitely have - find it difficult to talk about. People find it easier to talk about religion, or where you're from. When it comes down to talking about, I think, faith and finances, people get a little spooky and shy and nervous. And those are often really important things in a relationship, you know.

In my instance, in my case, I couldn't be in a relationship with someone who had a faith. And so, I would have to figure that out right away. That was one of my nonnegotiables and deal breakers. And I had ascertained that easily when I met the guy and…

TRISHA: It's wonderful just to be able to put that out there and walk away with very little invested on the front-end.

CONAN: Hmm. But on the other hand, having made a whole lot of things clear, that would have been, as you suggest, very awkward to do in a social setting.

TRISHA: Absolutely. We also were able to confirm with each other we're - he's a writer and a published author, so I was able to go to a bookstore, Barnes & Noble or whatever, and verify that he was telling me the truth about his life. And he went to my work site and verified that I was on staff there. And so - I mean, we did some homework.

CONAN: Yeah, those book jacket photos aren't necessarily journalistically accurate either.

TRISHA: No, he's much better in person than he ever looked like in any of the photos.

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, the eyes of love.

CONAN: Yeah. Trisha, congratulations.

TRISHA: Thank you.

CONAN: I appreciate it. And good luck.

TRISHA: Thank you.

CONAN: And Dan Savage, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Mr. SAVAGE: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

CONAN: Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a weekly newspaper in Seattle and author of the syndicated advise column "Savage Love." And just to - as a reminder, he does write a blog for one of these dating sites, chemistry.com.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: